"You know, I sometimes think the fellas who do these things are doing it on our behalf."

The speaker is a police doctor, discussing a series of killings of prostitutes. "It's like they do it so we don't have to," he continues. "Does that make any sense at all?" Perfect sense, I thought. The remark is all part of a consistent pattern of behaviour on Andrew Davies's part - just one of a string of attempts to add some metaphysical lustre to what would otherwise be a familiar noir plot - the one in which a man of dull respectability is brought low by erotic obsession with a smouldering femme fatale. The respectable man in Getting Hurt was Charlie Cross, prosperous solicitor, and the metaphysical gloss was mostly slapped on by his client Edgar Bosco, a photographer whose taste for bondage scenarios makes him a natural suspect as serial killer. "I am guilty, of course," he says, when conferring with his lawyer in a police cell, and then, after a mischievous pause, "In a way. Aren't we all?"

His taste for these shallow enigmas is soon proving to be extremely tiresome ("What can we know for certain?" he asks mockingly, in response to another plea for information) but Charlie finds an incentive for not dropping the case when he meets the man's wife. In fact, she proves to be a strong incentive to keep the job and do it badly - given that her husband's liberty would interfere with his lawyer's ability to have sex with her at every available opportunity.

It's at this point that you wonder whether that theory about desires being acted out by proxy may have something in it after all. "I ... intend to continue writing about sex," Davies said in a recent interview. "As I enter my declining years I probably write about it more than I do it." Certainly it seems likely that the best chance he stands of persuading Amanda Ooms to take all her clothes off and make passionate love is by writing a scene in which she does just that with Ciaran Hinds. Several scenes. And then a few more. Not to mention the neat little bit of background colour which requires her living-room to be lined with nude photographs of the actress.

But if Getting Hurt occasionally seemed to be a convenient way for the writer to Get Turned On, and if the plot devices were often no different from his Hollywood predecessors than one bottle of milk is from another, it could never be said that Davies's writing is pasteurised. His suspect may shriek "They're all whores!" like countless weirdos before him, but the script was also full of unpredictable discomforts - such as the scene in which a paraplegic client relieved himself into a jamjar while Charlie was on the phone buying a flat for his mistress. The real life of the film was in these inventions: a comic sequence in which the lawyer was shown struggling to carry a double mattress up a flight of stairs, a man teetering under the burden of his lust, or a fine scene in which Charlie's insulted a dodgy client - his infidelity having released him from other kinds of respectability too.

I will come back to Playing the Field, because it deserves more space than I can give it here. It's probably enough to say for the moment that this is what Real Women should be like: a popular drama in which the issues have a chance to steal up on you through the undergrowth of the story line. It began in a remarkably similar way to the other series: a montage of women waking up, the camera identifying the props that serve as visual clues to their lives - in the case of Theresa, a wedding dress hanging alongside a poster of Eric Cantona. Kay Mellor has a kind of genius for inventing robust containers for ensemble drama (she has just sold an idea for a series based on women attending a Weight Watchers group, which will have several hundred writers kicking themselves in belated recognition). Here it is the notion of a woman's football team - 11 varied characters, a built-in element of tension (will they make it to the final?) and any amount of comic relief from the sidelines. Worth supporting, I think.