Television Review

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My Night With Reg (Sat BBC2) was a triumph of volume control, as much as anything else - a low- key, sotto voce, almost surreptitious account of a play that must have been very different in the theatre, where the necessary projection of the actors' voices (not to mention the necessary largeness of their gestures) surely altered the mood. Tone is inextricably connected to loudness, so what must have been a camp, defiant comedy in a public space, had been transformed by the intimacy of television into something far more mournful and uncertain, its dark humour there to pick it up but rarely pressed to the front of the stage. Even one of the most Ortonesque lines, about the absent Reg's sexual generosity, took on a more sombre note: "Even the vicar told me what a good f*** he was outside the crematorium," says Guy, exasperated at the obtuseness of one of Reg's old lovers. Imagine the roar that would have greeted that in the theatre; here, there was no pause for enjoyment before regret and consolation stumbled on the heels of the joke.

The play appears, at first, to be the account of a single disastrous evening in Guy's garden flat (he is the sort of prospectless single for whom the natural flat-warming present is a cookbook called Solo Banquet), but it soon becomes clear that there are large elisions, gaps in the chronology during which death has stolen away one or other of this circle of gay friends. I say "soon", but the truth is that Kevin Elyot's screenplay and Roger Michell's direction worked to smooth out the temporal joints to the point of near invisibility - in particular with the help of some bravura, uncut tracking shots which imply an unbroken connection between two quite separate times. In addition, the characters wore almost identical clothes throughout, so that it was only home improvements and the implications of the dialogue itself that alerted you to what had taken place.

This wasn't just a gimmick - it gave you a good sense of the unchanging anxieties of Guy's life, the way his timidity and unrequited love persisted over time. And when Guy himself died (and thus disappeared without saying goodbye), your sense that someone was missing offered a kind of equivalent for the characters' bereavement. The screenplay was very knowing, a script which was not embarrassed to use a conservatory for its true theatrical purpose - getting inconvenient characters out of the way for a breath of fresh air - and the running joke about a Rohmer film suggested a model for its tone of subtle, glimpsed detail, a tone beautifully picked up by the glancing editing of the film, which looked sharply here and there for clues about unstated feeling.

Family Money, Channel 4's new Sunday evening drama, seems to have been aimed with great demographic precision at a certain type of viewer - those who can't help themselves totting-up the capital value of their parents' property. Claire Bloom plays a woman who decides to sell her very desirable Islington house and use at least part of the proceeds to buy her long-serving housekeeper a home of her own. Her children, Harry the television producer (a gleeful industry in-joke about the tribulations of working in the Birtian BBC) and Izzy - holding her underfunded home together with Post-it notes - then find themselves torn between their principles and the alluring thought of that imminently liquid wealth. "Neither of you are poor or homeless," says Bloom, forgetting that virtually everyone spends more than they have, in their daydreams if nowhere else. The social comedy of the children's manipulations of their own consciences is combined with a familiar "only surviving witness" thriller plot. Bloom is attacked when she intercedes in a fatal beating, and though she has lost her memory of the event, there is a rather saturnine young man at the bottom of her garden who is stirring a sense of deja vu. The combination is solidly watchable.

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