Television preview Recommended viewing

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
To call a cinema movie "stagey" is to denigrate it - the wrong- headed intrusion of one medium's artfulness into another medium - and with so much television drama now shot like a movie, a stagey TV drama is - QED - a bad thing. And yet, stagey material - i.e. setbound and borrowing theatrical conventions - is often what works best on television. Think of sitcoms; think of soap operas.

It helps, of course, when the material is as good as My Night with Reg (Sat BBC2), the latest in a so far exciting season of Performance. Kevin Elyot's moving and witty six-hander looks at the various machinations of a group of gay men, five of whom are either in love with (or have slept with) the eponymous but unseen Reg, who dies from Aids. I'd call it a gay Big Chill if that didn't sound so po-faced and anyway miss the point entirely. My Night with Reg is informed by the gay experience of Aids, but is not really about Aids, but about friendship, treachery and the often cruel logic of love. The original West End cast - David Bamber (currently camping it up in Chalk), John Sessions, Anthony Calf, Joe Duttine, Roger Frost and Kenneth MacDonald - are all intact and obviously very comfortable with the material. A treat.

Which is more than can be said of the join-the-dots adultery drama Have Your Cake and Eat It (Sat BBC1), whose opening episode has nothing remotely interesting to say on the subject. Griff Rhys-Jones lookalike Miles Anderson is the errant husband, Holly Aird his mistress and Sinead Cusack the wife. Both hubbie and his main squeeze work as designers of state-of-the-art amusement park attractions. So this four-parter (four parts!) has already secured a nomination for the most clunking metaphor of 1997 - an extra- marital affair as a roller-coaster ride.

Family Money (Sun C4) is also in four parts, but at least I can imagine watching the second instalment. Adapted by Ruth Carter from Nina Bawden's novel, this stars Claire Bloom as an ageing widow who is sitting on a small fortune in unrealised real estate - a period end-of-terrace family house in some extremely desirable part of London. When she receives a severe beating on the way back from her favourite restaurant, her children decide it's time she downsized and started divesting some of her wealth. On to them, naturally.

It's a good weekend for documentaries. The Call of the Sea (Sat BBC2) will add to BBC2's growing reputation as purveyors of quality oral history. The old salts on display here come straight from central casting, with their beards, jaunty caps and rheumy, faraway eyes. The first film looks at the conflicting desires amongst the sailors for the sea and for a stable home life.

A Night in with the Girls (Sat & Sun BBC2) is a history of women in television, starting in the 1940s when women were either decorative props in Light Entertainment or concerning themselves with the four Cs (cooking, children, clothes and celebrities). God Bless America (Sun ITV) is a second series of the programme in which writers weave personal portraits of individual US cities. Crime writer Patricia Cornwell applies her eye for life's darker ironies to Richmond, Virginia, whose principal landmark, for her, is the city morgue. "An autopsy is without doubt the most detailed medical examination you will ever have."

Comments