TV preview: Boss| Lily Cole’s Art Matters

Kelsey Grammer plays the Chicago mayor whose days are numbered ' like those of Boss.
Kelsey Grammer plays the Chicago mayor whose days are numbered ' like those of Boss.
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KELSEY Grammer has the best splay-footed gait since Charlie Chaplin. It was always ten-to-two in Chaplin’s movies such as The Gold Rush, when as an out-of-luck prospector he got so hungry he boiled up his boots for dinner.

Boss - More4, Thursday, 11pm

Lily Cole’s Art Matters - Sky Arts 1, Tuesday, 8pm

Mark Lawson Talks To Dick Clement And Ian La Frenais - BBC4, Wednesday, 10.45pm

In Boss, the new US political drama, Grammer’s situation was even more desperate so his feet – the very first things we saw – read a quarter to three, presumably from the shock of being told he was going to die.

Not right away – “Three, maybe five years,” said the doc, explaining his rare neurological disease – and I presumed the crucial factor here was whether this show was going to be renewed, until reading on Wikipedia about its cancellation after two series. I’m trying not to let this influence whether I stick with Boss. I like it, but ultimately not enough Americans did, and so from now on I might find myself looking for warning signs and nodding knowingly when the dialogue doesn’t quite sparkle like on The West Wing.

They’re completely different. On The West Wing everyone was impossibly idealistic about the good politics could do, would stay up all night rewriting President Jed Bartlett’s speeches, then in the morning would rush along the corridors of power with ever more swotty vigour. On Boss, there probably won’t be much rushing, on account of Grammer’s feet, and the show is much more interested in the political dark side. At a dinner, Grammer’s Thomas Kane, the mayor of Chicago, was gifted a handsome box by a man with a bandaged head, later found to contain a pair of hacked-off ears, almost certainly belonging to the box-giver. I was unsure whether Kane was culpable, but the way he quickly stuffed them down the waste-disposal seemed to confirm it.

There’s already been more violence than in The West Wing, and more sex, with Kane’s aide Kitty the lie to the theory that girls who wear glasses don’t get passes or indeed knee-tremblers. Also in Kane’s team I like Stone, the political adviser with a face of stone. I like Kane’s keen sense of his city’s history and, of course, Grammer’s portrayal of the man because, as in Frasier, he’s brilliant at intellectual snobs. As one stand-out scene showed, it’s not just The Sopranos that can do gangster-philosophising on a golf course. In another – hilarious, this – the governor of Illinois, who knows Kane’s plotting against him but can’t quite prove it, grabbed his aide’s iPad and frisbee-ed it across a field. If you stick with Boss, the dynamic between these two will be key.

In the world’s great metro­polises, Antony Gormley’s ­statues stand proud amid the tumult. Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, just along the road from where I live, a bronze figure in the middle of the city’s excuse for a river could stay upright no longer and had to be removed. But listening to Gormley in the first of Lily Cole’s Art Matters I guess he might view this as yet more evidence of the planet’s fragility. We’re cocking up, big-style, he reckons. When you see tiny, half-formed figures in his work, all squashed together, they’re saying: “Idiots! What’s going to be left of the world for us?” Gormley warned that extinction is coming, definitely within 300 years – “and yet we’re still kind of buying Armani jeans or whatever.”

Ironically he was talking to a supermodel. Not just any supermodel, because Cole has a double first from Cambridge in history of art. She and Gormley swapped stories about being the objection of attention. When Cole’s amazing Victorian doll face appears in mags she doesn’t think it’s her. Likewise Gormley, who is sometimes accused of egotism by making himself the basis for almost all his sculptures. He’s covered in Vaseline and clingfilm before the plaster is applied. Unable to move, this is “sensory deprivation”. (Yes, but so’s a Downton Abbey boxset). Although not the most profound TV there’s ever been, it was far from frivolous. Cole is going to be serious about modern art – or as serious as you can be while cycling in hot-pants.

In Mark Lawson Meets Dick Clement And Ian La Frenais, the ace TV writers told how they’d moved into films and become “script doctors”, as likely to zoom to the rescue of an ailing movie as be re-written themselves. Still, they’re looking good on the Hollywood lifestyle. Clement sported a polo neck and something on a chain, like a 1973 houseparty host, with the welcoming words: “They’re called vol-au-vents – try them. And later we’ll be playing Twister.” Meanwhile, La Frenais was still getting away with the bouffant hairstyle that was a speciality of the salon where the Likely Lads tried to hide out among the effeminate crimpers, hoping to avoid finding out the score in a football match. «

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