REVIEW : The big momma, top dog, head honcho, big cheese

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The Independent Culture
The title sequence for She's Out (ITV) is very odd indeed - a series of shock zooms on blown-up newsprint photographs (very Seventies indeed) which then gives way to a semi-circle of women on horseback. Dolly Rawlins is wearing Butch Cassidy's hat and has one arm raised in the air, as if she's rallying her gang for a cavalry charge. What on earth are we meant to make of this? Are the women East End valkyries or outlaws with lipstick? Are they planning to mount a series of daring horseback raids on Securicor vans or is this just a hobby, their way of winding down after another hard day stealing a living?

The mystery wasn't exactly cleared up by the first episode, which did contain a passing reference to stables but which was otherwise largely taken up with Dolly's release from Holloway. Her fellow inmates bang her out with prison-issue cutlery, a tribute to her poised superiority ("They call her the big momma, the top dog"). Even the governor is a bit cut up, confessing that Dolly's been "a constant source of strength and encouragement". Ann Mitchell takes these compliments stoically, breaking her mask of impassive contemplation only for long enough to put the Governor straight about an abusive warder. The scene insists that this is not a woman to be soft soaped.

She isn't expecting to be met when she walks through Holloway's prison gate, but it turns out that there are plenty of people anxious to get in touch with her, principally because they want to know where she put the diamonds. If, like me, you didn't catch all of Widows, you're helped out with the back story by the fact that most of the cast are clutching news clippings, which they obligingly read out now and then. Nine years on, a dodgy policeman is trying to do his mum a favour by putting Dolly back inside, and an ill-assorted group of old lags, or lagettes, have been assembled at a run-down health farm for a first-day-of-freedom reception. "Dolly has no one," explains the icy ring-leader. "We make her trust us - then when we know where they are we screw Dolly Rawlins."

It occurs to you that there might be easier ways to allay Dolly's suspicions than invite her to a dinner party at a remote and derelict country house with a group of people she hardly knows. It further occurs to you that the chief conspirator might have been more sensible to take her for a pleasant dinner at the Dorchester; it would have been a great deal less trouble and she wouldn't have to share the eventual proceeds with her bickering accomplices. Still, the drama is going to need these extra hands, even if the plot doesn't, and in any case the run-down house looks as if it has something more in store for it; "I wanna open a kid's foster home," announces Dolly, "for unwanted children, for young offenders with no place to go, a refuge for battered wives." None of her companions bursts out laughing at this noble ambition, despite the fact that none of them have much of a track record in social worth; which should make Dolly even more suspicious. I have a feeling that they're going to do the show right there.

Cutting Edge's striking documentary about amnesia detailed three case histories of catastrophic memory loss. Since he suffered from a cerebral haemorrhage, John Spencer's past has been only 30 seconds long. He can remember his wartime childhood in rich detail, but nothing in the intervening period exists for him. His conversation is a broken record, circling round to the same opening gambit time after time, which to him is as fresh the 30th time as it was the first. It was a moving image, of a man dabbling in the remnants of a self, unaware that the rest had all leaked away through that mystifying hole in the mind.