TV review: River City | The State Scots Are In

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River City BBC1 The State Scots Are In BBC1

It's a strange novelty to see an unfurnished house in a soap. Normally, even though this rarely happens in real life, people move in and out with only a few bags, quite happy to take on the previous inhabitants' entire belongings. If anyone ever does buy a new chair or washing machine, we never see it arrive.

There was a sofa, sideboard and a couple of beds upstairs at the Queen Vic which had been used by an every licensee since Den and Angie (presumably as those stairs were too narrow to carry up new ones) - thank goodness they finally went up in flames.

So it was actually mildly refreshing to see the new family in River City walk around their new, empty house, pondering where to put their belongings when the removal van got there. Where should the TV go where, one day, someone will accidentally put the wrong video in and see their partner's illicit affair? How about putting the wine glasses over here, ready for someone's future alcoholism? And, of course, a handy lamp, useful for all those accidental murders - perhaps by the window?

Yes, all the possibilities lie ahead for the Brodie family, newly moved into Shieldinch. They seem happy enough now, doctor husband Michael, pushy wife Leyla and various bratty children, but no doubt they'll soon be as unhappy as everyone else. In fact - I don't want to leap to conclusions - it's just possible there might be some sort of problem already. I could be wrong, because Dr Michael's dialogue throughout the episode was pretty ambiguous.

"Actually, there's something I've been meaning to talk … Um, I was wondering if we could have a wee word about … Listen, Leyla, there's something I should have told …" Hmm, do you think he's got something to say? Spit it out man! Naturally, he didn't manage to break the news - that his brother Gabriel, who she doesn't like, is also a character in the show - before they ran into him. "I didn't know how to tell you," he said, limply.

Well, that's the way of it in soaps, where no-one can ever say what they mean, although sometimes it's better if they don't. Una McLean's Molly gave an unfortunate pitch when attempting to get a job cleaning the doctor's surgery: "I have no problem with coloured doctors, I think they're every bit as good, if not even better, than our own doctors," she beamed. Don't call them, Molly, they'll call you.

In the end, the Brodies' house ended up furnished with someone else's stuff after all, due to a farcical removal van misunderstanding. Guess there are some clichs soaps just can't avoid.

Later, BBC Scotland's Douglas Fraser presented an interesting report, The State Scots Are In which tried to trace the roots of the current economic crisis back to the development of state intervention. In the 17th century, Scotland was renowned for its egalitarian education; in Victorian times we pioneered fresh public water; recently we've been pleased about our free personal care for the elderly.But how long can we pay for it all?

It was a huge subject and inevitably Fraser had to concentrate on the broader picture, rather than getting into questions of how wealth is actually created. But it was a good attempt to raise important issues which we all need to think about, especially if we want to defend them.