Born To Run BBC 1, Sun 25 May.

'2, f

Born To Run: all is not quiet on the homefront in this new Manc family saga

Never trust a second-hand car dealer. Such skilled smooth-talkers could persuade yOu to trade your Golf GTI and y0ur granny for a Skoda. But more Mike Baldwin than Frank Butcher, the father and son classrc car dealers in Born To Run wouldn’t be content unless they got to check out y0ur wife’s bodywork into the bargain. Fancying themselves as a couple of Casanovas, dad Burke Flitch (Terence Rigby) lives up to his name, leching at anything in a skirt, while his son Byron

(Keith Allen) leaves the wife and kids at home while he knocks around with curvy long-distance runner Linda. Meanwhile, lurking in the background are the ugly sisters who bitch about everyone, together with the obligatory rebellious teenager. Dysfunctional just doesn't do justice to this extended family, a kind of Mancunian equivalent of the Colbys. Materialistic and self- obsessed, Burke senior’s offspring squabble about the will while he lies on his death—bed.

You’ve sure got to be tough or gorgeous to make it in this environment. And the Flitch wives have been relegated to doormat position. But With a Shirley Valentine-style breaking of domestic shackles the series seems to be pitching for female viewers, as Mrs Flitch senior returns from a rendezvous in Tenerife revitalised and ready to run a marathon, paving the way for matriarchal revolt.

Written by Debbie Horsefield, the woman behind The Riff-Raff Element and Making Out the factory-set comedy starring Margi Clarke, the basic premise of this new comedy/drama is a tad slight, as a pair of trainers and 26 miles of sheer hell are all it takes to make the downtrodden old gals regain self- respect. But while none of the characters are particularly endearing and the gags are a bit thin on the ground, it's well acted, With enough shenanigans on the go to keep you mildly entertained. (Claire Prentice)

Plotlands BBCI, Sun 18 May.

Grim telly drama doesn't get much grimmer than this. The dream of many is to have a bit of land something tangible to call your own. In the 19205' setting of Plotlands, the dream becomes a reality of nightmarish proportions for Chloe Marsh (Saskia Reeves) and her two daughters (Rebecca Callard and Jade Williams). Having fled from her abusive husband, Chloe puts faith in land agent Harry Crowley (David Ryall) - a cross between Fagin and Del Boy and hands over a fiver for what turns out to be a tent in a Hertfordshire field alongside the poor and disenfranchised.

‘Our series the

deals with

pioneering first steps, in the 3 summer of 1922, of a disparate

group of people who find themselves thrown together in this fledgeling community,’ explains producer Louis Marks. 'The nearest thing to it is the homestead movement in America. Their vision is what Plotlands is going to be when it gets running water, a school and a bus service.’

The building of that movement is

? far from an easy ride everything ~ that could go wrong for Chloe does. Her purse goes missing from her

tent, she has to leave her youngest

behind to go to work and she is poisoned by the raw potatoes she

forages for to earn a crust. ’Things are seen through the eyes

: of Chloe but the dream is Harry

i Crowley's,’ states Marks. ‘He bought

Plotlands: Saskia Reeves gets down to earth in this new homestead drama

land and advertised for people to come and buy their own piece of England. Into it all comes Chloe. She thinks she has arrived at the end of the world.’

Every cloud and all that. Her personal silver lining appears to come in the form of Tom (Richard Lintern), a distinctly odd, odd-job man whose rating on the helpful- ometer does not exactly go through the roof at first. By the end of the series he may have saved Chloe's life and given her a reason to carry on. And given the viewing public a reason to keep watching. (Brian Donaldson)

rv REVIEW Channel Hopping

All's flesh in love and war, as the saying doesn't go. These being the two main constituents of ITV’s Sharpe (Scottish, Wednesdays), the vagaries of the stuff are all over the shop whether the camera is lingering on the sky-threatening cleavages or the flapping skin and spliced bone penetrated by bullets and ripped further asunder by their removal (a tender scene, you could say). Set in the age of the Napoleonic Wars, Sharpe stars northern ruffian Sean Bean, and in the first of a new series, our hero is one victory away from the war’s conclusion and receivmg the golden boot from Wellington.

Naturally, little goes according to plan and, despite winning with honour, Sharpe is framed by the French for the theft of Napoleon's JQWGIS and the slaughter of a couple of guards. The army tribunal is presided over by a bloke Sharpe recently shot in the arse mid—duel. Things look bleak. Back at the ranch, his fiancee Jane (Abigail Cruttenden) is suffering agonies: Does he still love me? Is he gUilty? Will I ever cease this angst-ridden pOuting? Having considered these questions for all Of five minutes, she starts stepping out With some top- hatted twrt while Sharpe’s own infidelities run alongside the quest to clear his name.

Qurte how this ordinary military fare earned extra airtime beggars belief. The fighting scenes are pedestrian and overlong, the dialogue is risible: ‘You have a soft heart wrtli hard hands, ma'am,’ - and the French are seen as either sleazy or evrl depending on whether they are bald or pony-tailed. On the plus side, the writers have av0ided the Allo’ Allo’ syndrome by allowmg the Gallic characters to speak French. In a primetime slot that’s fairly courageous. And that’s about that on the plus side.

Watching The Investigator (Channel 4), a one-off drama based on the true story of Edinburgh-based ex-Royal Military Police staff Sergeant, Caroline Meagher, was a surreal experience, Why did the army see fit to waste time, resources and personnel clamping down on homosexuality within the ranks rather than pulling all the elements together to enhance

Lapping it up: Antoines de Caunes plays Santa to Melinda Messenger in the new

series of Eurotrash

efficiency? And much of this happened in Londonderry. You would have thought there were peOple more worthy of the military’s attentions.

Helen Baxendale, whose reputation soars with each role, starred as Meagher. Initiated to seek out a ring of lesbians who allegedly raped a colleague with light bulbs, the campaign spreads, and question marks are raised left, right and centre with anyone with a crew cut or an Annie Lennox CD in the firing line.

Meagher herself finally comes under su5picion and is forced to endure an interrogation which requires more than a simple confesSion. Intimate details of love letters, foreplay and orgasms are deemed essential for ultimate humiliation and psychological disrobing. Bad enough when it’s drama but doubly horrific when you know it’s for real. You’ve seen the true confessions dramatised thing before, but The Invest/gator is no less gripping for that.

Gripped tightly in the Geri Spice— patented Union Jack dress, Melinda Messenger tottered onto the new series of Eurotrash (Channel 4, Fridays). Described by co-presenter

The nation's favourite fleshfest this month [Melinda Messenger] had little to do except giggle and jiggle. Both of which she achieved with ease.

Antorne de Caunes as a postmodern pin-up’ (does that mean Jean Baudrillard jerks off over her as well as punch-clock Eddie7), the nation's favourite fleshfest this month, at least had little to do except giggle and jiggle. Both of which she achieved with ease.

Highlights of the series’ debut included (3isz the singing hound from Helsinki, Eddie Wally the Belgian Elvis and Lolo Ferrari whose monumental assets are well known to readers (.7) of Loaded. Frankly, my dears, if you can sit through a stream of double-entendres that would make Julian Clary blanch, the terribly amusing regional accent voiceovers and the sheer muckiness of the whole thing and SW look forward to the following week's dollop, you’re way beyond salvation.

Any self-respecting telly review column cannot exist without mentioning the highlight of the broadcasting fortnight/month/ millennium election night, of course. Just one word sums it all up brilliantwasn'tit? (Brian Donaldson)

16-29 May 1997 THE US”?