TELEVISION / Down these mean cloisters a man must walk

LAST WEEK the Independent Television Commission complained about 'a preponderance of crime-based stories' on ITV, a lament echoed by the television writer Andrew Davies, who summed up the 'taste' of the network as 'police series with David Jason, or David Jason in a cardigan and wellies'. Two days later ITV answered back with the presciently titled 'One Corpse Too Many', the first of four adaptations from the detective novels of Ellis Peters. No David Jason, no policeman, and no cardigans, unless the leatherette jerkins worn by some of the characters count as medieval precursors of the woolly. Instead you get Derek Jacobi as a 12th-century Benedictine monk, a forensic scientist before his time. Down these mean cloisters a man must walk.

Actually, on the evidence of Cadfael the Middle Ages don't look too bad. The king enjoys a sort of Conran medievalism - Yorkstone paving and bleached English oak, very chic - while Cadfael goes for the Country Living look in his apothecary's den - dried herbs hanging from the ceiling and an attractive scatter of terracotta for that practical but lived- in feeling. True, there is a fair amount of slaughter around (it is while burying rebels hung by the king that Cadfael discovers he's got one more body than he should have), but it is compensated for by the fact that everybody is so punctilious about their grammar.

King Stephen has decreed that all his subjects should employ the subjunctive tense, a tyrannical injunction resented by Arnulph and the other rebels, who wish to defend the freeborn Englishman's right to wield a past participle now and then. 'Were it not so,' explains a loyalist, but the king's word is law. 'I shall tear Arnulph's tongue from his head myself,' shouts Stephen, announcing a short sharp shock policy on grammatical insurrection, but even in his rage remembering that the formal context and first person subject rules out a 'will'. Even the spectacle of massed corpses can't prevent the dialogue from coming out like illustrative examples from an Advanced English course: 'I marvel you would bring her to a spectacle so harrowing', for example (Use of adverbial intensifiers) or 'Am I to tear my heart out because the number does not tally?' (Question expecting the answer no).

It ends happily: 'I would know you better,' says Hugh, demonstrating the past tense used as an auxiliary verb with modal function. 'Then in this ending there is a beginning too,' replies Cadfael, employing a rhetorical antithesis to show that those responsible plan a long-running series. Would that it were not.

'Lawn and Order' (Encounters, C4) began with a sly pastiche of a spaghetti western in which a cowboy buckled on his weapon and tugged his hat down with a determined air. When he pulled the trigger he didn't spray lead but bright green dye, instantly restoring a parched lawn to a simulation of health. Janis Lundman and Adrienne Mitchell justified the horrible pun in their title with a playful survey of American front-yards which also offered some subtle reflections on the roots of civic order.

One contributor, seen only in silhouette, had formed a Taste Commando, staging night attacks to kidnap plastic flamingos and plaster bunnies from his neighbours' lawns. But the proof that this little patch of space represents a frontier of freedom for most Americans turned up later, in the form of a cussed old boy who was defying the local lawn-police by growing vegetables in the parking strip, the narrow patch of land between the pavement and the road. He was doing what a man's got to do - an outlaw armed with zucchini and tomaytoes.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions