What is a comedy drama? Is it a hilariously funny drama, or one that you don't take too seriously? And if it's the latter, was it then wrong of me to feel vaguely let down because Veronica's manicure hadn't been damaged by an electrical jolt so severe that it transferred her brain into Danny's body and vice versa? Fantasy is one thing surely, and continuity quite another.
Considering that it's just the latest manifestation of an ancient plot device – dramatists have been swapping gender, class or time frame for centuries now – Boy Meets Girl is pretty original, and a plum acting opportunity for its two protagonists. Danny, played by Martin Freeman of The Office, found himself trapped in the body of Veronica, played by Rachael Stirling, best known for Tipping the Velvet. Veronica found herself likewise trapped, and both actors managed to keep their demanding performances nicely subtle, which was a sign of their talent and confidence.
They were certainly aided by a script that didn't try too hard, choosing to wend at a suitably stately pace through the first of four episodes. Not many people will have choked to death laughing, but for light entertainment it was fairly provocative.
The sharp observation was as much about class as it was about gender – Veronica was a successful beauty journalist living in an overstyled flat with an earnest boyfriend, while Danny was an angry conspiracy theorist of a DIY shop assistant, living in a horrible bedsit with hardly any friends.
Thus far, the less economically successful people in Danny's corner are proving to be much nicer and much more intelligent than the deluded hypocrites in Veronica's. Which only goes to show that it's less controversial to stick to comforting myths about class than it is to make trenchant value judgements on what little boys and little girls are made of.
Neither comforting class myths nor creative playfulness about where comedy stops and drama begins was on display in Best: His Mother's Son. It would be unfair to say that this intense and admirable drama placed the blame for the demise of George Best on Ann Best's own genetic predisposition to alcoholism. But it didn't do much to unsettle the misleading theory that in this case little boys and big girls were made of the same flawed stuff.
Nevertheless, the drama did explore other factors that made the situation so intractable, chiefly the unpreparedness of the Best family for fame. The media pressure was difficult for Ann from the start. At home alone with young children, she was left to cope with the disruption of an ever-ringing phone, and felt overwhelmed even by the initially benign attention of the local community. But early on there was resentment, as a drunk on a bus started barracking Ann and one of her daughters for thinking they were "too good" to talk to him. After Best's performance on the pitch began to slide, the family attracted startlingly virulent personal abuse. Ann's husband Dickie wanted her to carry on as normal, and advised George to do the same. When George complained that "once training's over, it's boring", his father said, "That's why we have routines, son. Life is routine."
The depressing "moral" of the tale seemed sometimes perilously close to suggesting that singularity and talent are wasted on ordinary people, a feeling that was not dispersed when one spectator commented, "You can take the boy out of Belfast ..." One would like to think that such self-defeating attitudes have gone. But maybe they won't go until the sentimentality about simple folk that Boy Meets Girl exploits so effortlessly is gone as well.
Perhaps surprisingly, Desperately Hungry Housewives made some contribution to that cause. An excellent documentary studying four middle-class adult mothers who struggled with eating disorders, it gently exploded all those myths about people with eating disorders being teenage girls obsessed with how they looked. On the way, it also confirmed that economic privilege is not the casually acquired insulant against all but the most trivial manifestations of human suffering that it is cracked up to be.Reuse content