Last Night's TV: Jackpots and Jinxes: Lottery Stories/Channel 4
Inside the Human Body/BBC1
The Shadow Line/BBC2
Friday 06 May 2011
"I took people to Barbados," said Mark. "Nobody came to me afterwards and said, 'This year, I'd really like to take you to Bognor.'" You can't really blame them. Mark's worth £11 million. He won it 16 years ago after entering the National Lottery. These days he's the proud owner of seven Aston Martins, a yacht, a beach house (in Barbados) and a swimming pool. He gives money to friends, he said, but it's not without its complications. "How much is enough? That's the question."
Seriously. Can you imagine winning the lottery? It's one of those ideas that everyone toys with. What would you buy? Would you quit your job? What would it mean in the long term? (A flat, don't know, relocating the weekly shop to Waitrose). What do you even do when you twig? Run down the high street, screaming? The answer, it seems, is ring up the Camelot call centre. "Some people are really calm, some excited and others just in shock," said one phone answerer. They confirm that you have, indeed, won and precisely how much – if you're extra-lucky, like Nigel and Sharon Mather, him a former hotel manager, her a council worker – you'll get the whole thing to yourself. In their case, all £12.4 million of it.
Then you get a visit from "the man with the chequebook". He tells you whether to go public or not which, oddly, doesn't sound quite the bonkers idea you might think; at least not according to Nigel and Sharon's logic. They agonised about how they were going to tell people, what they could do. In the end, they thought, squirting a bottle of fizz over the seats of their local football stadium was the easiest way to do it.
Still, not every tale's a happy one. For every Nigel and Sharon there's a Wayne who, after winning £1 million, had his car torched and spends his life watching security cameras. Or a Roy, who needed a bodyguard. Or – and this, really, was so limb-twistingly awful I almost had to watch through my fingers – a Martin. Six months after playing the lottery, he heard a news bulletin about Camelot officials hunting for a man in Watford who'd won an unclaimed jackpot. "My first thought was, 'Watford – it could be someone I know.'" Then, on hearing the numbers, he realised it was, in fact, him. He'd won. He just didn't know where the ticket was. Martin came within inches of securing the £3 million jackpot. Camelot confirmed that it was, without doubt, him who had bought the ticket, but, after months of limbo, decided that it couldn't break the rules. Martin split with his wife, moved to America, and joined a cult. Not sure I blame him.
Christopher Eccleston was on The One Show the other day, explaining his new drama, The Shadow Line. "Not all the good guys wear white hats," he posited, a little tea-time philosopher in a grey suit. "And not all the bad ones wear black ones." It's a suitably opaque explanation for what we got last night, which was, by turns, perplexing, frightening and rather good. I was gripped, throughout, by the conviction that I didn't understand what was going on (not the most useful quality in a television reviewer). By the end, though, everything had slotted into place without my really noticing it. No big ta-dah moment. No sudden gasp of realisation. Clever, that.
Eccleston is predictably excellent as soft-hard man Joseph (white hat); likewise, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Jonah, the ambiguously hatted detective inspector. But it's Rafe Spall – definite black hat – who steals the show. He positively pops as the manic, cold-blooded nephew Jay, bringing an almost surreal element to what would otherwise be a rather standard (though commendable) TV drama. One quibble: it's all a little blokey. There aren't really any women – well, except Lia, Jonah's tough-talking new assistant. That's not a problem per se, but it does render it all a little monotonous: drugs, dark rooms, tough-talking baddies behaving like overgrown schoolboys.
There's nothing new about what Michael Mosley's doing with Inside the Human Body. We all know that it's the Greatest Miracle on Earth. We all know about the sperm and the egg and the Wonderful Story of Life. The thing is, he just does it so well. It's partially his expertise – he's trained, after all, as a doctor – and partially his enthusiasm. The material's not bad either: how the face forms in the womb, the crucial few hours that determine whether our palate is cleft or not, the reasons we're not hatched inside an egg. My favourite bit, though, is the rugby team whose sperm samples are broadcast on big screens in Leicester Square. Poor old James: deformed, lazy, two-tailed creatures. Must try harder.
Finally: Psychoville is back! Actually, it's been so long since it was last on – and then it was only too brief – that I can't really remember where we left off. Biggins is still there. The dwarf – who last time he was here was on stage, I'm sure – has become the object of a love-spell. Mr Jelly's now doing pub gigs, Lomax is seeking vengeance for crimes long forgotten, and David and Maureen are still trying to kill people. This time, by feeding them food so unpalatable that death becomes the preferable option (Angel Delight with fish, anyone?) As before it's less laugh-out-loud, more try-not-to-vomit amusing. Which, of course, holds a certain charm.
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