TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Civil rights and uncivil wrongs

I'LL FLY AWAY (10pm C4) is the sort of impeccably liberal civil rights drama the American networks seem to churn out by the yard (cf Separate But Equal on Wednesday on BBC 2). In this first of 22 parts, Sam Waterston plays Forrest Bedford, a District Attorney from the southern states in the 1950s. Not only is he struggling to bring up three children on his own (his wife is in an institution after a breakdown), he is also encountering local hostility for prosecuting a good ol' white boy for the manslaughter of three black people.

To add to his difficulties, he takes on a new black maid (Regina Taylor) who is not afraid to voice her opinions. Bedford's children come straight out of the Waltons' Book of Southern Stereotypes. Fifteen-year-old Nathan (Jeremy London) is a jock with a heart; 13-year-old Francie (Ashlee Levitch) is unbearably precocious - 'You look sexy today, dad; sex appeal wins trials' - and six-year-old John Morgan (John Aaron Bennett) is a cutesy mummy's boy. The courtroom scenes are scarcely less predictable; at one point, the judge sustains an objection with the hoary old line: 'Mr Bedford, let's keep the editorials for the newspapers.' Worthy, but wordy.

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