Television: Oswald Mosley and Sharon and Tracey: spot the missing link

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IN THE WEEK Enoch Powell ended his innings, Mosley (C4, Thurs) began its ones. Will anyone ever do a television drama called Powell? They make four-parters about politicians with thin moustaches and extreme views on immigration all the time these days. But only if they can lob in a bit of raciness to leaven the racism. A white supremacist with no lead in his pencil equals poor ratings. It's as simple as that. Look at Rhodes. He wasn't interested in women and the viewers returned the compliment.

Powell's death brought another chance to see Odd Man Out (BBC2, Fri), the portrait first shown three years ago, and it confirmed what a bad subject for a drama he would be, for all the grandstanding. This is the man who first courted a woman at 37. By the same age, Oswald Mosley had humped his way through half of Debrett's.

Last autumn Channel 4 devoted eight hours and sundry squillions to the saga of another Powell - Anthony Powell. After A Dance To The Music Of Time, Mosley has the look of something they commissioned while they were in the neighbourhood. Jonathan Cake was last seen looking like the cat who got the cream in white tie and tails in Powell's epic roundelay of chance encounters. Here he is again, same time, same place, puttin' on his black shirt, puttin' on his jackboots. You can just imagine how they cast him. ''Cake, stay behind and fun us up a Thirties fascist, there's a good chap. And don't wipe that smug grin off your face.''

Cake's Mosley isn't all bad, or at least his badness isn't all his fault. His parents were separated. In another life he would have featured as one of the mesmerising Children of Divorce, dunking biscuits in his tea, explaining with a wounded look that his mother had kicked his drunken father out and they hadn't heard from him since. "Call me Tom,'' Oswald kept saying, poor lamb, to anyone who would listen.

Part one focused on his sexual career, although the focus was on the soft side for Channel 4. Our anti-hero took the perpendicular view that a vertical ascent in politics is best achieved by assuming a horizontal position with women of influence. He married the Foreign Secretary's daughter, then Hitler's favourite Mitford; but his first stop was Mrs Elliott. She had the ear of Lloyd George, plus other parts.

She explained to Mosley her theory of collapsible coalitions. ''They coalesce and then they detumesce,'' she said, for all the world as if the two verbs were antonyms. Well, she was American. ''But let's not talk of detumescence just now.'' That's right, let's not, not with three hours still to go.

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who wrote Mosley, also gave us Birds of a Feather (BBC1, Mon), and at moments like that you could almost believe it. As ''supervising producers'', Marks and Gran were no more than loosely responsible for the limpness of the jokes in the final episode of the 11th series, but it's fun to spot the cross-fertilisation of themes anyway. Sharon was expecting a baby, 22 years after her last one. Or was it Trace? Whatever, the blond one. She was worried that it's a bad gap. "It's a bad gap for your pelvic floor," advised Trace/Sharon. Now turn to Mosley. "You know I've crossed the floor?'' asked Tom. "Yes", said Mrs Elliott. "I've heard." He crosses her floor all the time.

In the same episode, Dorien was asked how it is that she knows so much about money. ''I never thought I'd have to say this,'' she spat. ''I'm Jewish.'' So are Marks and Gran. They'd have to be to get away with ''supervising'' a joke like that. So far they've played down the anti-semitism in Mosley. The most volatile incitement he has given is "Don't vote for the Independent candidate! An Independent is a man no one can depend upon!'' The Hamiltons of Tatton said something similar last spring of Martin Bell, who was grilled on Face To Face (BBC2, Mon). He said very little that he hasn't already said in other interviews, but with the camera parked halfway up his left nostril, it was a rare chance to feel the ambience of Parliament's latter- day odd man out. Like Enoch Powell, he has that humourlessness which comes with moral certainty and perfect sentence construction. It makes him the ideal subject for interview, but possibly not the best person to be married to (two have tried, so far, and failed).

Marks and Gran also wrote Unfinished Business (BBC1, Sat), which continues to charm, and there are more odd parallels. Before marrying his first wife, Mosley bedded her stepmother. Lo and behold, a vile male character in Unfinished Business has a ding-dong with both Amy and her daughter. Do Marks and Gran write as a pair so that they can plagiarise each other?

In last night's episode, Amy discovered that her shrink shops at Tesco, "Funny, I've never seen you there," she says, "in the-five-neuroses-or- less queue.'' That's because people don't queue at Tesco, or not according to the new docusoap, Superstore (BBC1, Thur). Part one introduced us to Tesco's policy of "One in Front". If there is more than one shopper in front of you in the queue, they'll open another till. It was Lord MacLaurin's idea. He used to be Tesco's chairman till he went off to run English cricket. (His instructions appear to have been misinterpreted in the Caribbean, where it's the West Indies who are one in front.)

Tesco shoppers don't like waiting. Perhaps that's why Tom Waits clattered lugubriously on the soundtrack: Tom waits for no man. Sometimes it takes a while to locate the personnel to staff the tills. This was where, with as big a surge of adrenaline as it could muster, the first episode came in, following the customer service manager of the Banbury branch as she slalomed through the aisles trawling for underlings. The rules of docusoap are as hard and fast as the rules of Greek tragedy, and rule one is that you have to have a harridan at the helm, oozing testosterone and barfing bile. See also the battle-axe in Hotel. The problem is this that harridan is quite nice. And Luca the stacker, who's cast as the maverick employee who shoots from the lip, well, he's not that maverick.

Laura works on the checkout. She wanted to join the navy, only "I failed me maffs". She'll have to get her sexual harassment elsewhere, then. There's always modelling, for which there's no maffs test. She's got the cheekbones, and these days you don't need to be a waith ... sorry, waif. Look at Sophie Dahl, who featured in Dazzled, a film for Inside Story (BBC1 Tues). "The bosoms!" said Isabella Blow, who discovered her. Ms Blow is a stylist and is always in programmes like this because television adores an eccentric and she looks like a dust-up between a fur salon and a paint factory. But hats off to her for unearthing a pneumatic model. (When Ms Blow takes her hat off, by the way, they have to warn air-traffic control.)

Dazzled was nothing like as incisive a study of the fashion ladder as it thought it was. The main thing you learned was that the girls who want it badly enough usually have no other qualifications. We met a couple of them, so criminally young we'd better call them Child A and Child B. Child A had buggered up all her exams, including her maffs.

Fortunately for her, she fits the prevailing look. She has "edge". Not to mention edges. You could cut yourself on those shoulder blades. At Cambridge Enoch Powell used to shun women because "the analytical faculty is underdeveloped in them". On the catwalk, so is everything else. It's called the none-in-front look.

David Aaronovitch returns next week.

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