TELEVISION / BRIEFING: A smooth ride to nowhere special

Charles Denton, the new head of BBC Drama, will have no bigger problem on his desk than what to do with his department's big- budget series on BBC1. A report on the channel's current offerings - Westbeach, The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Growing Pains - might well conclude 'could do better'. It is debatable whether RIDES (9.30pm BBC1) will do much to make the picture rosier. Carole Hayman's cabbie comedy, returning for a second six- part run, is like the taxis it features: sleek, well-made but rather unexciting. In the first episode, the sound of wedding bells fills the air. Hayman herself makes an amusing appearance as a Jewish mother who has graduated with honours from Beattie College. In the limo on the way to her daughter's wedding she is still trying to convert her Gentile son-in-law-to-be. 'Thank God my mother's dead,' she moans. Other plots concern Patrice's (Jill Baker) toy boy, a hockey- playing lesbian couple who set up a motorbike dispatch company, and a sex-change driver contemplating marriage. The last of these contains that essential stereotype of popular drama: the scumbag journalist.

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