TELEVISION / Under pressure from the protection racket

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The Independent Culture
A WOMAN'S GUIDE TO ADULTERY (ITV) opens with an hommage to a tampon advert - there's nothing like aiming high, is there? You may remember the ad in question - the curse was represented as a steely blue light which freeze-framed everything, including the ribbons fixed to the electric fans. Last night the red ribbons were swirling and behind the blue-tinged mosquito nets Theresa Russell was moaning gently to a naked gentleman displaying his plumber's cleavage. It didn't seem to be that time of the month.

I'm currently having problems with sanpro ads, actually. The Bodyform advert (in which a well-heeled Miami hotel guest finds the wet-back chambermaid looking quizzically at her panty-liners) is a real leap-for-the-zapper, stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears-and-hum masterpiece - one of those commercials that makes you contemplate joining a closed religious order. It isn't the soft-rock melisma on the soundtrack that gets to me ('Noooo Bo-o-dy Formmmm]') but the look of wondering gratitude on the maid's face when she's handed the product. In a just world she would snarl, 'Call this a tip, putana?' and slug her, but it never happens, of course.

These are just delaying tactics, I know. I have to write about A Woman's Guide to Adultery eventually. I will, I promise. But the digression isn't entirely off the subject. There are passages in this adaptation of Carol Clewlow's novel that have you yearning for the commercial break and even longer passages that have you checking that it hasn't already arrived. Surely this scene of vibrant commerce comes from a Gillette advert or one of those grating pieces of business machismo with which BT is trying to persuade us to further inflate its profits? Surely Sean Bean hasn't been hired as one half of the new Nescafe couple? Surely we've seen this career woman somewhere before, striding round an architect's office bellowing, 'I move with the times'?

The story (and there's lots of story) concerns four friends, variously hitched and half-hitched, all struggling with the 11th commandment ('Thou shalt not hurt another woman'). Helen, an ad-executive, is having an affair with nasty Ray, which makes nice Michael contemplate starting something with Ray's nice wife Sandra. Jo, a constituency agent, is having an affair with Martin, the local MP, and Jennifer, an art-teacher, is trying to have an affair with sensitive David, one of her pupils. Rose isn't having an affair with anyone yet, having framed the 11th commandment, but she is troubled by her attraction to Paul, Jennifer's brother, a hunky photography tutor given to the sort of aesthetic utterances you find on packs of herbal tea. Apart from one scene, in which the tutor offers two women a lift and they quibble awkwardly about who should be dropped off first, the caffeine of subtlety and emotional truth has been entirely removed. Millions will watch and sleep soundly despite it.

'Morning chaps and chapesses,' said the presiding detective at a meeting of the Navy's Special Investigation Bureau, demonstrating the speed with which the Navy has adapted to modern conditions. In the first half of a two-part film on naval discipline, Cutting Edge (C 4) was given access to on-board searches, disciplinary hearings and serious investigations. For the most part it appeared to be commendably human about discipline, supportive of miscreants, scrupulous in its procedures.

Unfortunately for the Navy the principal case was that of Brett Burnell, a young sailor who was the victim of an anonymous call outing him as a homosexual. The full force of the SIB swung into action to poke, pry and ask suggestive questions about a rating without a blot on his record. To be fair, a distinct lack of zeal for the dirty business was detectable even through the by-the-book manner of the detectives involved - apologetic phrases like 'whatever I think' and 'we have to follow the rules' were thick in the air. When justice sounds that shifty it's normally a fair bet that it isn't justice at all.

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