Blitz and pieces
Dynamic duo Marks and Gran are mentioning the war again. Philip Parr found the writers happy to be uncontroversial, and their star, Nicholas Lyndhurst, happy to be able to swear in peace.
Give Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran halfa chance and they'll be off, literally; leaving their creations in the hands of other, less formidable, writing teams. The woeful demise of Birds Of A Feather since Marks and Gran did their midnight ﬂit a couple of series back is evidence enough that what these boys do best is dialogue, not creation. The shows they have stuck with — The New Statesman, Shine On Harvey Moon — have rewritten the script of the TV sitcom. getting better as they’ve got older.
So we can but hope that Goodnight Sweetheart retains their interest, once the ﬁrst series has done its job and pulled in the regular ten million viewers which their names on the credits should secure. The story is your regular TV-repairman time-travel romantic comedy. Nicholas Lyndhurst is the hero Gary Sparrow (it‘s funny in Cockney, l’m assured), who behaves suspiciously like Rodney/Adam/that one in The Piglet Files until he stumbles across an alleyway which gives him a direct route back to l940s London and a rather curvaceous barmaid. How young Gary straddles half a century just by walking through an alleyway is left conveniently unexplained, but once there he wows the regulars of the 405 pub with his ballpoint, his mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and his renditions of Elton John ditties (‘Oh it‘s just something I wrote.‘)
‘We tried to keep it as far from Back
To The Future as possible,’ explains
Lyndhurst, in the appropriate setting of
Nicholas lynannt steps into the tilolco-ody continui- coco-parlor! by Donia Kim.
Churchill‘s War Museum, wearing an utterly inappropriate green nylon windcheater. ‘There‘s no big hi-tech flashes when he goes through time. He just walks through the alleyway
be simple, everything else becomes more difﬁcult. He has to go tojumble sales to get clothes and money, and he ends up nearly bankrupting himself because every ten-shilling note he buys costs him a ﬁver. He has to become quite an adept liar, especially to his
He‘s married of course, so we know we’re in the traditional end of Marks and Gran territory — a bit of innuendo, but none of the rampaging rutting of B‘Stard MP.
‘This isn’t controversial — no dead 3 Jews, no eyes b‘eing poked out,‘ says Marks (a reference to their recent skating-on-thin-ice drama Wall Of Silence). ‘lt’s not space travel or science ﬁction either; it‘s just a love Q story about one man who loves two
; women from different times. He does
i have an affair, I suppose, but it‘s very ' innocent, because she was married, he is married, and in 1940 theyjust
wouldn‘t have hopped into bed with
3 each other.‘
Hasn’t this man seen The Camomile lawn? Whatever, the script plays on traditional themes of time-travel stories — the differences between the eras — to
: witty effect, and Lyndhurst is the usual 3 charming innocent abroad.
‘When I was ﬁrst approached to do it,
j l was intrigued, because life was so
different then,‘ he says. ‘There‘s one
3 scene where I say ‘puberty‘ and there‘s 5 almost a riot. it‘s really interesting that Q you simply could not swear. Gary’s a
l nice character to play because in I993 l he's just boring, but in 1940 he’s a bit
l of a celebrity. Everyone thinks he‘s been to America, and he can write all
': these songs. There’s one scene where a i woman‘s giving birth and he’s the only one who knows what to do, because back then nobody had a clue.’
Who ever said that Nicholas Lyndhurst didn‘t have ‘range‘? Can you imagine Rodney Trotter assisting at the birth of a baby . . . during an air- raid?
Goodnight Sweetheart begins on BBC 1 on Thursday 18 November at 8.30pm.
whenever he wants. But while that may
wife, who is getting increasingly pissed
‘Ten years. Where does it go?’ asks Seamus rhetorically, in the lovable Cockney whine you thought only existed in EastEnders. Whatever Happened To The Knockers? (Channel 4) was the latest in a long line of poignantly vivid Cutting Edge documentaries that contrive to sum up the state of Britain in succinct, hour- long chunks of anecdote. confession and male-bonding.
