Television review Thomas Sutcliffe

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Those expecting Quentin Tarantino to sign his episode of E R (C4) in blood may at first have been disappointed by "Motherhood". For one thing the director's identifying tropes - black humour, crimson splatter and a freewheeling camera - are already central features of the series, so it was always going to be tricky to make a conspicuous impact. Quentin Tarantino directing an episode of The Golden Girls ... now that would have been something. In any case it looked as if he was soft-peddling on the gore, settling instead for what he really does best - observing the stubborn persistance of trivia in the midst of high drama. As Susan Lewis rushed her sister Chloe off to give birth (contractions coming every two minutes) she was made to stop and search for the labour tape - "The White Album", as it happened. Nobody could find it, so Chloe eventually had to make do with screeching out Blackbird as the baby's head crowned. It is not a song which responds well to thrash metal vocals. But there wasn't a lot of blood - the baby, when it finally emerged, was decorously gore-free, as if it had passed through a car-wash on the way out.

Then the house style got a little more threatening - close-ups of the grislier surgical instruments, an ugly grope down a patient's throat for an obstruction. But even then it was mostly business as usual - chlorine poisoning, man with a steel-reinforcing bar through his gall bladder, seven little Ranger Scouts with catastrophic wind. The episode was set on Mother's Day, the cue for an interlocked garland of maternal storylines - including one decidedly synthetic irony. "We used all our capabilities," says Peter Benton, giving a grieving mother the bad news about her son. Several scenes later he is on the receiving end of exactly the same consolatory bromide, when he is told of his own mother's death. Cue an "Oh I have ta'en too little care of this" moment. This was trite, and far less effective than the dummy pass Tarantino had sold to us earlier - filming his surgeons emerging from the operating theatre relaxed and chatty, the body language of routine medical miracle. Then Benton smoothly masked his features in gravity and you realised the patient had actually died.

Tarantino confined his true Hitchcock moment to one flurried explosion of action, the swing doors suddenly blatting back to admit a hideous cat- fight between female gang members. One of the patients reprised the moment when Uma Thurman was spiked through the chest with adrenaline in Pulp Fiction, jerking bolt upright with wild staring eyes. Another rampaged through surgery clutching her severed ear and screaming for revenge, a tasteful nod to the trademark horror of Reservoir Dogs. As in-jokes go it was quite funny, but, like some of the other isolated gestures of style in the episode, it didn't really add much to a series which has shown itself capable of far more disciplined, and far more subtle, innovations.

In The Travel Show (BBC2) Jonathan Ross travelled to Seattle, world capital of recreational coffee. It was, for him, a slightly somnolent performance, a little too dependent on borrowed lines. He referred to us as his "little British chums" and declared that the city was "caffeinetastic" - which seemed odd given that his own brand of dry wit is perfectly palatable. "Many coffee related crimes?" he asked two Seattle policemen, who were passing by on their mountain bikes. Anyone who already knew that Seattle was a good place to get cappuccinos and was also the home of grunge music was none the wiser after 15 minutes had passed. I did, though, enjoy the woman who introduced herself as "your vertical transportation attendant". She was standing in a lift at the time, which suggests that Seattle doormen are probably known as "ingress/egress aperture controllers".