The incident may not have done much for his holiday, but it certainly must have improved James Cohen's stay on the island, given that the director needed all the enlivening colour he could lay his hands on. "The problems come at you from every angle," John Blakemore, the consul, had explained at the beginning of the programme, but it rapidly became clear that most of them came from exactly the same angle - no money, no passport, not a clue what to do. And, given that one slightly fuddled holidaymaker is much like another, this presented the programme with a problem of variety - one that it didn't entirely solve. In the end, it conveyed just a little too accurately the frustration of having to sit in a neon-lit waiting room when you should have been lying on a sunlit beach.
In that respect, it wasn't quite as effective as Cohen's last film for Inside Story - a visually memorable account of a couple battling against the husband's heroin addiction. There were flickers of a larger theme here - namely the way in which "abroad" makes sentiments of Britishness congeal into distinctly odd shapes - but they never quite reached critical mass. "Makes you proud to be British dunnit," slurred one feckless customer, as he swayed away having had his problem solved. The incandescent scouser who discovered that the tax-payer wasn't going to underwrite his misfortune didn't agree: "It makes you vomit to be English," he spat in disbelief. "Disgustin'. Terrible." Presumably a few drinks in the Benny Hill bar or Linekers might restore his brittle patriotism. The film was mostly affectionate about this little corner of a foreign field, but it ended on an astringent note. Over footage of a Queen's Birthday celebration, a hellish gathering of sun-dried old ex-pats which looked like gala night at the tortoise farm, you heard Blakemore saying "I have no doubt that to the outside world the diplomatic service looks very glamorous". It was rather touching to have him arguing that his job wasn't really a cushy number - at precisely the moment when you were thinking "You couldn't pay me enough".
If there is a consul in Paris, he should be bracing himself - a large contingent of EastEnders' (BBC1) finest have just arrived on Eurostar and the prospects for an uneventful holiday do not look good. Grant is jumpy because Tiff has secretly upgraded them to a rather swish and expensive establishment near Chantilly ("If anyone starts lookin' down their nose at me, they're in fer a kickin'," he said, glowering at the other residents as he offered his rough paraphrase of the phrase entente cordiale). Phil is jumpy because he expects Lorna to emerge shrieking from the bushes at any moment, stabbing wildly about her with a carving knife (she gave a tiny clue to her highly strung nature the other night, by stubbing a cigarette out on his chest). He was so nervous, indeed, that he eventually confessed his infidelity to Kathy. If he thought that this was going to buy him a quiet few days of remorse and mutual weeping, he was wrong. The wedding ring went straight in the Seine in the middle of a blazing soap aria from Gillian Taylforth ("Tradito ancora", given the full range of her vocal powers). I only hope he's got the passports and tickets.Reuse content