TV Reviews: The Entertainment Biz and Our Boy

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Indy Lifestyle Online
In the annual eruption of Mount Ego, those not lucky enough to be caught in the pyroclastic flows of fame find this a time to ask searching questions about their careers

"Every actor I know has a minor breakdown five days after the Oscars," said an agent in the The Entertainment Biz, an account of the annual eruption of Mount Ego which occurs every spring in downtown Los Angeles. Those not lucky enough to be caught in the pyroclastic flows of fame, their reputations encased for ever by the preserving, Pompeian shell of "Academy Award winner", find this a time to ask searching questions about their careers. Naturally, the vulcanologists turn a profit whatever happens, and it was one of the strengths of Jeremy and Gina Newson's film that it could see past the celebrities to those who make a living on the lower slopes - from the reporters frantically trying to hook a celebrity out of the melee, to the tuxedo-renters, limo-drivers and celebrity florists. The televised coverage of the Oscar ceremony now constitutes the biggest catwalk show in the world, an unparalleled opportunity for designers to hang their product on some of the world's most famous coat hangers. Indeed, given an audience this large, fame isn't essential; even Brenda Blethyn, known to most of the local rubberneckers only as a Brit tongue-twister, will be decked out by Armani and bejewelled by Beverly Hills's top diamond merchant, a man happy to loan $21m dollars' worth of merchandise, knowing his generosity will be rewarded with impulse buys from plutocratic wannabes.

The manner of this film showed something of the confetti editing-style pioneered by ITV's series of documentaries about LA lifestyles, footage cut into a mosaic of tiny tiles. This is tricky to pull off, being prone to easy contempt - there's a strong implication that what's said on screen is just raw material for the director's sardonic manipulations. But used with care it can deliver editorial points with real nimbleness (particularly when exposing cliche, with a rapid succession of identical phrases from different speakers) and it was backed up here by a sharp script and tart, observant details (Holly Hunter's ears pricking up as a surge in crowd noise announced the arrival of a bigger star behind her; the can-collecting tramp sleeping on the pavement with a movie magazine near his slabby pillow). On the evidence of this enjoyable opener, it should be a series worth following.

Our Boy exploited the emotional free ride offered by a child's death. In other words the script could have been terrible, and any parent watching would still have been clutched by the awful dread of darkness falling on an unnaturally quiet house. But, while Tony Grounds' script was uneven, lapsing from time to time into a theatrical rhetoric ("If we cry, our grief will be like everybody else's") it also had lines that were powerfully clumsy, in which feeling had got the better of literary finish. When Sonia (Pauline Quirke) announces that she is finally going back to work after her son has been killed by a hit-and-run driver, Ray Winstone's Woody reacts with a sudden flutter of panic: "I'm not having everything going back like it was, just without Lee!" Before long he's suffered a nervous breakdown and is camping out - scabbed and filthy - in the garage where his son's body was found. Grounds is capable of fine, disorienting inventions. One scene began with a policeman crouched underneath a table, hunting for the wasp he has just swatted. He finds it eventually - in the child's trainer which he offers to the boy's father for identification - and the undignified impurity of the moment when he tips it out added a real sting to the sequence. The script was also good about the way in which bereavement always has to take place in the midst of other people's ordinary routines; the cynical police officer offering a particularly brutal example of life's continuance: "Only one pint today, methinks," he says callously, as the milkman arrives outside the house of the bereaved parents. Unfortunately Grounds had arranged to punish him with a trite neatness, revealing that the person responsible for the accident is his own son, a petulant, indulged teenager. The end was pure melodrama, but I'd be lying if I said it left me unmoved, for all that.

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