Going, going, gong
The week on television
Saturday 03 May 1997
Because they hand out gongs to both big- and small-screen folk at the same event, the Baftas have always suffered from schizophrenia. A cure is at hand, as next year they will be separated into two ceremonies, creating yet another sprawling award show for television to accommodate. "All being well," advised the Princess Royal, "the ITV network will broadcast them next year." She didn't say who it would all be well for: the BBC, presumably, if the twin shows are as bad as this one.
All in all, it was a joyless night for ITV which, Hillsborough apart, was poorly represented in the drama categories, its traditional strongholds. The network spewed out two more dramas this week, but you can't see either of then troubling the judges in a year's time. Touching Evil (ITV, Tues) - no relation to Orson Welles's Touch of Evil - is from the pen of Paul Arnott. His pedigree is unimpeachable (writer on Coronation Street, producer on the second series of Cracker, writer on the third) but he may have pushed his luck by setting a detective series in St Albans. There were obvious reasons for locating here. Availability, for one: apart from Coventry, it's the only cathedral city in Britain without its own resident televisual detective. But more persuasive reasons for giving it a wide berth. It's sinfully dull, for starters. And notably lacking in civic personality. To get some colour into the first episode the script had to send itself to Stuttgart. Stuttgart!
Arnott is writing for the recipe book here. Concoct a history of psychological damage for your lead character, upend a packet of feisty female sidekick (Nicola Walker, really annoying), ladle in a stock cube of interdepartmental squabbling, and serve with a far-fetched plot about a villain played by a fruit-vowelled thesp (in this case, Ian McDiarmid). Consistent with the ITV Network Centre's policy of letting hot scriptwriters boil over with an excess of commissions, Arnott also wrote Reckless, and has inherited Robson Green in the leading role. Green's characters are running out of new places in the northeast to come from. In Reckless, he hailed from Sunderland. This time he's from Durham. Not long now till the only Northumbrian option left is to play a Dominican sleuth from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
And then there's Bodyguards (ITV, Thurs), in which our hero is issued with a history of psychological damage, his female sidekick is feisty and - hello, what's this? - another side-order of interdepartmental squabbling. Sean Pertwee, who plays one of the eponymous, er, bodyguards, rejoices, like Robson Green, in a blonde wife of no dramatic significance whatsoever. She's so unimportant that, in part one, Bosnian Muslin terrorists are allowed to take her hostage and kill her. The farfetched plot involved a villain played by a fruit-vowelled thesp (in this case, Anton Lesser).
Shampoo (BBC2, Wed), a film for Modern Times, argued that most people go to the hairdresser to have not only their hair done but their head seen to as well. It degenerated quite rapidly into the audio version of the letters pages in the top-shelf press. But sadly not the video version. In one of Bafta's mile-wide categories (see this year's Remembrance Sunday vs Monday Night Football Monday), it may find itself up for an award against the BBC's coverage of the State Opening of Parliament.
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