TELEVISION / Make a drama happen, pick up the phone
Saturday 15 January 1994
By the looks of things, Love Hurts (BBC1) is about to sign a lucrative contract with Motorola that will take the workaholic couple played by Adam Faith and Zoe Wanamaker up to retirement age. (And then we'll have a whole series about the ethics of carrying on your career after the age of 65. Can't wait.)
The heavy deployment of mobile phones in a drama that lacks much mobility of its own is a clever tactic. If there's a lull - Tessa hasn't got a meeting to bully, or Frank's between deals - whip out a cordless and plug it into the hole. In one stunning act of scriptwriting bravado, our hero and heroine whipped them out AT THE SAME TIME and dialled each other. You can do that in dramas. Unfortunately they were both engaged: love does indeed hurt. If the moment wasn't quite moving, it certainly was mobile.
In this third series, childbirth is on the menu. And why not? Every other programme's doing it at the moment. So in this NHS bed we have a chatty old mother of eight, in the other a grumpy young single mother, and in between we have Tessa, over 40 but having her first. If you could glimpse at Catherine Johnson's script, you'd probably find it covered with simple formulae and mathematical symbols.
In every other respect, we're open for business as usual: Frank is flogging dodgy goods, only he doesn't get laughs the way Del Boy or Arthur do, and Tessa is waddling around saving the planet, or at least a troupe of Polish ballet dancers. The drama of Part 1 was of the will she / won't she variety: will she or won't she still be tapping away at her lap-top when the contractions are coming every 30 seconds? The tension was relentless, apart from the scenes in which Frank spent pounds 700 on a rocking horse, in which Frank built the cot, in which Frank went jogging. They relieved the tension rather a lot.
Love Hurts has boiled down to a portrait of executive life, which is good for healthy production values, less so for the health of audience sympathies. The storylining of this series will doubtless go on to portray the strain of parenting for the highly paid middle-aged, but that's a group as remote to your average viewer as 19th-century Midlanders or 1920s fashion designers. On second thoughts, then, it's a hit.
In ''Dreams on Ice', a film for Short Stories (C4), real parents took their real children skating at a rink in Hackney. Precision skating, in which a lot of young girls dress up in uniform, do what they're told and absolutely love every minute, is the urban equivalent of the Pony Club. In this neck of the woods, the only sign of opulence on show was the red Mazda driven by the girls' instructor. If she gives up charity work, Tessa could maintain her lifestyle as a rink coach. This disciplinarian reminded you of no one so much as Lady Thatcher, who before her fall got all her little boys to do high kicks in a line.
The wedding of David Dimbleby and Question Time (BBC1, Thur) was traditional. It offered something old (Ken Clarke's Matrix Churchill wrigglings), something new (Ken Clarke's first appearance on the programme as Chancellor), something borrowed (Ken Clarke's brothel-creepers, formerly in the keep of Geoffrey Howe) and something blue (Ken Clarke). The only alteration from the outmoded Sissons coupe is cosmetic, and it involves a lot of walking: the guests, like prize-fighters in suits, walk on as they are introduced, while Dimbleby indicates that he's a man of the people by going among them, like Jesus or the Queen or Robert Kilroy-Silk. This show will walk and walk.
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