But as an advert for amity this was all pretty effective - almost as good as similar sequences which have recently been used as adverts for champagne or breakfast cereal. The sunset on the beach glowed with a particular poignancy, the kites on the country walk behaved with a perfect blend of uplift and shriek-inducing sag. But then such devices can even work to make you envy your own life. Who hasn't at some time looked at snapshots of a memorable day and wished that the original could have been as marvellously fragmentary, detached from the banal compromises of language and life? What was a little more problematic here were the passages in which the friends actually talked about their feelings, rather than simply enacting them in an energetic pantomime of camaraderie.
Then things were much less alluring, the cliches of "being there for me" and "almost like a family" offering nowhere near as much tittilation for the wistful viewer. In any case it's easier to vaguely want to join a gang than to actually spend time with any particular member of it, and when individuals talked alone or in couples you couldn't help but ask yourself just how friendly you felt towards them. What Hewitt wanted to capture here was a delicate and complicated organism, built out of a tangle of allegiances and compromises, subject to the tidal pull of passing time and alien intrusion (new sexual partners always offering something of a challenge to established friendships). She had found a good specimen - a group of people bracing themselves to leap into parenthood and scarred by internal infidelity (one of the women had changed partners within the group). But 50 minutes offered little chance to get any sense of what really held them all together - despite some artful attempts to compress past history for the film, such as the sequence during a weekend house party when everyone cued up a record that meant a great deal to them. The film never quite got friendship into focus but if you wanted a definition of what it isn't it was provided by Gerrard and Sarah, who chose this moment to perform a ghastly floorshow of infatuation under the stoical nose of her former boyfriend.
Because of a directorial conceit it looked for a moment as if Counterblast (BBC2) was to be presented by one of those grumpy old men who walk along muttering about declining standards. This polemic against the blame culture began with a little tableau in which a man fell down a flight of steps while talking on his mobile phone. As he stood there, loudly indignant about the lack of warning signs and declaring his intention to sue, a bearded figure in a furry hat came forward to berate him for not looking where he was going. This turned out to be the presenter, Watt Nicol, a motivational speaker who runs seminars on "taking responsibility for your own life".
I found myself in sympathy with much of what he said about increasing litigation and the medicalisation of bad behaviour ("I am not a faithless shit, I am a sex-addict") but his thesis was not strikingly novel and was often expressed in inspirational platitudes. The point at which he dropped into doggerel proved too much for me. I tripped over the rug in my haste to get to the off switch and am thinking of suing the BBC for the resulting emotional distress.Reuse content