The clap trap
Radio 4’s current series Living with the Legend tracks down the descendants of history’s most shocking scandal-mongers to find out how they are coping with the burden of notoriety. Previous programmes have sought out the offspring of Captain Lord, who reportedly ignored distress signals from the Titanic and the children of Ethel le Neve, mistress of Crippen, who was hanged for murdering his wife in so horrible a way that his continued place in Tussauds‘ Chamber of Horrors is assured.
Next in store is the simmeringly sexy story of Lady Colin Campbell, the ‘Victorian Sex Goddess‘ who became involved in one of Britain’s longest and raciest divorce cases, titillating and appalling prudish Victorians for years afterwards. When she married the fifth son of the Duke of Argyll - after a three-day romance — only to discover that he had syphilis, she was unimpressed. Although she did eventually agree to consummate the marriage, thus contracting the painful and terminal illness. she later decided to sue Lord C. for divorce on grounds ofcruelty. He, offended by his wife’s dilly-dallyings with other prominent Victorian gents, counter-sued on grounds of adultery. Eighteen days of sordid evidence ensued: butlers confessing to seeing ‘it all’ through the keyhole; a General, a Duke, a surgeon and the Chiefofthe London Fire Department all being named as co-respondents, and dirty linen literally alluded to. Both parties‘ reputations were ruined for life — he died soon after in any case — and Lady Campbell was forced to
desperate measures. She became a
journalist and wit.
The present Lady Campbell, who has also treated the Argle family to a long and very expensive divorce case. explains the magnitude of the scandal in a succint, if unusual way: ‘It was like the Profumo affair with Royal connections and then multiplied by ten’, she explains in the programme. She admires her namesake for striking an important blow for women, allowing them, for the first time, to protest at their marital lot and sexual inequality. Appropriately, the next programme in the series meets the grandson of Lady Campbell’s friend Oscar Wilde, and discusses Wilde junior‘s recent decision to try to put the record straight for his maligned grandfather. (Miranda France) Living with the Legend: Victorian Sex Goddess is on Sat 23 Nov, 5pm.
When the annual back-slapping dinners lor TV lolk get into lull swing next month, one oi the series that should be regularly mentioned in despatches is Prime Suspect, a cop thriller with a diiierence, that won both critical plaudits and healthy viewing llgures on its initial showing in the spring. Anticipating the awards ceremonies, Channel 4 are giving the series a repeat showing at the beginning oi December.
The noteworthy aspect oliynda La Plante’s two-part drama was the iact that the central character was a woman, Detective Chiel inspector Jane Tennison, played by Helen Mirren. in a genre packed with hard-bitten cynical police chiels swapping macho comments in the nick, La Plante’s creation was a radical departure. Not . so much a crime thriller as an examination oi the problems iaced by a woman in the modern police force, it raises questions beyond the reach oi a simple whodunnit.
in the series a man is arrested iorthe murder oi a prostitute 24 hours alter the discovery oi the victim’s body. Questions are raised whether Tennison’s prime suspect is actually guilty or is the victim oi ‘an obsessive woman’s desperation to prove her capabilities.’ Against the backdrop ol a murder investigation, blatant prejudices and unspoken sexist attitudes come to the lore.
Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect
A second series goes into production in the New Year. In the meantime, the original is being reshol as a ieature iilm in the USA. Already there has been some degree oi alarm that the message will be soltened lor the US iilm market, and the excellent cast- erren is supported by Tom Bell, Richard Hawley and Zoe Wanamaker-will be replaced by names better known in the USA. This seems like a serious case ol premature moaning. The lact that Granada have the guts to make a iilm oi a powerlul and challenging script is surely worthy oi praise, and the USA isn’t exactly lagging behind Britain in the iield oi sexual politics, as series like Cagney - and Lacey and Hill Street Blues were proving long belore Prime Suspect hit the airwaves. (Tom Lappin)
Prime Suspect is shown on Channel 4 on Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 December.
