Top scran: Phil Daniels as wide boy food writer Gary Rickey in Holding On

Tricky Rickey

As right-wing restaurant critic Gary Rickey in BBCZ's new drama HOLDING ON, Quadrophenia's Phil Daniels has graduated from mod to sod.

Words: Rob Driscoll

If London's trendier eateries start giving Phil Daniels a wide berth. it‘ll only be a direct result of his staggering performance as a poison-penned food critic in Holding On. BBCE‘s compelling new eight- part drama serial that shows life in the city at its rawest level.

In a role destined for controversy. Daniels plays Gary Rickey. surely the most unorthodox restaurant reviewer ever. a flamboyantly right-wing working- class lad made good. whose nouvcau-riche success has insulated him from his roots. Rickey‘s drawback. however. is that he has a huge digestive problem a bit of a handicap when you‘re a food critic and what he writes about. he can‘t keep down. As the series continues. he sinks lower and lower into oblivion.

‘Some of the scenes are pretty disgusting.‘ says Daniels. with a wicked smile. ‘There are scenes of me throwing tip in the loo. with the camera‘s point—of—vicw from the toilet bowl - well you get the picture. It‘s amazing what they can do with some vegetable soup and a drop of Ribena.‘

Daniels. something of an alternative youth icon after starring roles in 70s movies Quudmp/zenio and Scum. is currently flavour of the month again. His cult BBCZ comedy series .S'imnyside Farm received both bouquets and brickbats. He‘s just completed Sex And Chocolate. 21 BBC film in which he plays Dawn French‘s husband. and he‘s currently in Glasgow filming Les Blair‘s new movie. Stand Ami Deliver.

In many ways [lo/(ling ()n‘s (iary Rickey is a

72 THE llST 29 Aug—ll Sep 1997

'Rickey is probably Tony Marchant's most savage creation, a brash new lad who boozes and bed-hops his way around London.’

reflection of Daniels himself (politics apart). and writer Tony Marchant (Take Me Home. Goodbye (‘rue/ World. Into The Fire) created the part with him specifically in mind.

‘l’or the role of Rickey.‘ says East End-born .‘vlarchant. ‘I needed someone with very strong working-class roots. who could handle the fancy language of food criticism. ljust heard Phil saying all the lines as I wrote them.‘

[Io/(ling ()n. by anyone‘s standards. is ambitious contemporary drama. With a cast of around l()() speaking parts. it plays like a tapestry of tales depicting the glancing collisions of life in a fast- moving. unforgiving city. Daniel‘s role. while crucial. is largely separate from the rest of the action. The two other most important players are David Morrissey as an ambitious and ruthless Inland Revenue inspector. and Saira Todd as a young temp.

A single. very shocking violent incident at the end of episode one unites these unconnected people in a tentative way. as they struggle to survive life in 90s London.

‘I think it‘s writing at its absolute peak.‘ says Daniels. ‘the kind of challenging drama you won‘t get anywhere else in the world. and that‘s why I did it.

‘Rickey is probably 'l‘ony‘s most savage creation. a brash new lad who boozes and bed-hops his way around London. but what‘s great about the character is that. as he gets lower and lower. he admits he might have a problem. and learns to accept his roots. He also serves as the series narrator.‘

The recent re-release of Qmu/roplzenia brought a new influx of fan mail through the Daniels‘ letterbox. ‘l‘ve had some very nice letters. though nothing beats the one I had the other day. It said: “My husband has been following your career for many years he thinks you‘re the most talented magician he‘s ever seen.“ I had to write back. and I sent a photograph of me juggling three balls.‘

Phil Daniels

Holding On starts on BBC2, Mon 8 Sep.

Stephen Hawking's Universe

BBCZ, Sun 31 Aug.

Zipping around in his motorised chair offering pearls of wisdom by way of synthesised vowels, Stephen Hawking looks for all the world like a smart-assed Bond villain. Villainous he ain't of course, but smart he most definitely is, in degrees that make the rest of us look like low achieving amoebas.

In BBCZ's new science series, Stephen Hawking's Universe, the man who has risen above crippling motor neurone disease to become one of the world's biggest brains, wraps his grey matter round the big questions of the cosmos. How did we get here? When are we leaving? You know the kind of thing. A task, which by his admission, he’s more than qualified for.

‘All my life I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us and have tried to find scientific answers to them,’ proclaims Hawking. ‘Perhaps that is why I have sold more books on physics than Madonna has on sex.‘

The same approach that shifted Hawking’s books is used here, with the Professor sold as a pop science figure ready to bypass the big yawns of academia.

Groovy graphics from hip designers Tomato, suggest the pop element will dominate, but in reality Stephen Hawking's Universe is still several light years away from MTV science.

In fact Hawking's journey is more a gentle bluffers' guide. Not exactly fast-paced, but only dry and dull for a nano-second. Potted histories of the world's great thinkers, from the ancient Greeks to Einstein and er, Hawking take us on a surprisingly un- anoraked voyage through black holes, parallel universes and time travel.

Mischievously, Hawking (who's not shy about dubbing himself the next Einstein) hints that in a few years, if not by the end of the series, we may have the ultimate theory of the universe in our grasp. Now that's what you call a cliffhanger.

(Ellie Carr)

Stephen Hawking: too brainy for his cosmos