Beck is the new investigator on the block, a feisty female with a turbo- charged sex drive who tracks down runaways. Sue Greenway talks to lead actress Amanda Redman about her role in this risqué BBC drama series.
‘Men.’ sighs the exasperated office manager Therese in the BBC‘s new streetwise drama Beck. ‘Why do we bother with them?‘ Amanda Redman smirks back her response: ‘Because it saves on batteries.’
Redman is the eponymous Beck in the six-parter set in an investigative agency which specialises in tracing missing people. It‘s set in King‘s Cross where so many vulnerable young people ﬁrst arrive in the big city and are sucked into a twilight world of drugs. prostitution and homelessness.
The BBC is conﬁdently. perhaps even gleefully. anticipating a backlash. Not because of the politically sensitive nature of the piece - although in a country with an estimated 250,000 people on the missing list. the series is bound to concentrate minds on why the Govemtnent makes no money available to deal with the problem — but because the central character is a sexually active woman. And some.
‘She may just be TV’s first anti-heroine.‘ says Redman. ‘People may not be sympathetic towards her. and if they‘re not — tough.‘ The controversy — and as far as mainstream TV goes, this is apparently still a big issue — is that Beck has two male friends and sleeps with them both.
Producer Jacky Stoller and writer Paul Hines first came together with Redman on the drama Body And Soul in which she played a pregnant widow, and the trio have been searching ever since for another project to work on. ‘The whole character of Beck has been created for Amanda,’ says Hines. ‘We wanted a woman character who could drive a show in the same way that a male does. We didn‘t want a traditional love interest on the side. She is in control of her own life and not at the mercy of someone else‘s pressure.
‘We obviously needed a romantic element and we could have gone down the easy route with Beck and a policeman who is going to help her out ofall her scrapes. The point is we wanted Beck to have as many options as male characters often do.‘
Redman, who has recently become a patron of the National Missing Persons Helpline for the relatives of runaways, sees the role as a breakthrough for popular drama: ‘She is a woman of the 90s. I personally don‘t find what she does distasteful. but l‘tn prepared for the fact that some people might because it has never been done on popular television before. And l‘rn interested in doing any roles that challenge the view
beck: Amanda liedman as TV's newest private Investigator
of how women are normally seen.‘
But before anyone gets too excited about Beck storming the barricades of female stereotyping. it is perhaps worth noting that as the series continues, there are clear signs that her sexual choices are not actually approved of and her failure to commit to either lover is used as dramatic shorthand for a sign of weakness.
From the off, however. Redman plays the feisty sexuality straight down the line - sipping iced champagne in her bath tub, chasing runaways in a leather mini-skirt and playfully manipulating her male contacts for information. The street scenes and chases around one of the least salubn'ous parts of London are fast-paced, with the glow of street lamps through half-closed venetian blinds giving a noin'sh feel to the series, while the dialogue is sharp without being over-written.
The combination of a strong central character and the way the storylines tap into our fascination with hidden worlds suggests this is a show that could indeed be a runaway success.
Beck begins on Wed 2 Oct on BBC I.
When President Jimmy Carter invited Deng Xiaoping on a state visit to the us in the late 70s, the Chinese premier was greeted by the Republican equivalent oi a royal command performance with John Denver giving it ‘ilocky Mountain iligh' on acoustic guitar. This was meant to be a celebration oi ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ as the communist state began to embrace the McDonald’s culture of Western capitalism. For the Americans, it looked as it the rods were iinaiiy coming onside.
Any illusions they might have been
opened tire on student demonstrators with student politics will recognise who had been camped out tor weeks the tactics the leaders used to keep in Tiananmen Square. ironically, the crowds gathering ior mass protests in Chinese government ordered the the square. With tanks mobilised on massacre just as the world's media the edge oi the city, the stakes were was gathering tor a diplomatic visit lust rather higher than for the by Mikhail Gorbachev. ‘We all came occupation ot a campus building to here to cover a summit and waIted protest at student loans. into a revolution,’ said Ciiil’s man in in a climate where student leaders Boiling. equated compromise with betrayal, Iising Western news tootage and this documentary shows that amateur video iootage shot by the conirontation with the M was students themselves, the Cote of almost inevitable. it may even have Heavenly Peace is a remarkable, been the purpose, according to the ieature-iength documentary which demonstrations commander-in-chlei, tries to piece together the events at Chai ling: ‘only when the squmo is the months leading up to the awash with blood will the people all Tiananmen massacre and exposes the China open their eyes, but how can m 9'“ °' W" m= "m" deep divisions among the students explaln any oi am to my mm "M" themselves about how to protest students?’ 0r their parents. (Eddie
under about democratic reiorms were etioctiveiy against China’s powerim, Gibb)
shattered in June 1989, however, repressive regime. Fine Cut: The Gate of HeavenlyPeuca
whenthel’eople‘s Liberation Army Anyonewhohaseverbeeninvolved IsonSatZi Cantata-um.
The List 20 Sept-3 0a 1996 16