V DRAMA Passion
Costume drama. It’s one at those things we British do best goes the old boast. Actually, ii you think about it, most olthe things we British do best tend to be be the sort oi thing no other
nation in its right mind would even . bother considering. The wannabe
3 sophisticated Americans might ﬂock to _
see a seventeen-hour Christine Ezard
version ol the Old Bleak Curiosity Times, but they ain’t looting anybody. Dickens adaptations, and the endless stream at EM Forster Brits Overseas
tales that Merchant and ivory churn out, are the siuil oi unremitting tedium, ; made merely because the original is
‘quallly literature innit?’
The BBC has been lilting Sunday teatimes with this sort oi expensive litlerloryears, buttheir latest epic, Clarissa, looks to be somewhat dillerent lrom the run oi the mill wigs-and-dait-names lare. Fora start it goes out on a Wednesday night. Secondly it promises to be somewhat sexierthan most 18th century romances, with principals Saskia
Sean Bean and Saskia Wickham in BBC‘s Clarissa
novel in the English language, down to
i a neat three part mini-series. The J eponymous heroine is an heiress cl
independent mind who escapes her bad-lot lamily but unwisely teams up with charming but roguish Robert Lovelace, who rather caddishly installs her in a brothel. Passion and tragedy swiltly lollow.
For lovers oi TV trivia, it's interesting to note that Saskia Wickham’s lictional lather in the series is played by her real-llle lather Jelirey Wickham, a relationship that caused a iew minor problems on set. ‘There is one scene
. where Mr Harlowe is titled with ' remorse tor the way he has mistreated
Clarissa and he has to cry,’ says Saskia. ‘But every time my lather
i V RADIO
I Jamaica inn A serialisation of Daphne du Maurier‘s second most famous novel — the harsh story of early 19th century ‘wreckers‘ on the Bodmin Moors, who made their living by deliberately luring ships on to the rocks. Young, innocent Mary Yellan gets caught up in events at the notorious inn. (Radio 4, starts Sat 23, 7 .5()pm) I Table Talk: Max Lake The Australian wine-grower and ‘Sigmund Freud of smell‘ talks to Leslie Forbes about the erotic power of Camembert and reveals that even corned beefcan be sexy if you prepare it the right way. 1'" say no more. (Radio 3. Sun 24. 12.45pm)
I Almost Always Airicen Lenny Henry makes a theatrical radio debut as Moses Biama, the unofficial entertainer of his Gambian village who gets ‘discovered‘ and taken — along with histwo wives — to London to
become a star. Needless to
say. things don‘t work out, and comedy ensues. (Radio 4, Thurs 28. 2.02pm)
I '8 Pop Art? lt‘s rebellion. it‘s anarchy, it‘s self-expression. it‘s hip. cool and probably quite loud. Yes. but is it Art? Nicky Campbell chairs an hour-long debate on the cultural value ofpop. (Radio 1 . Mon 25. 9pm) I Woman's Hour Elizabeth Wilson discusses her belicfthat pornography. far from being the key to women‘s oppression. could actually represent their liberation. (Radio4, Mon 25, 10.30am)
I The Blesphemer George Rosie's own adaptation of his play. written in Scots and set in Edinburgh at
the turn ofthe l8th century. The plot turnson a charge brought by the
minister ofth Tron Kirk against a free—thinking
. student. and exposesthe
I , hypocrisy ofChureh and
‘ State in their pursuit of 1
‘Justice'. (Radio Scotland. Sat 30. 8.30pm)
Wickham and Sean Bean giving it plenty smoulder, as they say in the trade. -
The BBC have perlormed an admirable job in distilling Samuel Richardson‘s Clarissa, the longest
began to cry in character, I burst into I tears ol sympathy which ruined g everything.’ (Amy Druszewski)
TO BE WON, SEE READERS' POLL PAGE 80
Clarissa starts on 8802 on Wednesday I 27 November at 9.25pm.
The List 22 November — 5 December [WI 69