Review

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The Independent Online
About three-quarters of the way through Screen Two: Go Now (Sat BBC2), you wished you'd invested in Kleenex shares. Across the nation, synchronised weeping must have taken hold as Nick, a footballer of strictly modest ability, realised he would no longer be able to miss a sitter again.

"We don't know it's MS," said his girlfriend, as he sat in the kitchen of their flat after falling over or dropping something, looking about half his previous size. "It's MS," he said. And she didn't even bother arguing. Cry? At times, drowning seemed a definite possibility.

Jimmy McGovern, creator of Cracker, we have known for some time to be the best writer of television thrillers presently in action. To discover he was also the best writer of love stories, too, is a bit like finding out that Matt Le Tissier would be in the Ryder Cup team if only Sam Torrance had the foresight to pick him: you can't help thinking there is an unfair distribution of talent going on here.

From the laddish opening to the, as they say in Hollywood, life-affirming conclusion, Go Now was 24-carat. As in all class works, it was an accumulation of touches: the moment Nick spotted his girlfriend Karen pushing a freshly delivered wheelchair down the hospital corridor towards him; the episode where Nick's mate, keen not to patronise him now he's a cripple, goes way too far while taking the mickey; the scene where she refused to go when he told her to and stood outside his flat in the rain (it was filmed in Bristol, after all).

The cast, too, took up the baton. Robert Carlyle, first spotted as the Hillsborough-fixated psycho in Cracker and later (we'll forgive him) as Hamish MacBeth, captured astonishingly the mix of fury, self-pity and crumbling ego that was Nick. Juliet Aubrey (wearing way fewer clothes than on her last outing in Middlemarch) got it just right as his saintly girlfriend Karen. And Berwick Kaler, as Nick's football team manager Sammy, gave the best performance as a bald bastard on the touchline since Brian Glover in Kes.

But it was McGovern's script that sealed it. There's no better observer of lads together: his football-team ensemble, led by James Nesbitt (no relation, though after this there could be, to Rab C), had so many sharp lines they could have been arrested for possession of dangerous weaponry. McGovern used his wit to undercut any possibility of mawkishness, a technique which made the pathos all the more sniff-inducing. A habit best demonstrated when Nick, now reduced to incontinence, goes along with Karen to have a urine bag fitted. "Now this bit slips over the penis," says the nurse, holding up an uncomfortable-looking piece of prosthetics to the nervous couple. "Small, medium, or large?"

While McGovern was tugging our tear ducts, the collected prats, creeps and be-sandalled wallies at the Last Night of the Proms (Sat BBC1) were waving their Union Jacks and their pitiful home-made banners during the annual airing of "Jerusalem". According to Peter Ackroyd, in a mischievously scheduled film for The South Bank Show (Sun ITV), William Blake would have been appalled at such grevious bodily harm to his masterpiece. "Jerusalem", Ackroyd maintained, was not the unthinking patriotic tract it has become since William Parry set it to music.

Blake himself was an anti-monarchist dissenter, once put on trial for sedition, whose aim in writing the piece was to re-awaken a sense of the spiritual in the British people. What's more, that line about "dark Satanic mills" had nothing to do with Oldham. Blake, who only once set foot outside London, never went near the industrial North. That line, according to Ackroyd, was inspired by the poet watching a flour mill burning down in Southwark. But then, since Ackroyd reckoned Blake used the word "mill" as "an abstract symbol of Newtonian materialism", perhaps we shouldn't believe everything he told us.

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