Television review

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I can think of a number of things you might say to a man who has just been shot at by a sniper but "We're all right behind you," would not be one of them. The right place to be, of course, as long as the man in question is reasonably bulky, but it might not convey quite the sense of protective solidarity you intended. This, though, was how the super comforted Constable Loxton, shortly to go into the dock to testify against a protection racketeer and feeling a little like a grouse on the Glorious Twelfth. "If it's any consolation," he continued, "it's only the courage of ordinary officers like yourself that ultimately upholds the rule of law in this country." Steve said thanks, but this sounded a bit gloomy to me - more like a rehearsal for the funeral than a rallying cry.

It is a mark of The Bill (ITV), that nobody comments on such clumsy verbals, either aloud or through reaction shots. This wasn't an isolated instance either: after WPC Ackland has nearly been incinerated by someone drizzling petrol through her letter-box, DCI Meadows quizzes her about her old boyfriends. "Some people get very funny about old flames," he says, with sublime inaptness, as Ackland coughs shreds of smoke-damaged lung into a handkerchief.

Again there's no reaction, though it's impossible to believe that real police officers would have let the moment pass so inertly. As Backup recognises, gallows humour is one of the binding agents for groups of people under pressure, a habit of mind which even distress won't entirely exclude. Then again, The Bill is a much simpler organism. Dialogue here is rarely an expression of character, far more often an expression of the writers' ideas. In its conventional form - a two-hander wrapped round some vexed social issue - it sometimes has the stilted explicitness of discussion fodder. Here, in a heavily promoted three-parter with plenty of action, there is less risk of that, but the writing remains curiously incombustible. Ackland could have slept on unsinged if she'd lined her hallway with pages of the script.

One hesitates before recommending a sitcom - there is nothing worse than exposing your sense of humour, only to have readers pass comment on its pitiable dimensions. But after cautiously sniggering at two episodes of Is It Legal? (ITV), I feel it's safe to say that it is worth checking out. Is it funny? Well, yes, though it suffers, like many British sitcoms, from the misapprehension that exaggeration is the foundation of all comedy. Even Imelda Staunton, a comic actress of some subtlety, mugs a bit too much. But it's heartening that the best jokes evade quotation - they build through reactions and expectations of character, in a way which would be rather long-winded to describe, but works well on screen. It also contains a young actor called Richard Lumsden, who manages to give gormless vacancy an extraordinary range of expression.

Dear Dilemma (BBC2), I am the producer of a teenage television agony column. This takes the form of two celebrity guests watching a short drama about some ethical or emotional crux ("Should I Tell My Dad I'm Gay?", for example, or "He's Two-Timing My Best Friend - Do I Tell Her?") and then offering their advice. My problem is that the only actors I can afford for these small films deliver performances that make a photo-romance look animated. This is making me very unhappy and I fear that people are laughing at me when I go to the BBC canteen. Please help.

Dear Producer. Don't worry. I have watched your programme and it is clear from the teen-scream studio audience that they are quite insensible to nuances of emotional expression. I would advise you to follow the example of your presenter, Lisa I'Anson. Smile all the time and occasionally chuckle in the middle of words - then everyone will think you are having a wonderful time and will be too envious to poke fun.

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