Taking the rough with the smooth

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The Independent Culture
There's often a baleful moment in a drama when you hit the audition speech. These are little solos, so conspicuously dramatic, so charged with meaning and opportunities for Acting, that the rest of the cast might as well pop off for a cup of tea. The moment came quite early in Blood and Peaches (BBC2), after Steve had staggered through a day's work at the chicken-packing plant. "The 'ead came off, still warm in me hand," he says in a descriptive reverie. "The fat man's still laughing." (The combination of a laughing fat man and the historical present is incontrovertible evidence that we are in the presence of Drama, all capital letters and spotlights.)

It says a lot for Blood and Peaches that it managed to win you over despite this and other gauche moments. It began as ingenuously as a teenager, embarrassing you by its unabashed sentiment, and the direction was dizzy with feeling too, unlikely to contradict the characters' excited view of themselves. But then things started getting a little more sardonic and a little more nasty. The unpleasant smell in Gary's deep-fryer turns out to be a drowned cat (you get a glimpse of drenched fur in a slush of half congealed fat, a really enjoyable thrill of disgust); Ravi, who works as a waiter in an Indian restaurant, comes up against the local rascists. Is this really nave, you wonder, or is it about navety?

It isn't easy to decide because the register continues to shift from scene to scene. For a tryst between the two young lovers the camera is complicit with their sense of themselves as romantic heroes (the Bronts have just been given a wry namecheck). A motorbike is posed on the skyline, a bit of set dressing which fulfils a teenage dream. A little later, though, and for different characters, the silhouette is of a slag heap shaped exactly like a female breast, a Donald McGill deflation of the comic coupling taking place in the shrubs below. Sometimes the mood is ebullient (as when a local football team manages to score its first goal for months by staging an elaborate diversion - a Transit van full of lads in Hawaiian shirts, who climb on top of ironing boards and mime to the Beach Boys) sometimes it is concertedly melancholy.

The plausibility ebbs and flows too - there is a nasty scene, like some hellish Quaker meeting, in which the racist thugs testify to their petty acts of terror. But their boasts are about frightening women and children, as if they have no fantasies of their own about "valour" and "combat". They have been tricked, too conveniently, into pleading guilty. It's not that you want the drama to give equal imaginative rights to racists, but you don't want it to be quite such a coconut shy either. In the end, though, the unevenness comes to seem increasingly attractive; the drama gets a grip on you and there's an engaging sense that the writer, Martin Sadofski, has more ideas on his hands than he can quite deal with. The faults of the thing are inseparably attached to its virtues, those of youth and eagerness, and the virtues are more than enough to compensate.

"A is for Accident" (Cutting Edge, C4) was driving under the influence of From A to B, last year's enjoyable anthropology of motorist tribes. The shots were composed with the same blank stare and even the title was a nod in that direction. But Amanda Rubin's film was a decidedly sobering postscript. This was about the car as lethal recreation, an assembly of brilliant safety features controlled by people with the safety consciousness of chimps. Not the least of its revelations was that police cars lurk in the inside lane is because it's safest there. "I like it here. I like it in this lane," said a policeman who had enough experience to see the motorway for what it was - so many accidents waiting to happen that they had formed their own tailback.