series like the much-trailed Trainer.
The new autumn schedules for the BBC promise more substantial fare for the weekends. Tom Lappin looks forward to the ambitious new . series Trainer, and the return ofthe visceral old favourite Casualty.
Summer‘s over: official. You can tell this because the BBC have just announced their autumn schedules. designed to keep us all indoors huddled round the screen as the cold nights draw in. 'I‘he , fare on offer is mostly the tried and tested blend of f sitcoms, sitcoms and the occasional situation comedy. but there are one or two drama series poking around in the schedules, with an extra emphasis on brightening up the weekends. hitherto the province of magicians, poor comics and game-shows. ControllerJonathan Powell points out that ‘experience tells us that the audience has special expectations on Saturdays and Sundays.’ Expectations he hopes to meet with
Trainer has the elements of about seven winning formulas rolled into one would-be ‘blockbusting show‘. Set around a racing stable rented by moody but sexy Mike Hardy (Mark Greenstreet). there‘s the added attractions of a rich society widow
. I ... u s" I- . \ *- .. ‘ .“ \ "
If this sounds like a hotch-potch just waiting to ﬂop. it should be pointed out that the man behind the show. producer Gerard Glaister. was : responsible for the hit series Colditz, Howard's
Way and The Brothers. He‘s confident enough to
have invested £30,000 of BBC money in buying ten
thoroughbred racehorses especially for the series. ‘Hiring the horses would have been far too _ expensive.‘ he explains. ‘so we decided to buy our
(enter Susannah York). crippled ex-jockey (former Street star Ken Farrington). and a professional gambler (David McCallum). The
' set-up offers the heady delights ofa Dick Francis thriller. with a bit ofdodgy dealing a la Minder thrown in. all set in rolling countryside to get that Sunday evening All Creatures Great And Small
own and train them especially for filming.‘ By judicious application ofwater-based make-up ‘blazes‘, the horses are able to play more than 30 different roles. which makes them considerably more versatile than many an Equity member.
If Trainer, like all new series. is a risk. the sixth series of Casualty looks certain to return to its customary spot high in the ratings charts. with its winning blend of human interest and lashings of gore. Series five ended on a cliffhanger when the department all-round nice guy Charlie Fairhead was shot. Viewers will be relieved to find that Charlie (Derek Thompson) is well on his way to recovery (although softie nurse Megan. played by Oscar-winning Brenda Fricker. has left) and his love-life even brightens up with the arrival of social worker Patricia Baynes (Maria Friedman) in episodethrec.
; Casualty‘s gritty realism has amassed a sizeable following. attracted by the strong characterisation and believable storylines. although viewers can
.. . the horses are able to play more than 30 different roles,
which makes them
considerably more versatile than many an Equity member.
‘ still be taken aback by some of the graphic close-ups of wounds and burns. It‘s a distinct
9 progression from the anodyne days of hospital soaps. regularly making telling points about the state of the Health Service. without sacrificing the
g dramatic tension. It‘s also brought the expression
‘ ‘He‘s going into VF' into common parlance. 'I‘he
; new fifteen-part series looks bad news for Friday night pub takings. Trainer starts at 8. 15pm on B B C] , Sun I Sept;
i Casualty starts at 9.30pm on BB Cl , Fri 6 Sept.
The man who wrote in to the Daily Record recently, complaining that the BBC were showing so many black-and-white films when he’d paid for a colour licence, should be happy with the new series, The House Of Eliott. The BBC have spent £6 million of our licence money on creating a lavishly colourful reconstruction of 208 London, that is part of a concerted effort to bring a bit of glamour back to drab Saturday evenings. The House Of Eliott is a return to the period dramas that were so popular at weekends during the early 70s. Shows like The Duchess of Duke Street and Upstairs Downstairs pulled in huge audiences with their depictions of a more innocent age between the wars.
L— __ ___-
Stella Gonet and Louise Lombard in House Of Eliott
Unfortunately, they were also inordinately expensive, with Gordon Jackson's shoe-polish alone eating into London Weekend's documentary budget. It comes as something of a surprise then that the BBC have opted to do something so costly in times of general penny-pinching across the board, although part of the explanation might be that one of the series devisers is Jean Marsh, better remembered as Rose, the dippy housemaid in Upstairs Downstairs. Rumour has it that sneaky Channel 4 have plans to repeat the classic series in the winter.
The House Of Eliott tells the story of the Eliott sisters, 18-year-old Evangeline (Louise Lombard) and 30-year-old Beatrice (Stella Gonet, hopefully getting better lines than she did in The Advocates recently). They are left virtually penniless when their doctor lather dies, and they set about rebuilding their lives. Luckily enough, they are skilled in designing and
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making clothes, and soon are running a successful lashion business. Money worries over, they can start confronting their other problems, of which there promise to be several an episode.
If this sounds like a rejected Barbara Cartland plot, it should be remembered that the formula here is escapism. It‘s an approach that seems to be geared towards the all-important audience ratings, and as the immense success of The Darling Buds Df May proved, getting away from grim reality is what the public is lapping up at the moment. The opportunity to get the wardrobe department working overtime, and revamp some of those old flapper routines, might just prove irresistible enough to keep people out of the pubs on a Saturday night. Might being the operative word. It’s a risky business, thisTV lark. (Tom Lappin)
The House of Eliott starts on BBC1 on Saturday 31 August at 8.45pm.
64 The List 30 August — 12 September 1991