Last Night's Television: The Homecoming, Channel 4
Lie To Me, Sky1
Extreme Male Beauty, Channel 4
Good to see these friends reunited
I've never been to a school reunion, and I can't say I feel hard done by. For most people, the sole purpose of such occasions, it seems, is to demonstrate what fabulous bank balances or dress sizes they have acquired since leaving. I, sadly, have neither. Of course, were I Rachel Roberts in The Homecoming, I suspect things would be rather different. She has a genuinely interesting reason to revisit her past: she was placed in care aged four, moving into a children's home in Doncaster, where she stayed for most of her childhood. She knows nothing of her parents, nor of what happened to the home's other children. Now she's 38, a freelance journalist, and making enquiries into her past.
The point was to track down the children Rachel had shared the home with, and organise a get together (a daunting prospect, it would seem: only seven per cent of kids in social services go on to further education, while 15 per cent of rough-sleepers and 25 per cent of prisoners come from care backgrounds). To aid her quest, all Rachel had was a single picture of her classmates (if that's the word) and a vague memory of flying objects on a wall. "Are you in this picture?" she began asking random townsfolk. "Do you remember a boy who had things hanging from his ceiling?" Remarkably, it wasn't as difficult as it sounds. Before long, Rachel had popped into a pub, taken out the photo and, what do you know? Her half-brother's working behind the till. Either Doncaster has shrunk since I last went there, or Channel 4 did more than a little ground work.
Not that it matters, really. The point is she found who she was looking for and, as it turned out, she wasn't alone in having fond memories of the home, particularly of the matron, Tina (on whom more later). Almost everyone she found shared her nostalgia; they've also pursued similar life paths, most have stayed in Doncaster and almost all have struggled to form long-term relationships.
Eventually, Rachel tracked down enough to throw her party. But first: Matron Tina, who Rachel found with the help of some retired teachers. And what a delight she is too: all cuddles, giggles and red cardigans, absolutely lovely. She was full of maternal anecdotes; it isn't difficult to see why they all loved her so much. Of course, she's retired now but still, it's people like her that make the world go round. When the reunion finally happened (a couple of boxes of wine and some trestle tables in a nearby pub), it was Tina that was the guest of honour; her grown-up wards all queuing up to say their thanks. For these reunited friends, it was more than a trip down memory lane, it was a chance to make sense of their past.
Memories of another kind, now, or rather, déjà vu, since there is absolutely nothing new about Sky1's latest acquisition, Lie to Me. It's almost exactly the same as The Mentalist, or any other maverick-cop-comes-to-town-and-shakes-up-the-old-orthodoxies style show, though this time it's Tim Roth (or, rather, Dr Cal Lightman) who is the maverick, a considerable improvement on previous models (he's hammy but impossible to dislike. Who doesn't like Tim Roth?).
Lightman's USP is his ability to detect lies. So instead of being psychic, or alcoholic but gifted, he acts as a human polygraph, tripping up white supremacists, wayward Congressmen and school children with talk of "micro-expressions". He's nuts, clearly, but only in the way such heroes always are: grumpy, arrogant and gratingly, predictably "quirky". He storms in and out of meetings, insulting authority, undermining his colleagues. Naturally it's his (female) business partner who is left with the clearing.
Last night, Lightman was investigating the murder of a high-school teacher. Police had arrested one of the pupils, who was caught running from the scene. Of course, the solution's never going to be that simple; in fact, quite the opposite: it's all terribly complicated. Too complicated, really, for my simple brain. I did, however, manage to grasp that the schoolboy wasn't guilty. Instead, it was the principle who did it, because the dead teacher disciplined one of the pupils (or something.) Oh, hang on, he was sleeping with the pupil. Ah. Makes perfect sense, then.
Even less comprehensible was Extreme Male Beauty: part deux. I know I said I wouldn't be watching but, when it came to it, curiosity overcame me. Call it concern for poor Tim's well-being, or his talk of an "über-knob bulge", or whatever. I took a look. But really. If I thought last week was graphic with its five crotch shots, this was something else. Appendages abounded. Actually, it was all too much for me. Eight minutes and 12 seconds in, I abandoned ship just at they were inserting a needling into... well, as I said, I switched off. The right decision, I feel, given the circumstances.
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