Television: The wrong jobs for the boys

The BBC has reportedly drafted in a team of amateur telly addicts to help to resolve "a crisis of ideas" for Saturday night programming. "The same formulae and reliance on stars have been going on too long," said the head of light entertainment, David Young, which as an obvious statement from an improbable source is like Rupert Murdoch saying "too much power in the hands of one man is a dangerous thing" or Melinda Messenger complaining that "some women get jobs in television just because they have blond hair and big knockers".

Anyway, the BBC whittled more than 4,000 applicants down to 60, of whom five - all under 24, and one only 16 - have now been invited to come up with "ideas, ideas, ideas" for Saturday nights. Actually, I have an idea myself. Maybe the amateurs should also sort out the other six nights of the week, on the basis that Hale and Pace's h&p@bbc (BBC1) is a light entertainment show devised, titled, commissioned and produced by professionals. Charitably, I did not review the opening programme in the series. It somehow seemed pointlessly cruel. Also, I thought that I must have been missing something - that perhaps it was meant to be post-ironic.

On second viewing, I realise that h&p@bbc is not post-ironic but pre- ironic. The excruciating mock e-mail title suggests that the show hovers close to television's cutting edge, yet it is actually a throwback to those grim days when 3-2-1 was considered the acme of light entertainment. h&p@bbc is 3-2-1's natural twin, the acne of light entertainment. It is as toe-curlingly, mind-bogglingly awful as I first thought, and to watch it you'd think that Reeves and Mortimer never existed. Moreover, if it belongs anywhere, apart from Alan Yentob's wheelie bin, it belongs at teatime on a Saturday. How it wound up playing at 9.30pm on Wednesdays is anybody's guess, for it does not capitalise on a post-watershed slot, except that Hale and Pace occasionally get to say "crap", a word with more resonance than they know.

Actually, I've heard that they are nice chaps. But, let's be honest, their greatest achievement in comedy is to make Little and Large look like George Burns and Jack Benny. They are a third-rate vaudeville act, and I can only imagine that this series was commissioned following a pitch that went something like "Tell John Birt that the News of the World are very interested in those negatives of him with the barmaid and the sheep". I can think of no other rational explanation. Still, discredit where discredit's due, I don't suppose that h and p themselves are to blame for the show's derivative mish-mash of games, plundered from the likes of Noel's House Party, Blankety Blank and Stars In Their Eyes. Whoever is should be made to sit through the entire back catalogues of Bullseye and Name That Tune, as instruction rather than punishment.

Of course, it is not true to say that everybody thinks that h&p@bbc is an affront to the licence fee. Close relatives of Hale and Pace, as well as the schedulers at ITV and Channel 4, must be hoping that it runs and runs. ITV's audience in particular must have been nicely boosted by BBC1 on Wednesday night, as Trust, its two-part psychological thriller, built up to a cracking conclusion.

Trust was terrific - well written by Richard McBrien and atmospherically directed by David Drury, positively Hitchcockian in his use of showers, Venetian blinds, clunking lifts and underground car parks. It was brilliantly acted, too, by Caroline Goodall and the suddenly ubiquitous Mark Strong and Nat Parker. Goodall played a solicitor, Anne, who somehow emerged as sympathetic despite the fact that she was two-timing her husband Michael (Strong) with his best friend Andrew (Parker). When the police discovered the body of a murdered woman, suspicion lurched from Michael to Andrew and back again, but I forgot my Agatha Christie - that the nicest person is always the culprit. It was Anne whodunit.

Trust obeyed most of the conventions of the genre. For example, I can hardly recall the last murder in a television drama which did not follow the battered corpse all the way to the pathologist's table, a spectacle I would gladly skip. And like most thrillers, Trust had an over-excited soundtrack, to the point where I thought that if it wasn't Michael, and it wasn't Andrew, then maybe the synthesizer did it.

Still, these are relatively minor quibbles, although I have a more general quibble. For thrillers like Trust, along with steamy Andrea Newman-type dramas about love triangles, almost always concern the monied middle classes, people who live in spectacular lofts in Clerkenwell or five acres of Berkshire. Maybe this is because the writers and producers live in Clerkenwell lofts themselves. Or maybe because it adds a slight aspirational edge - my wife simply adored Anne and Michael's kitchen in Trust. Either way, it is a faintly troubling curiosity that the lives, loves and crimes of middle- class professionals come with expensive production values and Amana fridges, while those of working-class folk are considered the preserve of soap and docu-soap.

Which brings me to Family Life (ITV), an eight-part serial following the ups and downs of - you've guessed - a working-class family, the Henrys of Leeds. Family Life is the grandchild of The Family, Paul Watson's 12- part study of the Wilkinses of Reading, first transmitted in 1974. Twenty- five years ago, of course, such a documentary was considered truly innovative. Now, lamentably, there is a positive plague of flies on the wall, and at first sight Family Life looks indistinguishable from any other docu- soap. Which is a shame, because it is expertly made and rather gripping.

It is populated, as these things need to be, with some good strong characters, none stronger than Jane, who is fed up with her amiably feckless partner Laurie. "We haven't got that much in common any more, apart from football and documentaries, modern history and archaeology and all the rest of it," she complained. "And he's always goin' on about philosophy all the bloody time. I hate philosophy ... I did it at university by the way ... I don't want to ponce on about the nature of life, the nature of sound, the nature of movement. I come from a council estate. That's bollocks, y'know. We just get on with livin'." I felt like applauding.

Laurie's problem, in Jane's eyes, is that for 12 years he has been a pop star wannabe. But if he watched Geri (Channel 4) he might reflect that it is a dangerous ambition, for Molly Dineen's fascinating if overlong documentary revealed the former Ginger Spice to be that strange modern phenomenon, a tortured victim of success, fame and fortune.

I thought I had Geri Halliwell's number after listening to her psychobabbling through Parkinson a few months ago, but I have revised my opinion, for Dineen's study revealed her to be warm, sincere and rather lovable, in a vulnerable, screwed-up kind of way. "I wish he was my dad," she said, after meeting cuddly old Desmond Llewellyn - Q in the James Bond films. Her real dad died five years ago, and she went to see the body. "Everything was black, everything was sunken, he looked like the Penguin in Batman 2," she said. Geri makes imaginative use of film references: "I need some bloody philosophical guru sitting there, you know, like in The Karate Kid."

It is no wonder that she hits it off with the Prince of Wales. For all their differences of background, they are kindred spirits, both searching for a meaning to life, both trying, post-Diana and post-Ginger, to establish a new identity. Charles had Laurens van der Post as a philosophical guru. Maybe he could be Geri's. I can think of worse double acts.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea