FRANKLY, I’m surprised. How come Ladette To Lady didn’t prompt any copycat series, and especially after the Old Etonians came to power.
STV, Sunday, 9pm
BBC4, Tuesday, 10pm
STV, Monday, 9pm
It’s hard to believe that commissioning editors failed to dream up Baronet For A Day or Idle Rich Makeover or Pass Yourself Off As A Toff, reality shows with the premise of getting ideas above your station. Frankly, one is surprised.
But at least Daphne Du Maurier’s The Scapegoat was turned into a Sunday night big-hoose drama last week and what a fine job ITV and director Charles Sturridge made of it. Sturridge, who directed Brideshead Revisited, ensured every floorboard of this forbidding pile creaked with secrets, melodrama and, let’s be honest, tommyrot. But The Scapegoat was irresistible tommyrot and, as far as I’m concerned, this was a Sunday night big-hoose drama it was OK to like (unless you think the return of Downton Abbey tonight is too knicker-wettingly exciting for words).
The premise was this: man goes into pub, meets his doppelganger, they swap overcoats and lives. The book was published in 1957, a more innocent time when perhaps it wasn’t stretching credibility too much for a duffle-coat wearing schoolteacher to suddenly be swanning around in velvet collars and Rolls-Royce Silver Wraiths, and hopping between the beds of a wife, a mistress and a lover.
Credibility twanged and popped after about two and a half minutes of this handsome production, but somehow it didn’t matter. I was enjoying the special effects too much (Matthew Rhys played John and Johnny together seamlessly). And, unusual for me, I was enjoying getting lost in the hoose too much (I realised why later, on discovering the drama was filmed at Knebworth Hoose, scene of 1970s rock festivals of fond memory. Knebworth’s are the only stately grounds where I’ve barbecued Spam and constructed a latrine).
There was a farcical tension over which question or command, prompting the wrong response, would blow John’s cover: “Aren’t you going to kiss either of us? ... Would you undo me ... Did you speak to Piglet?” But these poshos were too mad or miserable or self-obsessed or paralysed by impeccable manners to twig anything, and a typical conversation would go like this: “Darling, I... What?... What?... No no, it’s silly, you called me ‘darling’, I’m being silly, ignore me... Sorry.” Piglet, Johnny’s young daughter, displayed more intuition than any of the barking adults (“You smell funny,” she remarked) but only the growling black lab really knew the truth. In the end decent John and bounderish Johnny had a fight at the family foundry, the latter being killed. John contemplated leaving the hoose and his fake life but realised he couldn’t; just by being the only normal person they’d encountered he’d cured the clan of their terminal dysfunctionality. And then everyone sat down together to watch the Queen’s Coronation. Huzzah!
It’s one of the great, flat-footed, ten-to-two walks in TV and The Sopranos’ Silvio Dante would use it extensively. From front-of-house at the Badda Bing strip-joint to the plotting back-office. From the hospital bedside of a badly beat-up associate to the waiting room for more plotting. From open casket to the shoulder of the grieving widow, extending sympathy and a fat envelope of dollars. Oh yes, he got around did our Silvio, and in Lilyhammer we see the Chaplinesque waddle again, so it must actually be the gait of Steven Van Zandt, the rock musician-turned-actor. He’s really travelled this time: all the way from America’s mobworld to snowbound Norway. Like Silvio, Johnny is a gangster, and Lillehammer is his hideout of choice under the FBI’s witness protection programme. There are culture-clashes aplenty: he produces another enveloped wad in a failed attempt to bribe local officialdom and, hoping to impress the winsome single mum, he rounds up a posse to catch the wolf that’s been killing her sheep, only to be told: “You can’t be wandering around in the woods in patent leather shoes.” Lilyhammer is fairly predictable stuff but the crunch of hard-packed snow is no less evocative than The Scapegoat’s creaky floors. Much will rest on the lugubrious charms of Van Zandt, which are considerable.
Leaving has been billed as Tony Marchant’s sequel to Take Me Home, but give yourself a coconut if you remember the original for it was all of 23 years ago. That was about the affair between a taxi driver and a much younger woman and excellent it was too; Leaving concerns the wedding manager of a country house hotel (Helen McCrory) and one of her staff, an age difference of 19 years. I can see why the lad fancies her but not why she falls for him. Interesting to note, though, how TV’s requirements have changed in those 23 years. The young must be younger, and look posh.
PICK OF THE WEEK The Choir: Sing While You Work
BBC2 Thursday 9pm
“Good morning everyone,” booms the man with the megaphone, “I’m here to
start a choir.” Yes, it’s Gareth Malone, who wants to teach the world to sing, and with his man-bag full to the brim with enthusiasm he’s going after the workers. Hoping
to set up four workplace choirs, he begins at Lewisham NHS Trust, one of London’s busiest hospitals. It’s a sprawling complex of 200 departments and Malone correctly deduces that porters have never sat down with physicians and that the hospital has never come together as one. Finding staff with time for rehearsals is his next problem. Derek, who works in the kitchens, has a nice voice and a nurse says she’ll try to make the first session, although it’s happening right between two Caesarean sections. And the song he wants the hospital to sing? Everybody Hurts.
BBC2 Friday 9pm
“So,” says the general, “we have Captain Tietjens as second-in-command of the 6th batallion, Glamorganshires; Captain McKechnie who detests Tietjens because he regards the 6th as his by right; and Major Perowne, last heard of trying to enter the bedroom of Mrs Tietjens.” At the end of this fabulous series, it’s far from all quiet on the Western Front – or the home front.
Imagine – The Fatwa: Salman’s Story
BBC1 Wednesday 10.45pm
“I ran round the house locking all the doors.” This was Rushdie’s reaction to being told about Ayatollah Khomeini’s death sentence. In this documentary about ten years of watching your back, he recalls how it was the day of fellow author Bruce Chatwin’s memorial service. In the church, Paul Theroux said to him: “I guess we’ll be here for you next week.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east