Channel Hopping

The time rs 6pm, the day Easter Sunday, the date 30 March and the year 1997. All across the nation not a sound is heard as families and friends fight over the last crumbs of chocolate egg - and wart patiently for Channel 5 to happen.

Unfortunately sorrre are still waiting, as the signal from Britain’s much- hyped fifth terrestrial channel farled to come through for around three out of ten vrewers who’d prefer to have the same number of channels as everyone else.

The rest of us sat wrth baited breath as the clock ticked down from great big huge numbers to NH) and the screen changed from rnultr-coloured test card to rnultr-coloured action stations with all guns blazing. Even those who got snow Instead of pictures Will know by now exactly who provided the five-star celebrity action to celebrate Oh yes Bursting through the test card, not to mention out of their bras and breeks, came pop music's ubigurtous girlie avengers making eyes at Channel 5's new audience and blasting out a remarkably cheesy Spice-jingle based on an Old lvlannfred Mann hit 'All the TV you ever wanted,’ chimed the five princesses of pop, -- ’One, two, three, four, five"

Smart move Channel 5 Hiring the SpICy Ones as statron mascots must have cost a bomb, but the publicity was worth rt The dailies had no qualms about slapping the Spice, sorry 5 launch onto their front pages, but kept snidey remarks about snow in March confined to columns buried rnSIde

But enough of the hype What of the shows? Did we get all the telly we ever wanted? Or rs 5 one channel too many in a nation poised on the brink of satellite, digital and cable for breakfast, dinner and tea7

Our continuity people for the evening couldn't wart to tell us how much was in it 'We'll bring you the news every night on the hour,’ they announced With all the panache, przazz and bubbly enthusiasm you’d expect from a station that describes itself as 'modern and mainstream' 'Except during movies, because we don’t have that annoying habit of interrupting films to bring you the news

Jack Docherty: Channel 5's chat show host with the most

Well thanks for letting us know, but can't we just see some programmes? Eventually we did of coorse. But not before Our new chums had told us everything we ever wanted to know about Channel 5.

First up was Two Little Boys an odd docwnentary delving into the childhoods of Tony Blair and John Major. This was well worth skimming over completely as it is a TV turn-off of an idea whrc h went nowhere slowly and went down as a fumbling frrst- nrght attempt to wrn votes with a light-hearted look at Britain's two possible prrrne ministers after 1 May

Not sexy, Later, much later, the Channel redeemed itself wrth The Jack

Docherty Show, Davrci Letterrrtan-style chat show with the Scot in the hot seat. As we’ve heard already, lack the lrkeable lad and ex-Abso/ute/r' star will be do:ng rt five nights a week, and far, so good

Looking suitably and mainstream in a shiny trn flute, he reeled off a string of topical gags, engaged in banter wrth the resident band, then slid behind hrs desk to welcome hrs illustrious guests. The man is cooking with confidence And best of all, he‘s nothing like Bob Mills Unlike Channel 4's Letterman pretender whose gob you want to gag so the guests can have a say Docherty does not have a problem getting hrs ego through the studio door. Rather he's a dovm-to-earth, genuinely funny guy who asks famous people the guestrons you'd ask if only you had the chance

Launch night vrsrtors were Roger Moore lnot that famous any more, but hey) and the Spice Girls (you know rt makes sense) Each got the easygoing, cheeky but charrnrnr; Docherty treatment lalthougi: the rjsr! power rangers made a good attempt at ruenrng the show) and everybody came out sm:lrng The boy done good, but the guestion rs, with a low budget and the resultant flow of B-lzst guests, can he keep rt up five nights a week7 Judging from first impressions the answer is probably yes

At first glance Channel ‘3 is high on multr-coloured trimmings and chat, and low on gualrty programming, even for a statron strapped for cash That said, with a few more staples like The Jack Doc/lefty Show, Channel 5 may just have what rt takes to stay alive (Ellie Carr)


The Ice House BBCl, SApr, 9.23%.

Last year's four-parter about a drsturbed female prisoner, The Sco/ptress, was a triumphant

adaptation of a Minette Walters novel, which allowed Pauline Qurrke to break but of her tired Essex-girl routrne in Birds of a Feather. Now the BBC has returned to the same source for this three-hour whodunrt based on another Walters book.

Unfortunately, the reSLilt is as predictable as The Sciu/prres‘s‘ was adventurous, though like all murder mysteries there is a nagging desire to find out who really did it This is just the kind of English upper—crust nonsense the Beeb assumes everyone wants to watch over a Bank Holiday, and maybe they're right

The set-up rs classic Agatha Christie wrth the action located in a grand stately home occupied by three posh bohemian women, who are loathed in the vrllage as a bunch of ’lezxies' Bemg of West Country stock wrth ooh- aar accents to match, the locals are not c retried with much in the way of lir'arn-power and yes, the pub really does gr: guret when a stranger walks ill. You get the pic turi:

Already convicted of a sex crime by the mob, one of the women rs also reckoned to have her husband, x.'.i‘o disappeared ten years previously, thouril‘. a body was never found Then a cleconzposed stiff is found in a disused ice house in the grounds, and tongues start wagging all over .i:iarn

Ei‘ter' l, ."-i(‘i lrrstiec tw'


Walsh (Corie.

The Ice House: lukewarm upper-crust whodunit

Redgrave), as the lumpen but methodical copper who first investigated the case. His sidekick puts on a Scottish accent for no good reason, has the obligatory drink problem, and even more difficulty with the notion that some women don't fancy men. It's Lewis and Morse in reverse, and together they wade throogh a suspect list of peeple wrth something to hide

Played for laughs this would make perfect farce, but The Ice House takes itself far too seriously for that. However, watch the first episode and you’ll probably end up going back for the conclusion the following night and hating yourself for being sucked in (Eddie Gibb)

The Grand

Scottrse, Apr, 9pm;

“~_ 3;. in ‘, l

The Grand: real gather-round-the-telly stuff

The time is New Year's Eve, 1919, and the place The Grand Hotel in downtown Manchester. The frivolous and feckless who were untouched or even profited from the Great War prepare to Charleston their way through the 205. Newly demobilised soldiers bringing the horrors of the trenches home in their heads can’t believe that people are carrying on as though nothing had happened. Something will have to give.

From the off, The Grand displays all the hallmarks of a sepia-toned costume drama which knows exactly when it is set and who it is about. The central character is John

Bannerman (Michael Sibbery) who is young enough still to have ambition but just too old to fight. His post-war effort is turning his father's hotel into the most opulent and talked-about establishment in the north-west.

Below stairs the servants fight their own private battles. The hall porter, who intones the words ‘as you wish, m'lady' with just the right mix of deference and insolence, moves effortlessly between the echelons of that unique mini-class system which is a hotel. Yep, they’ve played the Upstairs, Downstairs card.

As the bells ring in the New Year, it becomes clear that the hotel is already in financial trouble. Enter John's caddish brother, Marcus (Mark McGann), a man with no real sense of family duty but a twinkle in his eye for his sister-in-law. He agrees to bail the family business out, but clearly intends to extract his price.

The Grand has the makings of a real pot-boiler, but what it cleverly achieves is that sense of a new beginning after the war, as everyone desperately tries to reinvent themselves. A neat touch is the former bordello madame, played by Susan Hampshire, who takes a suite in the hotel, using the confusion of the war to pass herself off as a lady. This is popular lTV drama at its best real gather- round-the-telly stuff. (Eddie Gibb)

ti » l 7 Apr 1997 THE “ST 79