Andrew Davies has a reputation as British television‘s classiest creator of period drama. with his adaptation of Jane Austen‘s Pride And Prejudice turning into one of the BBC’s biggest hits of last year and. in the process. making Colin Firth’s undergarments a matter of public interest. Davies’s next offering is Emma for lTV, which just shows it must have been a big bankroll shoved down D’Arcy’s britches.
But even while submerged in petticoats. he has found time to knock out Wilderness (Mondays. Scottish) which is not so much period drama as a drama about periods. Adapted from a novel by the American author Daniel Danvers. it is the story of Alice (Amanda Ooms). a young woman for whom the monthly cycle takes on a whole new meaning -- every 29 days she turns into a wolf.just like that. At full moon since she was thirteen. the
beast has emerged. wild-eyed and growling. On a particularly bad day. she has even been known to rip the throats out of men.
Now. the unreconstructed males among you may feel you recognise this character trait in your own partner, but I feel obliged to point out that this werewolf business is not some dramatic metaphor for premenstrual tension. it’s probably closer to the truth to say that Alice‘s canine side represents her red- blooded sexuality which for most of the month is barely contained in the body of an uncommonly pretty librarian.
Or at least that’s the view of her psychotherapist Luther Adams, played with perfect icy control by Michael Kitchen. Luther buys the idea that Alice thinks she turns into a wolf. but the more she says ‘no, really’. the more he sees the basis of an academic paper sitting on his couch. He may soon be surprised to ﬁnd himself in the company of a real wolf.
Sensing that professional help may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Alice seeks alternative therapy. When she meets a naturalist in the library who talks enthusiastically about ‘the
wildemess’. Alice reckons she may
Curse oi the werewoli: Wilderness
have ﬁnally found someone who can play dog-handler to her bitch-on-heat. Disappointingly, he turns out to be a penguin specialist.
Over on the other side. round about the same time. Panorama (Mondays. BBCl) was trying to track down that mythical creature. the spin doctor. in its natural habitat. Filmed at close quarters. they are shy, retiring beasts who shun natural daylight. prefening to lurk in the shadows at the back of press brieﬁngs and political rallies. No wonder out-of-favour Labour MP Clare Short described them as the people ‘who live in the dark’.
With the party conference season underway. this documentary was intended to expose the workings of the media brieﬁng machine which purrs under the bonnet of all election campaign jalopies. Unfortunately. the glare of the spotlight and the on-the- record nature of a television interview sent all the spin doctors into a spin. The Conservative Party’s chief spin doctor Sheila Gunn effectively denied her own existence. The viewer wasn’t fooled. however; we have seen enough nature documentaries to recognise the technique of playing dead in the hope the predator will move on to juicier prey.
Labour's Alastair Campbell was not tnuch more forthcoming. though he did agree to say a few words in a hushed whisper at the back of a press conference. The most impressive thing about his performance was the way he managed to look like the innocent victim of media harrassment when the Panorama cameras showed up at another brieﬁng for journalists on
lobby terms (ie you print it as fact. but we’ll deny the story if it gets too embarrassing).
Like any media reporting of media reporting. Panorama was both the subject and the inquisitor. Is the programme itself free of the pressures exerted by the spin doctors? Why wasn’t the programme editor asked how such pressures are resisted. or was this documentary actually shaped by the subtle inﬂuence of the party media handlers? How would we know? If you’re going to make programmes in your own backyard. you have to claim ownership of the dirty laundry hanging on the line.
Finally a quick brieﬁng on possibly the most exploitative pieces of television to be shown this year; llothing But The Truth (Sundays. Channel 4). which uses a kangaroo court format to ‘debate‘ contentious issues of the day. In last week‘s episode. the mother of a young boy murdered by a paedophile was cross- examined on why she didn't want the man moving back to her neighbourhood after completing his prison sentence.
As the two ’teams’ honed their rhetorical ﬂourishes. the real-life witnesses were forced to defend themselves as if they were the perpetrators of a crime. Meanwhile lawyer-tumed-MP Paul Boateng was allowed to live out his legal fantasies as the judge presiding over the court with a pompous and ill-tempered performance. For this. he should be disbarred from television for a period of no less than ten years. with no time off for good behaviour. (Eddie Gibb)
A selection oi television highlights listed by day, in chronological order. Television highlights compiled by Jonathan Tm.
I Havel Gotllews For You (BBC2) Fri 4 Oct. lO—lO.30pm. After taking a break from the last series. Paul Merton reunites the unholy trinity of satirists with Angus Deayton and [an Hislop. who recently squeezed out of the vestry as a committed Christian.
