A spot of woman-killing to start the week


Bramwell (ITV) introduces you to Eleanor, a spirited young women who, according to the fondly long-suffering testimony of her father, "devotes herself to the East London Hospital and never considers money". Nor needs to, by the look of things, given that daddy spends all day removing monetary tumours from the reticules and wallets of his private patients. In return for his indulgence, he gets nits, ferried home from the wards in Eleanor's lustrous hair. Still, the bourgeois have always made the best revolutionaries and Eleanor has a Bastille to storm - the patriarchal bastions of medicine, manned, and I speak advisedly, by complacent old butchers and callow young shits.

As if Eleanor's gender wasn't enough of a problem she also has dangerous new ideas - suggesting, for instance, that surgical removal of the ovaries might not be the best cure for mild depression, particularly as the mortality rate is around 50 per cent. Pish and nonsense, blusters Sir Herbert (Robert Hardy, whose very voice is side-whiskered). He presses on with his scalpel. Result: a geyser of blood, crimson swabs thudding moistly to the floorboards, and a theatre full of medical students cheering derisively as the patient expires on the table. I had my doubts about the last detail, to put it mildly, but it obviously didn't go quite far enough for writer Lucy Gannon. "Dinner? Why not?" says one of the departing students as Eleanor leans wanly against the wall. Ah yes, nothing like spot of woman-killing to get a chap's gastric juices flowing.

Like Sunday night's The Hanging Gale, Bramwell blends a stern bit of consciousness-raising with the forms of popular television. This is not a bad thing in my view, even if some lines sound as if they have little footnote numbers attached to them. "The blankets are washed every month," says a nurse indignantly, after being ticked off for leaving a wound unbandaged (Advances in Hygiene 1895-1906, pp 154-163); "Gin and laudanum", explains a colleague as one of Eleanor's patients sings merrily while she clips three of his toes into an enamel bucket (Numb: A Brief History of Anaesthesia, p 64).

Naturally, this being television and not academic history, there is a danger of simplification. If the medical world is the unmediated swamp of male stupidity depicted here, where does Bramwell get her advanced ideas from? Not feminine intuition, I hope. The drama is also distinctly obliging to Eleanor, supplying her with a feisty patroness (Michelle Dotrice) who can fund her slum infirmary after she is banned from the hospital, and an amiable father (David Calder) who knocks out music-hall hits on the piano when things threaten to get dour. But such gripes are swiftly alleviated without the need for surgery; just contemplate the alternative three times a day before meals - popular drama with no ambitions.

When Cynthia Weil, the songwriter, complained to her lawyer about his bills, he replied: "But I don't make money while I'm sleeping." This is the dream an enduring hit represents - an untiring and unstoppable money- machine, like a melodic oil-well. Weil's lawyer isn't the only one who wants a slice of the profits, as The Music Biz (BBC2) revealed. As well as exploring the curious alchemy of song and singer ("Did Madonna make the song, or did the song make Madonna?" they asked, after talking to the writers of "Like a Virgin"), Gina and Jeremy Newson had also come up with a cautionary tale - that of Herman Santiago and Jimmy Merchant, who helped write "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" but failed to protect their intellectual property from cruising predators.

At the time of filming, the song had notched up 2,189,093 radio plays, each earning up to $75. Some of which will no doubt pay Herman and Jimmy's lawyer for successfully restoring their copyright.

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