It's virtually impossible to judge Marks and Gran's series at this early stage - at least with regard to any larger ambitions it might harbour. There are only the vaguest whispers as yet of Mosley's Faustian bargain with demagoguery - most notably a scene in which he sings republican songs in an Irish pub after humiliating Lloyd George over Black and Tan reprisals in Ireland. The men chant "Mosley for Prime Minister" and a strange gleam enters his eye (an almost identical gleam, as it happens, to that which lights up whenever a woman enters the room). This incident establishes Mosley's anti-establishment courage, and establishes too, for a modern audience, that neither his ambitions nor his prejudices fit a stereotyped pattern. And because this first episode concentrates so hard on forgotten virtues which are later to be corrupted it inevitably looks a bit glamourising in its account, despite the occasional shiver of brutality (when Mosley has his first Lawrentian grapple with Cynthia Curzon the action trembles on the brink of rape).
As a result the writers not only have the conventional problems of all scene-setting episodes ("How many times, mother!"" says Mosley exasperatedly when asked for another explanation of the complicated coalitions of inter- war politics, the answer to which is "one more for the punters") but also have to struggle with the fact most viewers will already know the ending. If we were watching these scenes without preconceptions, Jonathan Cake would stand a fair chance of seducing us too. Later episodes would strike with a particular force because we would feel the betrayal of our own hopes. But because the central character is a real figure we know what to think of him - instead of questioning our own susceptibility to the allure of such figures we are likely to question the writers about theirs. The omens so far are not particularly good but a verdict on the series really has to wait until they turn against their hero.
Andrew, the chief PR man for Tesco wore a little smile when he appeared in Superstore (BBC2), a docu-soap about life in the supermarket chain's biggest branch. He could be forgiven for feeling chuffed, having pulled off the considerable coup of half-an-hour's free advertising time. The chief executive had got in on the act too, sitting back in his car to tell us how marvellous Tesco is and how well he'd done in transforming its fortunes. The vulture of transitory fame has already identified its most promising victims - in this case Lucas, a chippy employee whose bid for promotion will provide some narrative tension over the next few weeks, and the manager, striving to maintain his chart-topping turnover in the face of threats from new rivals. It has lots of people rushing around looking harrassed and is very dull - which on the evidence of past series means it will probably be a great success. In my view the only good things about it are Jim Broadbent's voice and the rather sexy title sequence by Burrell Durrant Hifle - a name which is rapidly becoming as familiar a feature on final credits as Ken Morse, Rostrum Cameraman.Reuse content