il¥l y Alan Bleasdale's latest drama series for Channel 4 is a murder mystery inspired by 505 writer Francis Durbridge. But as you might expect from the man who gave us

GBH, it is no dusty old story. Words: Sue Greenway

Channel 4. to its credit. does not do things by halves. It has swept the board clean to accommmlate Melissa over three nights. with the concluding two episodes the following week. ("IV/1.32811 is a live- part mystery from Alan Bleasdale. a writer who deserves that kind ol attention. given the quality ol‘ the drama he has pushed its way.

Channel 4 has had the excellent (Ill/l and ./(ll\'("s Progress. and in Alan lileusilule Presents. the man himself generated space for four writers new to television. lle attracts high calibre actors and almost appears to have created a rep company of people who love working with him. Julie Walters and Michael Angelis. both ot' whom have appeared in previous Bleasdale productions. are doing their stuff in Melissa.

In the title role Mr .llelissu is‘ Jennifer lihle. (Pride And Prejudice. 'l’lie ('ummnile lxnrn). She featured in two ol~ the lileusilule l’rese/irs productions and he patently adores her. ‘I wanted to write a big part for Jennil'er [Ehle] because I think she’s the most extraordinary actress of her generation] he boasts. ‘She has a quality of absolute mystery. You haye no idea what she‘s going to do nest. which is rare.

‘lt‘s also fairly bloody obvious that she is extremely beautiful. but there is more to her than beauty. I had my heart set on Jennifer playing the part and I had her in mind all the way through writing.‘

Melissa is not Bleasdale‘s story. It came from the pen of another writer. a legend who thrilled and entertained in the 50s and ()()s on radio and TV and who was a regular lit for the young Bleasdale. This is his homage to 84-year-old lirancis Durbridge. the creator of Paul Temple. Bleasdales agent also happens to be Stephen Durbridge. the son ol'the mystery writer. so he had a hotlinc to the top.

What Bleasdale has done is to write a prequel and update the story. For those who can remember it. the original yarn begins somewhere around lipisode l’our.

Episode One requires serious attention it you are to keep up. The complex plot has 'l‘im l)utton as (iuy. an award-winning war correspondent and ret'ormed drinker who carries tragedy. griel and guilt on his

84 THE LIST 2. l5 tiny t’i'i/

'Sbe {.ienniier Bibi-22 has a quality of absolute mystery. You have no idea what she's going to do next.’ Alan {lionsiiali-

Melissa: Alan Bleasdale's murder mystery to die for


()n his way home from South Africa. aboard a cruise liner. (iuy encounters a group of PR people as you do among whom are the mysterious. alluring Melissa. her friend and colleague Paula (Julie Walters) married to boss (iraeme (Adrian Dunbar). and sundry other oddballs.

The plot thickens. the body count rises and everybody seems to get constantly plastered on champagne. Many of these characters are not appealing. but they are interesting. Bleasdale has packed a lot into his whodunnit. possibly too much to do justice to an ensemble cast. but you can see why (‘hannel 4 went to the trouble.

Adrian Dunbar. who as usual turns in a class act. sums ll up neatly. "l‘he thriller element places the audience in a very interesting position.‘ he says. "l‘hey immediately get sucked into the characters as people like themselves. and then they think. no. they‘re callous and one ol‘ them is a murderer so I can’t let myself get sucked into their apparently innocent lives.

‘lt's great to be part ol’ a situation which creates that kind of suspense and tension.‘

Melissa stars on Sun 12 May on Channel 4.

The Lying Game

BBC1,8 May, 10.20pm.

Just when you thought you'd watched ten consecutive minutes of TV without the merest mention of Mr Angus Deayton, up pops the little devil with the latest vehicle for his wit and wisdom, The Lying Game.

The show is a four-part look at those who tell lies and those affected by them. But just what is a lie? For some in The Lying Game, it may be a prank played upon deserving institutions (banks, football clubs, casinos) or those so staggeringly naive as to be unworthy of sympathy (the father of a fishing cheat or those robbed of their life savings by a veteran conman).

Watch in horror as travel agent Alan Conway admits to an empty existence filled with purpose only when bluffing his way around London's swankiest joints claiming to be reclusive film director Stanley Kubrick. Chuckle with guilty mirth as Dave Smith wriggles his way onto another talkshow as a loan shark or lottery winner, or pretends to be the financial saviour of Cambridge Football Club. Stare aghast as pensioner Sid Chaney reaps revenge on popular High Street banks who, he feels, denied him a legitimate insurance claim twenty years earlier and who he has now hoodwinked into handing him blank cheques made out in the names of his pets.

The downside to all this playful skullduggery is the fact that, along the way, there may be a victim or two who doesn't share the impostor's idea of fun. There are angry tears in the eyes of the Cambridge fan who is shown light at the end of the bankruptcy tunnel, while Beryl Gibbons looks like she would string up anyone who attempted to cheat her out of victory in guinea pig breeding events.

Being an Angus Deayton production, there is lots of dry, caustic wit and cynical asides as he exposes lies, liars, imposters and cheats and takes the ultimate test by placing wires and patches on his own body and attempting to defy the lie detector. Can he fake it? Watch in disbelief.

(Brian Donaldson)

It was this big: Angus Deayton meets the nation's biggest bluffers in The Lying Game