REVIEW / The art of seduction, the skill of the tackle
By the end of the first episode he had engaged in nervous osculation with all three of Lord Flamborough's daughters - having literally been jumped on by Matilda (the sort of girl who likes pretending to be a tree dryad) and having offered a consolatory smooch to Chloe, a proficient engine driver with a Scottish husband. In the Radio Times, John Hadfield, the author of the novel from which David Nobbs has adapted the series, describes the story as a simple one: 'Someone sophisticated from London goes into the backwoods.'
You have to wonder whether he's read his own book recently. Jasper (played with charming gaucherie by Michael Maloney) is about as sophisticated as a pair of galoshes. He has been despatched to investigate Output Statistics, a mysterious Civil Service department which has operated without scrutiny or apparent purpose for 17 years. He discovers Arcady Hall, a pastoral idyll populated by satyrs and nymphs, as the name suggests.
Put like that it sounds rather ghastly, groaning under the strain of calculated eccentricity. But Nobbs's allusive script and Martyn Friend's direction are light and airy, and the performances are excellent. Leslie Phillips again demonstrates his ability to mumble a line into hilarity with Lord Flamborough, who lost his legs in the General Strike and now lives on his own private train, while Maria Aitken is nicely distracted as his wife. Best of all, the comedy isn't afraid to turn a little dark now and then. Et in
The same could be said of Saturday's Fair Game (BBC 1), Stephen Bill's play, which served up an admonition of what is about to descend upon us from the United States. Plotted around the 1970 World Cup, it was, on the face of it, a genial rites-of-passage road movie, in which the story of Marco, spoilt Italian rich-kid looking for his roots in Preston and Whitby, is plaited together with that of Ellie and Carl, idealistic young lovers trembling on the brink of sexual and political consummation - she is on the Pill, he has just voted for the first time in an election he thinks will bring a Labour victory, and England are in Mexico.
The detail was often perfect - 'The cloth must stay on at all times,' warns Carl's mother about the new television, the first colour set in the street and an object of almost religious veneration. Girls with skinhead cuts serve in the bars. As they stride across the moors, Carl's loon pants threaten to airlift him back into Morecambe Bay. The soundtrack was terrific too - but anyone looking for a joy-ride would have been disappointed, and anyone enjoying the current apotheosis of football as the smart lads game might have found it a bit sour.
Football here isn't the occasion for rapture but mean-spirited, xenophobic belligerence. It leads to malice and vandalism, to self-pity and petulance. These are exactly captured by Bill - the way disappointment can turn rancid, the way that when high hopes collapse some innocent bystander often gets hit by the rubble. It wasn't satisfying exactly, seducing you with genre pleasures and then withholding the expected climax, but it knew exactly where it was going.
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
- 3 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 4 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
- 5 Paracetamol Challenge: Mother of girl killed by overdose pleads with teenagers not to take part
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Suicide Squad: leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky sparks outrage with misogynistic lyrics about Rita Ora in new song 'Better Things'
'I was raped as a child, and only now can I tell my story': How James Rhodes fought the law courts in a battle to be heard
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote