Television review

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Jo Jo McCann comes from one of those extended Scottish families in which a police scanner occupies pride of place on the living room mantelpiece. This is not just a good way of keeping abreast of one's relatives but it also means that any business associate tempted to trade information for an open cell door is less likely to get away with it. Eddie, two warrants outstanding and thus the unhappy possessor of a Go Straight To Gaol card, foolishly decides that as no one has seen his arrest, he can take up a policeman's kind offer to look the other way. What he doesn't know is that Charlie, managing director of the family firm, has heard of his arrest on the radio and will jump to exactly the right conclusion when he reappears looking chipper. Eddie soon learns the hard way that "Ye cannae have grasses", a tenet of lower-depth morality which is uttered by all and sundry as a truism requiring no further debate.

This is not cute and nor is Jo Jo himself, despite being played by Robert Carlyle, the thinking woman's bit of rough. In one of the early scenes of Frank Deasy's Looking after Jo Jo (BBC2) you see him threatening a gang member who has failed to obey orders with sufficient speed, and it is clear that he would be quite prepared to maim if his ambitions required it (there is a glimpse here of Begbie, the psychotic thug Carlyle played in Trainspotting). It is true that he is given some dispensations by the drama - he has regular flashbacks to his childhood with a loving but alcoholic father, a narrative device which inevitably acts as a plea in mitigation (that narrow-eyed man was once a wide-eyed child, you are reminded) and his relationship with Lorraine, a runaway with a Marilyn Monroe fixation, offers dependable interludes of pathos to further round out his character. Like her he has dreams that his circumstances can't quite contain. But the drama doesn't feel as if it will be fraudulently light-hearted about the charm of this way of life - however chic Scottish urban poverty has become in the last few years.

I couldn't catch all of Frank Deasy's script - large portions of the drama might as well have been played in Cantonese given the impenetrable density of the accents - but when it's understandable it demonstrates a readiness to leave the audience in the dark for a while as well as a sly, terse wit: "Clingfilm's changed the world," says a character approvingly at one point and she doesn't have in mind the convenience with which we can now wrap leftovers - Clingfilm and Nivea being indispensable accessories for anyone hoping to smuggle anything via the back passage. During one of Lorraine's scenes (just the right side of stick-on poignancy) she debates the finer points of authenticity with a hairdresser, finally trumping the exchange by pointing out that "Norma Jean was just the first Marilyn Monroe lookalike," which, if it wasn't a well-known quotation already, deserves to become one.

Nivea featured in Babewatch (ITV) too, though in a context that might have appealed a little more to their marketing manager than anal lubrication. They had sponsored the Body of the Year competition which was won by Caprice who was now obliged to recline on a shiny car for the benefit of a clamour of press photographers (most of whom spent more time snapping at each other than they did snapping Caprice). This, you understood, was the heady future awaiting the young girls being stalked at the Clothes Show Exhibition by Sarah Leon, a scout for Select - a job which appeared to consist of identifying beautiful girls in the crowd and then asking their plain friends whether they'd ever thought of a career in modelling. Yorkshire's reality soap also promises to follow the progress of Vernon, a payphone repairman who was plucked from the streets to become a male mannequin. Vernon was enjoying himself and, judging from the analogies he settled on to convey the thrill of his first catwalk show, he is also keeping his feet firmly on the ground: "This is the equivalent", he said excitedly, "of ... getting loads of insurance if you're an insurance salesman, or getting loads of windows if you're a double-glazer". Oh, the wild glamour of it all!