TELEVISION REVIEW / It's a simple tale of boy meets trash

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The Independent Culture
THE FIRST part of Final Justice (BBC 1) began with, displayed across the screen, the legend essential to all made-for-television mini-series of the kind that fur up the end-of-summer schedules: 'The following is based on a true story.' It wasn't until almost at the end of last night's dreary episode that it became clear precisely on which true story this twaddle was based.

The yarn went as follows: the male off- spring of a quality family meets and, after a whirlwind courtship, marries a low- rent piece of scheming trash. The matriach of the quality family is not impressed by her son's choice of partner - she is particularly apprehensive about the age gap - and makes her reservations abundantly clear. The father - lazy, past-it, on an easy free-wheel into an old age doing the matriach's bidding (Martin Sheen in a paradigm of his own career) - counsels reconciliation.

Meanwhile the trash, too cunning in the ways of the world for her slow-witted but essentially decent husband, employs all her feminine wiles to see him off. Thence a battle for custody of the offspring ensues, with crucial plot details revealed via misheard telephone conversations. In the red corner is the trash, who wants to bring the little one up in the modern, laissez-faire manner; and in the blue, the matriarch, who wants grandchildren to be educated traditionally, to appreciate their place in the natural hierarchy of things.

In the final custody-court scene, the trash cuts her hair to impress the judge. As a blonde bob bounced above a surly, hooded-eyed sneer, flashed in the direction of the in-laws, the whole thing fell into place: this was, given a spin of the Deep South and a seasoning of sex and violence, the tragedy of Princess Diana we were watching.

With the benefit of the foresight accorded television reviewers, I can reveal that the metaphor becomes even more transparent in the second half of the farrago, screened tonight. The Di-alike, at the end of her tether in the concluding courtroom scene, has the last word when she yells through her blubbing: 'They're all out to get me.' Andrew Morton and Richard Kay were, oddly, not accorded a scriptwriting credit.

The Business (BBC 2) also concerned itself with a new way of assessing the ruling classes. Subtitled 'Managing the Managers', it looked at an industrial relations technique imported from the United States ('very much flavour of the time', apparently). Awash to the point of submergence with business psycho-babble - 'human resources', 'upward feedback', 'employee empowerment', subordinates being allowed to 'own their problems themselves' - the film nevertheless explored a valuable new idea: how bosses might have their performance marked.

'Not a process for the faint-hearted', said the voice-over as we entered a meeting room at BP Oil where a manager named Peter West (no relation to the old cove who used to present Rugby Special) was being confronted by his staff telling him where he had gone wrong.

'Peter can be enthusiastic to the point of over-enthusiasm,' said one junior employee, watching his chances of promotion disappear up the cathode tube. As he spoke, a nervous titter of the sort usually found when the boss makes a bad joke rippled around the room. Small steps, but making a big difference in the firms which employ the technique. Meanwhile on the news, some duffer from Railtrack was proudly informing us that in the umpteenth week of the signalman's strike, managers managed to get 50 per cent of train services running. Upward assessment in Railtrack headquarters would make instructive viewing.