'Phoney pharaoh' is also a grieving father

Tabloid Tales, BBC1

Holby City, BBC1

People will go to their grave believing Diana was murdered," said a talking head in last night’s Tabloid Tales, a sharp, pithy celebration of the life and times of Mohamed Al Fayed.

A simple statement of fact, but when the talking head was Tony Livesey, editor-in-chief of the Daily Sport, the publication that proclaimed Adolf Hitler to be alive and well and living on the moon, you begin to wonder who set her up?

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Livesey came to prominence during a documentary about the Sport in which he interviewed a family who were convinced their son had been turned into a fish-finger. Still, he’s bright, witty and accurately described Al Fayed as a "one-man bowling ball playing skittles with the establishment". He’s not, however, the most suitable candidate to mock the conspiracy theories his own paper fuels.

Then again, few in the line-up of distinguished tabloid editors commenting on the "phoney pharaoh" were innocent of printing comments about Al Fayed which they knew to be barking.

In last night’s programme Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan attempted to get the owner of Harrods to admit to telling "one lie, just a little one, one little porkie". Of course Al Fayed denied ever doing so, any politician would do the same.

Yet, in spite of his stonewalling, Al Fayed came over exactly as he is - a comic character Britain has grown to love. His enemies came over as the bigger clowns, of the crying on the inside variety. Tiny Rowland was so furious at losing Harrods to Al Fayed that, as the owner of the Observer, he instructed the editor to print a midweek edition including the contents of a DTI report that castigated the tycoon. He was probably most enraged by a message Al Fayed had passed on to him via Jeff Randall, now the BBC’s business editor, but then city editor of the Sunday Times: a tape machine that issued nothing but expletives.

"Do you think you would have more impact if you could control your natural urge to call them all bastards?" enquired Morgan.

"They are bastards," was Al Fayed’s inimitable reply.

Yet whether or not you believe Al Fayed’s conspiracy theories, he remains, at heart, a grieving father. The death of his son Dodi by the princess’s side has been repeatedly overlooked. At one point the truth slipped out eloquently. Asked if he would do anything differently, he replied: "Give me back my son and take it all."

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In my first ever visit to Holby City I met a son desperately trying to save his father. A long-running series such as this can be rather intimidating to the casual viewer, unfamiliar with characters and the knotted history they share, but with a licence to scrutinise the goggle-box comes fresh courage.

I rather liked it, though since the character I liked best buggered off at the end credits, I don’t yet know if I shall return with any regularity.

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The best performance came from Rocky Marshall as Ed Keating, a doctor willing to do just about anything to secure a brain-dead patient’s heart for his failing father. His agitation and pain were contagious. After he had successfully impersonated another doctor, doctored files and risked contaminating his father with a fresh blood disorder I, along with the rest of the viewers, was ready for a valium drip. Then she left, my new favourite. As an ardent ER fan I saw a few shades of Abby, the resilient but unhappy nurse, in Holby City’s Kath Fox - older, certainly, but with the same concern for patients and strength of character to go beyond restrictive rules.

I took to her instantly as she embraced her new promotion and then watched with increasing disappointment as she threw it aside like a dated prescription to sit by the seaside with her new man.

Before leaving and releasing balloons into the night sky, she did confess to the mercy-killing of her late husband, further heightening my interest, and so was re-united with his daughter. What a dame. However there should be a rule against the use of Coldplay songs playing across fragmented scenes of characters struggling with the vicissitudes of life.