Dale's procedure appears straightforward - the machinery of welfare, whether it is a cheque printer or a well-attended conference table, is filmed with rigorous geometry, formal compositions that appear to have been checked with a spirit-level. By contrast the people that machinery is supposed to help are allowed to appear off- centre or awry, as if they were stray organisms that had got into the works.
If this was mere pattern-making you might be inclined to question some of its assumptions (isn't there something just as mechanical about the way in which some of the system's clients grind out their repetitious catastrophes?) But Dale also has an eye for details which peck away at complacent reactions - the industrial chatter of the cheque machine, pausing briefly in its cycle so you could read the figures, reminded you that every mercy had to be paid for, and that the cost frightens even the most merciful. Other devices are equally thoughtful - a long scene in which Lilley was suavely headlocked by a civil servant was edited with overlapping fades - as though he had briefly dropped off and then woken to find the meeting still lumbering on.
This week's programme looked at some of those entangled in the cogs of the CSA, and included an heirloom-quality piece of piece of doublespeak from Andrew Mitchell, social security minister. The CSA assessment formula (which resulted in more than half the original maintenance assessments being wrong) wasn't flawed at all, he said confidently. On the contrary, it was so good that they had had to make some adjustments to it. No amount of fine-tuning, though, is likely to reconcile the fathers, who find, to their boundless indignation, that casual sex might have lasting consequences for them as well - or indeed the mothers, who mistakenly assumed that the new procedures were in their interest, rather than that of the tax-payer. In an admirable breach of current convention The System lays these grievances before you without apportioning blame - it is a deposition of evidence, not a case for the prosecution and it is a marvellously watchable one.
I'm at a loss as to what The Hello Girls (BBC1) is for. Or who for that matter. Everyone in it is awfully nice, the music is fun and they haven't skimped on the budget for vintage vehicles. But why go to all that trouble and then pull your plots straight out of an old Bunty comic? Last week it was agonies about an amateur pop concert, this week japes with the boys in engineering. Perhaps it is intended as the purest recreation of Fifties' provincial life - a mood of stifling cosiness which has you longing for the Sixties to break.Reuse content