REVIEW / Some handy hints for the Python charmer

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The Independent Culture
'YOU WILL be brutally honest with the copy?' Michael Palin said to his editor in Palin's Column (C4). Well, all right, since you asked. It's great, honestly. I just have a few tiny suggestions. First of all the writing needs a bit more work, it's not really had that final polish has it?

Take this bit of script here, for instance, where you're following up your story on black magic and have gone to visit a standing stone of sinister reputation. You say: 'If anything did happen, this is where it all happened.' The repetition is rather clumsy there, isn't it? You either have to lean on it a bit to make sure that everyone knows you meant it or take it out altogether. Even if you just turned the sentence round it would work better, because you'd be able to stress the 'did', though I think you might be better off starting again, frankly. I know this sounds a bit nit- picking but that's an occupational hazard for editors.

Your structure may need a bit more work too. I loved the landlady, shuffling backwards and forwards in the kitchen like a Terry Gilliam animation, and I liked the bit where you rang the Falkland Islands from a phone-box, bag of 10 pence pieces at the ready, but it's still all a bit in note-form isn't it? I got a little confused when you jumped from black magic to a regatta. Well, yes, I could see that the investigation wasn't going very well - the women who had had four rabbits stolen was very nice but she didn't exactly have proof that they had been rabbit-napped for sacrificial ceremonies. But, even so, we need to know what your final conclusion is if we're not to be left feeling up in the air. We don't get to read the column, remember.

I think you need to think about tone as well. The genial insouciance is nice but it's a tricky business making sure it doesn't shade over into something too casual - amiable devil-may-care is fine, but don't-give-a-toss won't go down well. No, no, I realise it's not, but some of the viewers might make that mistake. Not that I think you've got a problem, really. It chuckles along very nicely and you show the right attitude - quite literally diving in there at the end with the swimming relay - I just can't help wondering whether it couldn't all be a little . . . tighter.

In The Battle for Normandy (BBC 1), Charles Wheeler completed a task for which we should be grateful - that of elaborating a more complicated truth about D-Day than that available to speech-makers and preachers.

He didn't piss on the parade exactly, nothing so bad-mannered. But his grave care with the facts did seem to stand as a mild rebuke to the general rhetorical enlistment in the war. He and his producer carefully blended grand strategy and local experience, reminding you that there were no abstracts on the day - no 'bravery', just individuals mastering their fear in as many different ways as there were men there.

Not everyone managed it - a medical officer recalled the special unit set up to deal with self-inflicted wounds and another veteran recalled the jokey talk of going 'bomb happy' and returning to the beaches. By including this and dissecting the failures of the campaign Wheeler offered the best tribute - truthful recollection.

He also reminded you, paradoxically, that it is the privilege of those who have been to war to try and forget. Phrases such as 'I don't like to remember it' and 'the memory still troubles me' occurred several times in this and Sunday night's programme. For the man who had seen a friend burnt alive by his own phosphorus grenade, begging to be put out of his misery, the injunction 'lest we forget' must have a peculiar, redundant ring to it.

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