Last night's viewing - Moving On, BBC1; Great British Menu, BBC2
You probably missed Moving On, being go-getting types who don't lie on the sofa at 2.15 in the afternoon, eating Sugar Puffs and flicking desultorily between Classic Mastermind and Dickinson's Real Deal. What's more, you're probably not all that worried about having missed Moving On, daytime drama not exactly having a premium status. Moving On is slightly different though.
It was originally created by Jimmy McGovern, a writer with a real genius for ferreting out the small dramas that loom large in most people's lives. He also has a talent for finding writers who can do the same thing and although his name no longer appears on the series credits, his thumbprint is still, I think, detectable in its texture – the way it can mix comic bathos with grief, and trivial embarrassments with deeper shame.
Yesterday's episode, "The Shrine", was built around a commonplace melodrama that has featured before in the series – the stress of selling a house. John and Carol have been trying to sell theirs for sometime and a sharp edge is beginning to creep into their bickering difference of opinion about the right selling price. Their row was just one of three that were intercut at the beginning of Karen Brown's script, the others being a heated argument over a taxi fare and a spat between a wife and her husband.
And all three knot together when the husband storms out, walks straight in front of the agitated cab-driver and is killed. Everybody feels guilty here except John, who saw the accident, but his turn is coming, because the grieving widow starts to build a roadside shrine on the grass verge immediately in front of his house. A football scarf is tied around the tree, and laminated photographs, and flowers and candles begin to stack up.
John and Carol are sympathetic at first, but then it becomes clear that having one of these pious rubbish dumps at the bottom of your drive doesn't exactly make a great first impression to potential buyers. "It'll be all right," says John. "Once he's buried all this'll stop." Unfortunately, the dead man is cremated and has his ashes scattered at his favourite football ground, so the shrine remains. And Brown's script nicely captures the pinch the couple find themselves in.
How exactly do you tell a weeping woman that her memories have become an eyesore? The tyranny of grief, its power of diktat, trumps all other considerations. Things come to a head when John and Carol temporarily tidy away the shrine for a house viewing, only to have the widow arrive five minutes later and launch into a shrieking denunciation of the unknown vandal. "It wasn't hurting anyone, was it?" she weeps. "No. Of course not," Carol reassures her, now in agonies of guilt herself.
If there is something daytime about the drama, it is that this dilemma doesn't spin off into something worse, as could easily happen, but that it's all resolved in time for Escape to the Country. Not tritely, to be fair, since the penultimate scene is a nearly worldless montage of unresolved grief and social shame. But charitably enough to reassure you that life can absorb some cracks without entirely shattering.
Great British Menu is back – a dish of wild culinary invention served with a garnish of Reality Show Soundbites and Format Sauce. The twist this time is that the culminating banquet is one to celebrate 25 years of Comic Relief, which means that the chefs have been challenged to come up with "fun quirky dishes". Since "quirk" is pretty much the baseline in a standard competition, the recipes here are even more Blumenthaled than usual. Dishes included Funky Pigeon and Disco Beets, which looked like the remnants of an Indian takeaway, and Smoked Pigeon with a Sweetcorn Granola and Douglas Fir Oil, for that all-important lavatory-cleaner tang. I don't know whether the diners will find it funny, but the chefs are certainly having a laugh.
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