Making documentaries of this sort entails something of a life-long commitment on the part ofthe ﬁlm crew. If you make a ﬁlm about a wise- cracking bunch of lads in their early twenties, it‘s part ofthe unspoken contract that you go back and follow their progress at numerically neat intervals. In this case, it was a decade since we‘d seen ‘The Knockers', chirpy East End lads who took themselves out to the leafy suburbs to attempt to flog dusters, clothes-pegs, tea-towels and the like — merchandise Seamus cheerfully admitted was ‘a load of old
‘The lads, blessed with economical names like have, Pete, Grant, Mark or Andy, still had the leftover 70s haircuts, all blow-dried Timoteied waves belying the macho West Ham songs and air of nervous aggression, as they piled Into the back of the van.’
I983 seemed a different planet. The lads, blessed with economical names like Dave, Pete, Grant, Mark or Andy, still had the leftover 70s haircuts, all blow-dried Timoteied waves belying the macho West Ham songs and air of nervous aggression, as they piled into the back of the van. Seamus stood out, with his exotic Hibernian appellation, and his colourful line in social analysis. ‘The boss has made a fortune out of us knockers,’ he says amiably, ‘l’m not racist or nothing. but he‘s a four-be- two, a front-wheel job.’ For the uninitiated he was explaining that the boss was of the Jewish persuasion.
Ten years on Seamus had grown up into the wide-boy he always promised to become, getting picked up by the police in the West End for a spot of ‘kiting‘ (you‘re on your own there l‘m afraid), going ‘on the trot‘ to Spain
before returning to face the music. After spinning thejudge a line about being about to join the Foreign Legion, he escaped with a suspended sentence and headed off to ltaly to go ‘back on the knocker‘. Some ltalian with a sense of humour sent the relentlessly chirpy East Ender round the tower blocks of South Milan, trying to flog dusters to psychotic ltalian bikers. ‘You gotta larf ‘aven‘t you?‘ Seamus never stopped. ‘Me dad died last year. Knocked the bollocks right off me. But it had some beneﬁts. He left me some money and I‘m starting my own sandwich business. People say “Who‘d buy a sandwich off you Seamus?“, I go “Fuck off, I‘m not going to muck about with the sandwiches, am 1? Am I?" '
Early on in Inside Victor [owls-Slim (BBC2), our bandaged hero is wheeled past some sad, gibbering old codger. ‘He’s a scriptwriter, he‘s gone to pieces,‘ the nurse explains. Many a word spoken in jest and all that. Don’t get me wrong, in his place (Private Eye or Radio 1) VLS is a ﬁne and funny man with a refreshing line in sick rnisanthropy, just the sort of thing the BBC Comedy Department lacks, but this shoddy assemblage of feeble puns, archive trickery and brass band music misses its soft targets by miles. The linking gag of Victor in a head-to-toe bandage, lurking in the bowels ofa BBC hospital, at least gives him an easy escape. Somebody switch offthe life-support now.
Granada Television doesn‘t really need any further plaudits for popular drama, having produced a critical and commercial smash for no less than 32 years. That said, Cracker (Scottish) is the ﬁnest crime drama since the same company‘s Prime Suspect, and Robbie Coltrane's psychologist Fitz makes a substantially more human hero than Helen Mirren. Where Cracker excels is in its script indulgences, those details that do nothing to further the plot but flesh out the body of the drama, make it awkwardly real, rather than the cut- and-dried certainty of ﬁction. Writer Jimmy McGovern has a perfect car for the infelicities of speech, the embarrassment of tragedy. The brother of a missing boy looks at the pair of trainers the police have found. ‘Wouldn‘t be seen dead in them,‘ he mumbles, into an icy silence. ‘Have
i l l
you got a son of your own,‘ the missing
boy’s father asks Fitz. ‘Yeah, eighteen,‘
replies the psychologist, ‘eighteen years old that is, not eighteen sons . . .‘ Brilliant. (Tom Lappin)
The List 5—18 November I993 65