Take a peek into arty TV drama commissioning editor‘s office (steam drifting in from the en suite sauna. a stack of Havanas awaiting Michael Grade‘s next visit. carpet worn bare front the grovellings of humble writers, you get the picture) and occupying pride of place above the desk will be the motto of every decent drama boss who's ever sneaked a twelve-parter onto the network: ‘I love a man in uniform‘.

Yes indeedy. every public sector official with the slightest chance of coming into contact with a spot of action in the course of their duties has been given their fifteen minutes (well. usually six hours at least) of cathode- ray fame. Soldier. sailor. paramedic. surgeon. coroner, lawyer, district nurse, we‘ve had them all. and in case there are any unscrupulous sticky-fingered scribes out there, I should point out at

thisjuncture that treatments for the first

series of Spot Fine: Meter Maids On The Frmztline and Scarper. It 's The l’arkt‘e.’ are safely filed with my agent. Actually the barrel-scraping has already started with two new ensemble

series, documenting and celebrating the

public works and private legover situations of lifeboatmen and Customs

And Excise officers respectively. Lynda

La Plante eschews her familiar Cockney vernacular (‘You are nicked. You are going down, slag.‘ et al) for the gentler Welsh inflection in The lifeboat (BBCl) but otherwise it’s formulaic stuff. All the chaps (and one suitably feisty female) spend tnost of the fifty minutes in a spot of character- establishing philandering. male- bonding and frustrated agonising. before slipping off into the briny for a good. nerve-jangling toss. Like any watery expedition you start off feeling somewhat nauseous and hope that it will pass with time.

The Knock (Scottish) is on more familiar territory: dedicated Bn'ts with occasional understandable alcohol dependency and marital difficulties (‘the job does it to you‘) foil the best- laid plans of swatthy foreign sorts and inscrutable Chinese heroin traffickers. Actually it's The Bill with a lot of hanging around at airports. Cross-talk, inter-departmental rivalry and pushy female officers are all familiar Sun Hill melodies. played here with plodding

crudeness. A shame because real-life Customs officers are wonderful people who wouldn’t dream of stopping a jobbing TV critic whojust happened to have a few bottles of tequila over the duty-free limit.

Uniforms in Cardiac Arrest (BBCl) are ironic signifiers that the collection of cynics, incompetents. victims and bullies are in fact the proud vanguard ofthe NHS. The first antidote to the essentially reassuring message of public servant drama (even Casualty suggested the staff were dedicated). Cardiac Arrest is the funniest, bleakest. blackest view of institutionally decrepit Britain since GBH. lt‘s hospital Gothic, hand-held cameras looming out of the festering gloom of a Victorian ward corridor to zoom in on the cackling.

‘The chaps spend most of the fifty minutes in a spot of character-establishing phllandering, male-bonding and frustrated agonising, before slipping off into the briny for a good, nerve-langling toss.’

unshaven face of ajunior doctor as he eyes up the backside ofa departing nurse. ‘Who's the slapper?’ he innocently enquires. This is Raj, a cheerfully amoral type who gets all the best lines. ‘He’s like a father to me.’ he mumbles about the vicious consultant Mr Betancourt. ‘My father’s a bastard too.’

Ruling the mayhem with an effective mixture of sadism. callousness and proficiency is Claire Maitland. Played by Helen Baxendale with a steeliness and charisma that makes you worry about the influence she is going to exert over impressionable young female medics, Claire is a superbitch infinitely more impressive than the tabloid sort portrayed by the likes of Joan Collins or Stephanie Beacham. Claire’s been brutalised by a system that she witnesses killing people every day. Who can blame her for abusing the nurses. cracking one-liners about the terminal cases and hopping into bed with the dastardly Betancourt at the end of another 18 hour shift? (Tom Lappin)


A selection of television highlights,

listed by day, in chronological order. Television listings compiled by Tom



I A Skirt Through History (BBC2) 9.30—10pm. A new, tackily-titled. six-part sen'es looking at the lives of ten extraordinary women through their writings. from Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi to pioneering 20th century journalist Emilie Peacocke. The first programme tells the story of 19th century estate owner and secret lesbian Anne Lister.

I Have i Got News For You (BBC2) lO—lO.30pm. Angus Deayton. Ian Hislop and Paul Merton have clever things to say about the week’s news. Guests include the execrable Bob Monkhouse.

I Roseanne (Channel 4) lO—lO.30pm. Mad. bad and dangerous to know. Roseanne dashes off to Chicago to cause grief for Darlene and David.

I Jo Brand Through The Cakehole (Channel 4) 10.30—11.05pm. Lashings of stand-up and sketches including a barbed look at the problems of middle-age (see Roseanne above).

