Review : A private life does not have to be secret

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The Independent Culture
During her lifetime, Jackie Kennedy maintained control of her privacy with an expertise our own royals would do well to emulate. Posthumously these matters are a little more difficult to arrange. One doubts whether President Kennedy's private secretary would have felt at liberty to speculate on his wife's affairs if the former First Lady had still been alive. In her absence, though, she could reveal her belief that Jacqueline Kennedy had slept with Aristotle Onassis before the assassination.

No proof was advanced for this suggestion in Secret Lives (C4), not even a corroborative suspicion from someone else, so it seemed at least possible that it was just a bit of spin-doctoring from one of Kennedy's devotees. Sure, she seemed to be saying, Jack had difficulty walking straight if a woman was in the room but his wife was no angel either. "You know, the jet set have a life of their own," Mrs Lincoln explained. "They think nothing of having affairs outside of their marriage."

Then again, the possibility that Jackie had accommodated to her husband's priapic incontinence with something more, or less, than noble resignation was one of the few new facts in the film, so the producers were unlikely to spend too much time making sure that it was true. How awful it would be if they had to take out their best bit of gossip. It's true that they also dished some dirt on Jackie's spending habits - her simultaneous compulsion to squirrel away money and to spend like there was no tomorrow (an obsession that surely had some psychological connection with her particularly brutal instruction in what tomorrow could bring). But much of that had already been covered in a recent Reputations documentary about Aristotle Onassis, which revealed that even the richest men can get nervous when their wives go shopping.

Apart from that, Secret Lives was a pretty familiar account of one of America's best-loved stories - the tale of how a princess married a king and then married a frog when he died. This may have been a fictional life in some senses, a fable constructed by the American public and allowed to stand uncontradicted by its principal character, but it wasn't exactly a secret. The private life of Jacqueline Kennedy remains just that, private, which may be an affront to a culture of complete revelation but hardly amounts to a truth worth uncovering. Secret Lives revealed little but the century's unappeasable appetite for disclosure.

Four episodes in, Crown Prosecutor (BBC1) appears to be performing respectably with the audience, pulling in about eight and a half million viewers. That's still some way behind its obvious ITV counterpart, The Bill , which gets above 10 million, and it's possible to wonder whether the gap will be closed until some rough edges are smoothed out. Some problems aren't fixable, such as the fact that a courtroom drama without a jury feels an oddly depleted thing, more given to points of law than the unpredictable weather of human emotion. Others are relatively easy to remedy. My own notes to the scriptwriters would run something as follows. First, calm down a bit. Office politics is rarely as explicit or easily ignited as it appears here, where colleagues pound out points of principle on each other's desks in virtually every episode. Second, slow down a bit. The briskness with which cases are dispensed may well be a realistic reflection of the legal sausage machine, but it still makes the cases feel sketchy and uninvolving, as though each is there simply to make moot point. Third, don't condescend to the audience. In last night's episode a loutish witness was implausibly allowed to vandalise the courtroom and menace other witnesses with a knife, solely so that the sneer could be wiped from his face in the closing minutes.