Aidan Smith's TV week: The Pact, Halston, Innocent, Delia - the Myths and the Legendary Tapes
Maybe instead of The Pact it should have been called Big Little Leeks and Reece Witherspoon’s long-lost cousin from Swansea - Rhys, of course - could have played one of the quartet. Instead we have our own Laura Fraser plus Julie Hesmondhalgh, Eiry Thomas and Heledd Gwynn as workmates at a brewery, though there seems to be acknowledgement of the glitzy American drama when someone says: “This is Wales, Gwen, not Los Angeles.”
The boss is a proper perisher. He’s abusive to Thomas’ Louie and she’s his aunt. He’s dismissive of Fraser’s Anna when she goes for a promotion and at the brewery’s centenary bash is soon groping the successful candidate on the dancefloor. Later, after trying it on with another girl, he falls down drunk and coked out of his head so our foursome chuck him in the boot of a car and dump him in the woods. The photos of him with his hands tied and trousers round his ankles have to be quickly deleted because in the morning he’s found dead.
Should they ’fess up right away to their prank? No of course not, this is a six-parter. What, even though Anna’s husband is a policeman quickly promoted to a detective to investigate the case? “Stick to the story, stick together,” urges Hesmondhalgh’s Nancy.
The tec by the way is played by Jason Hughes. Remember him as This Life’s Warren? He left for a bit but made a memorable, one-word return for the moment when Milly socked Rachel in the face at a wedding: “Outstanding!” Now, The Pact is not outstanding but there are some funny lines, such as when Louie is told by a catty colleague: “Sharon Osbourne rang - she wants her hair back.” I suspect, though, that the humour will go as the foursome’s leeks - sorry, lies - become more and more difficult to keep secret.
I wish that line could be adapted for Halston (Netflix). Someone could easily say to Ewan McGregor’s character: “Warren Beatty rang - he wants his blow-dried bouffant back.”
But who would dare? Roy Halston Frowick - known just by his middle name - was the American fashion designer who shot to fame when Jackie Kennedy wore one of his hats and in this biopic he’s tough on his staff.
Except … I was maybe hoping for more bitchiness, more tyrannical behaviour. Apart from dismissing the suggestion he cuts down on flowers around the studio with “Orchids are part of my process - you can’t put a budget on inspiration” there’s a shortage of memorable dialogue and the 1970s-set story is oddly uninvolving. McGregor had not heard of Halston before he agreed to play him. I knew the name from the Sister Sledge disco classic “He’s the Greatest Dancer” - “Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci” - but no more than that. Maybe in my ignorance I wanted the drama to be more like Zoolander but Halston takes women’s fashion very seriously and gets excited when he discovers “ultra-suede” which the rain can’t ruin.
The Pact isn’t the week’s only new crime drama, or indeed the only new crime drama with lots of drone camerawork, watery locations and a two-note piano refrain signifying, in case you didn’t know, a psychological aspect.
Innocent (ITV1) is written by Chris Lang who, as fans of Unforgotten relish, likes to arrange multiple suspects for a game of bagatelle. Teacher Sally (Katherine Kelly) is innocent of the murder of a 16-year-old student with whom she was rumoured to be having an affair. Well, having been freed from jail on appeal she must be, yes?
Suspicion lingers in Keswick where she attempts to reclaim her job and her ex-husband who’s about to remarry. One by one, fresh contenders are positioned on the board only to be knocked over and ruled out. But in a Lang whodunnit no one is really safe from the finger being pointed at them. Not Halston, Gucci or even Fiorucci.
Given that the sinister plinky-plonk of shows like Innocent and The Pact is almost incessant, Delia Derbyshire has a lot to answer for. Sadly the wizardess of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is not around for the debate about her influence because she died in 2001.
Succumbing to alcoholism, she’d been largely forgotten as a pioneer of electronic music. She’d arranged the theme for Doctor Who but her name never appeared on the credits. Then a discovery: fragments of tape stuffed in cereal boxes. She was namedropped by young bands in thrall to the weird and wonderful. Now there’s the Arena docu-drama Delia - the Myths and the Legendary Tapes (BBC4) with Caroline Catz writing, directing and starring as Derbyshire.
Decca Records, who of course turned down the Beatles, wouldn’t employ her as women weren’t allowed in their studios. Within the Corporation the Radiophonic Workshop had traditionally been a place of banishment but Derbyshire, spotting one of its boffins writhing on a bed of pebbles in pursuit of sonic strangeness, knew she’d found her home. “I’d like to create sounds that have never existed anywhere in the world before,” she declared. And, with male admirers christening her “Psyche-delia” she did. The Radiophonic Workshop couldn’t exist anywhere but the Beeb and this programme couldn’t exist anywhere but the closure-threatened BBC4.
A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.