One Night is about how easily a simmering pan can boil over, particularly when the temperature is muggy and times are hard. It's then that the smallest thing may cause everything to well up and spill over the side of the pan – even a dropped crisp packet.
In the opening episode of Paul Smith's urban drama, it's this that finally gets to Ted, casually tossed down by a group of school girls passing his front door and providing the first nudge for a chain reaction. The conclusion must be bad because the drama begins with a young boy walking into a police station and handing in a gun. "What happened? What did they make you do?" asks a policeman; there's talk of a serious assault and a shooting. So we know from very early on that the small change of antisocial behaviour has somehow been converted up to a high-value note. One Night follows that process,each episode viewing the events from the perspective of just one of the principal characters.
Last night it was the turn of Ted, played by the excellent Douglas Hodge as a walking epitome of the squeezed middle. Ted is a kitchen salesman going through a dry patch, and he's convinced that it's just got drier, with a big client saying no to an important pitch. Staggering home with the shopping for what's meant to be a celebratory barbecue, he's too stressed to simply let it go when Rochelle drops some litter in front of him. His rebuke provokes an obscene reply and he can't let that go either. He complains to her school, she is suspended and the dominoes are now beginning to topple towards Rochelle's sink-estate friends. The next thing you know a condom has come through Ted's letter-box and a stone through his kitchen window – events that confirm his exasperated wife's view that it might have been better just to sigh and move on.
It didn't do to think too much about some of the links in this chain. Would a girl really be suspended for a single incident like this, particularly on the eve of taking an A-level exam? Surely, in the absence of any independent witness, she and her friends would simply have denied it or made some counter-claim. But one of the virtues of Smith's script is that it doesn't give you a lot of time to think.
Ted is believably the kind of man who might get himself tangled up by indignation and overflowing stress, his character neatly inked in by his wife's explanation of why their holiday plans are up in the air. "Ted checked the hotel on TripAdvisor. Twelve good reviews and one bad one. So we cancelled." And the middle-class fears addressed here – of "feral" teenagers and crumbling civility – give the thing a real force. It touches, I think, on the kinds of melodramas quite a few viewers will have written in their heads, imagining how badly things might play out should they take a stand. In later episodes, it looks as if Smith will interrogate such panic, rather than simply exploit it. In the meantime, it's beautifully acted and queasily knowing about the tender spots it presses on.
The notional rationalisation for putting Just a Minute on television is to celebrate the cult programme's 45th anniversary. But having watched one episode, I can't really think of any good reason other than that of adding vision to what is a quintessentially radio experience. It's true that tickets for recordings of the show are always wildly over-subscribed, so someone may have thought there's an appetite to be fed. But that misses the point that a radio recording offers devotees added value in terms of off-mic remarks and general larking about. Here, that's all been tidied away, and the only advance is that Nicholas Parsons doesn't have to explain the audience laughter when one of the panelists pulls a face. A mystifying commission.Reuse content