Television Reviews: Touch and Go and Ultraviolet

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The Independent Culture
AS A BRAVE portrait of a dysfunctional marriage, Touch and Go (BBC2) was infected by the same contagion as the couple it portrayed. You couldn't quite understand why the two uncomm-unicative protagonists had ever tied the knot in the first place, and nor, in the end, could they.

In theory, at least, the actors were insightfully cast. Martin Clunes brought across from the set of Men Behaving Badly that look of bafflement at feminine motives that he specialises in. He even managed to dredge up some of the undertow of melancholy which goes unstated in his comic portrayal of lager loutdom. His wife, Alison, was played by Zara Turner, the beautiful and implacably decent Northern Irish mortician from McCallum, who, like the character she played here, doesn't fanfare sex appeal.

Sex, or lack of it, was the problem. Implausibly, they got it into their heads that partner-swapping would refresh their appetite for each other. It worked as a fantasy, but, after some vacillation, they were soon coupling with total strangers at a swingers' club in London. The script struggled gamely to fend off a sense of utter unreality at this turn of events. Nick couldn't quite believe it when he came back from the gents to see his previously reluctant wife snogging a total stranger, and, frankly, nor could I, because Turner is just too wholesome to turn into a nympho.

In the same way that swingers use one another for their own ends, you sensed that this central pillar of the plot had a purely functional role: it was there to measure the strength of the marriage. The same went for Nick's refusal to have children: it suited the drama more than it seemed to suit him not to want them. At one point, he said he'd do anything to keep Alison, but, when it came down to it, the script wouldn't let him.

The most visceral scenes came when writer Martin Allen stripped away the flim-flam to confront the cancer in the marriage. Early on, Alison challenged Nick's reticence about the irregularity of their sex life in a passage of dialogue which will have curled the toes of some viewing couples. The final scene, in which they acknowledged their incompatibility and made a constructive decision to separate, was far more moving than most of what had gone before. The image is inappropriate, but the sudden clarity of the writing was like a burst of sun shining through a gap in the clouds.

There was more darkness in Ultraviolet (C4), being a new drama about vampires, who, as we all know, will only come out on night shoots. Jack Davenport plays a policemen who by the end of part one had been recruited to a top-secret, Vatican-funded squad to tackle bloodsuckers in snazzy contemporary London. His mumbling performance takes its queue from the murkiness of the drama's aesthetic: you can hardly see a thing, and you can hardly hear a word he says. Everyone is beautiful, and beautifully dressed (Davenport is inseparable from his black leather jacket), but you would hardly expect anything less of World Productions. After bringing you This Life, from which Davenport and writer-director Joe Ahearne are both graduates, meet the follow-up: This Undeath.

Thomas Sutcliffe is away