Last Night's TV: The Field of Blood, BBC1; The Conspiracy Files,BBC2; Stephen Fry's 100 Greatest Gadgets, Channel 4
Hard-bitten hacks scoop to conquer
Most crime drama follows a well-ploughed furrow: there's a mystery and mean streets and, more often than not, a hero or heroine who is neither tarnished nor afraid. And the real point isn't the furrow but how well it's ploughed. The first thing to say about The Field of Blood is that it leaves behind it the kind of furrow that wins rosettes, arrow-straight and with a burnished gleam on every turned sod. The second thing to say is that there are an awful lot of sods around. Based on the first of Denise Mina's Paddy Meehan crime series, the drama is set in an Eighties Glasgow newsroom as yet untouched by equal opportunities legislation (or, for that matter, common human decency). "Mean spirited bunch of bastards," the editor says of his colleagues. "Hearts like bone, minds trained to think the worst of everyone." He's being generous.
Despite this, Paddy dreams of becoming a journalist, making the jump from being the "fat tart who makes the coffee" (Paddy's genteel editor again) to investigative reporter. She's doing this in the teeth of family opposition (her mother thinks she should just settle down and marry nice wee Sean) and the engrained sexism of the newsroom, and in Jayd Johnson's excellent performance, she's perfectly poised between vulnerability and toughness. Paddy has low self-esteem (her grapefruit and egg diet is one of the drama's deft period details) but enough ambition to wedge herself into a developing story about a murdered child, a case that she begins to believe may involve a miscarriage of justice.
Like The Killing, The Field of Blood understands that it's not the crime that's interesting, so much as what it does to the people affected by it. So Paddy's home life, cramped by her mother's disapproval and her younger sister's scorn, is more important here than plot twists and revelations. You can see why she wants to get out so badly, but that doesn't mean that her escape route doesn't involve compromises. She dreams of being another Ludovic Kennedy – heroically righting wrongs – but finds herself doorstepping grieving mothers. And when it emerges that there might be a family connection to a boy charged with the crime, she finds that journalistic ambition and personal loyalties aren't always compatible.
David Kane's adaptation retains the gutter wit of Mina's original and the period grot of its setting – a newspaper office where the union rep is still a force to be reckoned with and the closest you get to an internet search is a folder packed with yellowing cuttings. It also delivers a great performance from David Morrissey as Devlin, a foul-mouthed editor who may yet reveal himself to have a splinter of humanity concealed within the cynicism. After he's advised Paddy to give up her ambitions, she replies with an idealistic speech about making a difference and the drama seems to teeter for a moment on the brink of the wrong kind of naivety. Then Devlin reassures us: "Fuck me, I've just had a Frank Capra moment," he says. As I say, a sod with a gleam.
"Why do so many people continue to believe?" asked The Conspiracy Files, questioning the dogmatic belief of 9/11 truthers that it was all a government set-up. They could have saved 58 minutes of our time by answering, "Because they're credulous fools", but then there would have been no reason to rehearse the wilder theories of the conspiracists and, yet again, point out their gaping flaws. And the truth is that even sceptics aren't immune to the charm of conspiracies. They irritate like a mosquito bite and refutation is as irresistible as scratching. Doesn't work, of course, since what conspiracists crave above all else is attention, and any kind will do. "Ideas are bullet-proof," concluded one of the most vainglorious 9/11 careerists, Alex Jones. No. Conspiracy theories are contradiction-proof. We should really stop scratching and let them talk to one another.
If you put money on an iPad or an iPhone coming out as number one in Stephen Fry's 100 Greatest Gadgets, you'd have lost the bet. Instead, he gave the crown to the pocket lighter, on account of its Promethean magic, and even at number 10 the iPad was pipped by a Victorian apple peeler. There was some fun to be had here, but you had to go quite a long way to get it. Honestly... a hundred gadgets? Was that really necessary? After an astonishing three hours of programming time, I surely can't have been the only person thinking that the DVD machine and fast-forward button deserved a higher placing.
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