Ripping yarn for Ehle, but not a bodice to be seen

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The Independent Online
Alan Bleasdale, writer of GBH and Boys from the Blackstuff, has turned from gritty social commentary to the gin and Jag set for Channel 4's big spring drama Melissa.

Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC1 production of Pride and Prejudice, stars in the title role of Bleasdale's first genteel murder mystery. The five-part serial, which starts in April, was updated from a Sixties script by the classic "country house" thriller writer Francis Durbridge.

Its tortuous plot involves a Bosnian war correspondent played by Tim Dutton, last seen in Rhodes, who gets involved with Ehle's PR woman and then a series of baffling crimes. Bleasdale described it as "a morality tale disguised as a detective story."

Other highlights of Channel 4's spring and summer season include a weekend devoted to the situation comedy and another week-long special of its soap Brookside - this time killing off some children to boost ratings just weeks after its new rival Channel 5 launches.

Guaranteed to attract the attention of the Daily Mail, which dubbed Channel 4's former chief executive Michael Grade "Britain's Pornographer in Chief", is The Investigator. It is based on a true story and features Cardiac Arrest's Helen Baxendale as a military police investigator who seeks out lesbians and gays in the Army then starts to realise she is a lesbian herself.

Stuart Cosgrove, Channel 4's head of arts and entertainment, confirmed that he has signed Chris Evans, Radio 1's errant disc jockey, to two unnamed series for the autumn in addition to his TFI Friday chat show. However Mr Cosgrove regretted that he was unable to persuade Chris Morris, whose controversial Brass Eye series ended last week, to produce an election special for the channel.

The channel is bringing its innovations in late-night "youth" programming to the daytime. Light Lunch, a live cookery and chat magazine programme with a comedy edge, starts this month. Channel 4 has been revamping its afternoons and its success is starting to worry its advertising department. Because it is attracting large audiences in the daytime the channel is bringing downmarket C1 and C2 viewers to a station that makes its money from ABC1 viewers. Paul McCann