I it Happened llext Year (BBC2) Fri 4 Oct. 12.05-12.30am. New comedy series from the writers of They Think Its All Over based on imaginary news broadcast from a year hence. Pauline McLynn. landlady in Father Ted. reads next year’s headliges.
I The Fame Factor (Channel 4) Sat 5 Oct, 8pm—4.SOam. More zone TV from Channel 4, this time looking at the nature of fame and celebrity. Highlights of the ﬁrst evening’s viewing include a heart-to- heart with Lynne Perrie. aka lvy from Coronation Street. and a ﬁlm about the Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey James. who went missing over a year ago. Programmes later in the series include ﬁlms about lookalikes (pictured above) and the price that The Sweet’s Brian Connolly has had to pay for his ﬁfteen minutes in the spotlight as a teen idol.
I Clive Andersen All Talk (BBC l) Sun 6 Oct. 10.10-10.45pm. Trying to prove the mass audience chat show is not dead. the
baldy barrister kicks off this new series
iwith guests Eddie Murphy who is in town
to plug his remake of The Nutty Professor and Clive‘s old sparring partner Ben Elton.
I The Young and the lleckless (BBC2) Sun 6 Oct. lO-l 1.30pm. New series of made-for-TV movies which are all remakes of 505 ﬁlms from cult specialists American lntemational Picture which sold teen angst back to youth audiences. First up is Robert El Mariachi Rodriguez’s version of Roadracers about a young tearaway’s on-going battle with a local sheriff.
I llon’t Look Down (Scottish) Sun 6 Oct. 10.4S-l 1.45pm. The Scottish arts magazine show tonight looks at the work of stage and screen writer Rona Munro and interviews the author of a new Orson Welles biography. Followed by The South Bank Show (ll.45pm-12.45am) with Norman Mailer talking about his newly published biography of Picasso.
I Wilderness (Scottish) Mon 7 Oct. 9-lOpm. Second part of Andrew Davies’ glossy adaptation of Dennis Danvers‘ erotic novel about a woman who turns into a wolf once a month. Michael Kitchen is the repressed shrink battling
against an attraction to this unusual patient.
I Witness (Channel 4) Tue 8 Oct. 9—lOpm. ‘Death of the Solar Temple‘ analyses the psychology of religious cults. focusing on the story of a mass suicide two years ago in Canada and Switzerland when 53 members of a sect who believed they were descended from the Knights Templar apparently killed themselves. Some months later another group from the Order of the Solar Temple were found dead in France; this documentary pieces together events leading up to their deaths. including video footage shot by cult members.
I llacks (BBC2) Thurs l0 Oct. 7.20—8pm. Presumably on the basis that the pen is mighter than the sword. this variation on the cadets-at-army-camp routine follows a bunch of aspiring journalists through college in Cardiff. First assignments for these budding hacks include getting the scoop on a new design of poop-scoop and interviewing an 85- year-old ﬁtness instructor. Well. someone’s got to do it.
I The Works (BBC2) Thurs 10 Oct. 8—8.30pm. ‘A Death in Hollywood’ is a cautionary tale for aspiring ﬁlm moguls about top LA producer Don Simpson. whose hits included F lashdance, Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun. As it turned out. he also had a top cocaine habit. matched only by his appetite for Hollywood hookers and Haagan Dazs ice-cream. Unsurprisingly this combination led to Simpson’s early demise from heart failure. aged 52. After his death a picture emerged of a chronically insecure man who wanted it all. but even when he got most ofit. still wasn’t happy.
I lieslre (Channel 4) Thurs l0 Oct. 8.30—9pm. New fashion magazine show from the makers of The Big Breakfast fronted by Gossard bra model Sophie Anderton. News from fashion shows
The Fame Factor: Marilyn lookalike shows a leg in Starstruck (Sat 12 Oct) around the world and features on collections by British designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. I Thief Takers (Scottish) Thurs 10 Oct. 9—lOpm. Return of the gung-ho police drama about the Met’s armed robbery squad who wear daft little hats and wield big weapons. in tonight’s episode the cover on a covert operation is blown wide open. dangerously exposing one of the members of the team. No doubt doors will be kicked open in the process. I The Great, The Good and The Dispossessed (Channel 4) Sat 12 Oct. 7.05—8.30pm. After the Broke! season was screened earlier this year. Channel 4 set up its own Poverty Commission charged with gathering evidence about poverty in Britain and suggesting ways to combat this growing problem. This ﬁlm follows the panel’s deliberations as they consider the issue.
‘ 84 The List 4-l7 Oct l996