I Amityville Horror - The Evil Escapes (Scottish) 10.30pm—12.20am. Loads of exorcism and spooky nonsense in yet another desperate sequel from the nastiest bit of real estate in the USA.

I Eurotrash (Channel 4) ll.()5—l 1.35pm. Jean-Paul Gaultier and Antoine De Caunes collect the thoughts and philosophies of pectorally-gifted supermodel Eve Herzigova.

I Accident (Channel 4) 12.05—2am. Dirk Bogarde stars as a married Oxford don who falls in love with one of his students with catastrophic consequences.


I Buddy’s Song (BBCl) 8—9.45pm. Roger Daltrey. Chesney Hawkes and Sharon Duce star in the all-singing rock ‘n‘ roll tale of a bequiffed kid and his sad. criminal Dad. Banal. anodyne and featuring that irritating ‘One And Only’ number.

I Taggart: Double Exposure (Scottish) 9—11.35pm. A repeated tale of suspicious suicide and grisly murder. with Mark McManus. James MacPherson and the aptly-named Blythe Duff.

I NYPD Blue (Channel 4) 9—10pm. The father of a murdered thirteen-year-old boy takes the law into his own hands. while Sipowicz investigates a greedy private detective.

I Seinfeld (BBC2) 10.05—10.30pm. The sublime New York sitcom finds George dumping his accountant girlfriend. Unfortunately Jerry has already entrusted her with his tax forms.

I later With Joois Holland (BBC2) 10.30—11.25pm. Don‘t miss the first part of a new series of live music performances hosted by the groovy feller. Rocking out in the studio are Elvis Costello And The Attractions and the frankly excellent Americans Counting Crows.

I Danton (Channel 4) 11.05pm—i .30am. Shown as part of the ‘Bite The Ballot' season. Andrzej Wajda’s French Revolution saga stars Gerard Depardieu as the charismatic revolutionary who comes into conflict with the calculating Robespierre.

I DID (Scottish) 11.35pm—12.05am. Dougie Vipond and Susan Maxwell host a new series of the snappy arts show. looking at Mayfest highlights, with music from Whiteout.


I Encounters: Kangaroos Faces In The Mob (Channel 4) 7—8pm. An Emmy award-winning film following a group of Eastern Grey kangaroos as they grow from thumb-sized babies to young adulthood. Aaaah.

I la Difference (BBC2) 7.40—8.20pm. Mark Thomas goes in search of a vegetarian meal while posh restaurateur Prue Leith spouts a whole lot of nonsense about the British being puritanical.

I Bite The Ballot: Power And The People (Channel 4) 8—10pm. The culmination of Channel 4‘s constitutional season is a debate on law and order followed by a radical new form of ‘deliberative poll‘. offering more concise polling techniques than standard surveys.

I John Sessions’s Likely Stories (BBC2) 8.20-8.50pm. A new series of the silly and the satirical frotn Largs's finest export that isn’t ice-cream. See preview.

I Watergate: Break-In ( BBCZ) 8.50—9.40pm. A timely new series looking at the events that culminated in the resignation of Nixon. The first programme looks at the initial break-in at Democrat headquarters that led to the scandal. See preview.

I The Knock (Scottish) 9— l ()pm. The Customs and Excise drama finds our heroes alerted to a major drug—smuggling ring.

I FamilthBCl)9.35—1025pm. Roddy Doyle offers a darker picture of Dublin in this occasionally harrowing. often brilliant four-part series exploring the disintegration of the Spencer family. it opens with Char/o is Story as the charmer. drinker and wife-beater (played by Sean McGinley) drifts into petty crime. See feature.

I Miller’s Crossing (Channel 4) lOpm-—12.10am. The Coen brothers‘ take on the gangster movie is a typically off- centre but powerful tale of a maverick 30s hoodlum (Gabriel Byrne) going his own way when the power of Mafia boss Albert Finney comes under threat. John Turturro is excellent in a supporting role.

I Don’t look Down (Scottish) ll.45pm—l2.30am. Janice Forsyth presents the latest happenings in music. cinema. books. theatre and art.

I Cries And Whispers (Channel 4)

l2. lO—l.45am. Love. pain, anguish. torment and cancer in lngrnar Bergman's cinematic ‘classic'. With Ingrid Thulin. Liv Ullman. Kari Sylwan and Bobby Davro.


I When Worlds Collide (BBC2) 6—7.30pm. More schlock sci-fi, from 1951. with the world on a collision course with another planet. and a colonising party preparing to embark to a new world.

The List (v19 May I994 69