TV REVIEW Channel hopping
The once beautiful game has been so besmirched by scandal in recent times — managers and bungs, referees and backhanders, goalkeepers and bets — that, in some perverse way, The Fix (BBCI) brought some reassurance. Don’t feel bad, they've always been at it. Even in the 605 era of big shorts and heavy balls, the exchange of ‘used fivers under the main stand,’ as Steve Coogan’s investigative journo puts it, was a common occurrence.
In Paul Greengrass’s drama, Tony Kay is seen as a victim of economic circumstance. He puts a bet on his Sheffield Wednesday losing, knowing that victory would still yield a win bonus. After a big money deal to Everton and Championship-winning glory, his past comes back to haunt him and a life ban and prison beckons.
While the drama is superbly acted and funnier than it thinks, niggling doubts remain. Tony Kay was a cheat. And he was not a scapegoat — others went down with him. While the production notes insist the tabloid campaign was ’lurid', the production itself betrays that theory. The unlikely duo of the Jagger-obsessed Mike Gabbert (Coogan) and Peter Campling (Michael Elphick), whose heart is broken at the realisation of the vile corruption eating away at the game he loves, committed no crimes and exposed no one who didn’t deserve to be exposed.
Dead folks have had a rough ride of it in recent years when it comes to telly dissections. Think Howard Hughes with his cleanliness obsession and his unsavoury sexual longings or any number of royals exposed as neo-fascists of the most Nazi kind. Post Mortem (Channel 4, Saturdays) is an altogether different animal. In the first episode, musical historians, lecturers, musicologists and newsreader John Suchet warbled on about LUdng van Beethoven, his illnesses and how, if at all, they affected his work.
We learn that he went deaf — really? — at the peak of his powers yet continued to make glorious music due to his flawless memory. After hearing about his liver failure and bouts of extra fluid in the abdominal region, we find that his love of cheap red Wine eventually killed him. Those switching over from Casualty attracted by the title to see more pus, bile and entrails splattering the ceilings will have felt short-changed.
One musician who really should be dead by'now is Shane McGowan. The structure of The Great Hunger: The Life And Songs Of Shane McGowan (BBCZ) was of a night on the piss with Shane. At the beginning, happy yet IUCId. By
Bombay Blue: some of the worst dialogue to hit the small screen in many a day
the end, a shambling mess of brandy and stale nicotine. Nick Cave and Christy Moore gratefully spoke of his genius while McGowan’s pals hushed a bar silent as he sang/ mumbled some Celtic non-melody. The man himself spoke of his contempt for the New Romantics — ’a poof and a synthesiser’, and of World Music — why should he be interested in anybody else's ethnicity when he has his own to express? For others, McGowan is just another sad drunk wuth a couple of good tunes in him. The kind of bloke you'd kill to avoid in a pub but are happy to accept as a legend if told often enough.
It's not easy to make a cop show seem fresh but the makers of Bombay Blue (Channel 4, Saturdays) appeared to be on a sure-fire winner. A Glaswegian/Asian rozzer gets his big break with a hot drugs/kidnapping/ corruption case in Bombay. Unfortunately, you hadn't bargained for some of the worst dialogue to hit the small screen in many a day. 'I didn’t know there were any Indians in Maryhill,’ remarks lady. ’Naw, only cowboys,’ retorts our stoic hero. Within seconds it gets worse. ’Will there be a reward?’ 'Only in heaven, pet.’ The writers, one hopes, will end up in a somewhat warmer place. (Brian Donaldson)
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The Life And Songs Of Shane McGowan: a night on the piss with Shane.
The Fowlers’ trip to Ireland and back In EastEnders has been the plot to end all location shoots.
I don’t know why the BBC was so surprised at the outraged reaction to EastEnders' trip to Ireland. After all, it was the Fowlers who went, and it’s an established plot rule that nothing they are involved in can ever go right.
How uncanny, then, that Pauline, Mark, Ian and the rest should find relatives who seemed unluckier than themselves. The Fowlers counting their blessings, that’s a new twist.
The week long jaunt was like some new condensed soap — Eldorado meets the Emerald Isle — with the scriptwriters plunging us right in amid their worries. Who is that strange man in a suit arguing with the other chap in a car? What can Maggie's secret be? Rather than the usual long, drawn out suspense characteristic of Albert Square, things were no sooner hinted at than they were revealed. It seemed somehow indecent. You wanted to say: 'Wait, I hardly know you.’
No wonder the Fowlers looked so bemused. What was all the fuss about young Mary getting off with a married man — after all, he wasn’t even her husband's brother. Yes, it was ridiculous that a teenage girl would have to flee the country in the clothes she stood in, with peOple she had just met, for fear of her drunken
The Fowlers: the unluckiest familiy in soapland?
grandfather. But it was clearly the only way they could think of to spice up the plots back home. The poor girl wanted to see the bright lights of London, but she has ended up hanging round the laundrette: what a swizz.
Yes, the bizarre picture of Ireland was annoying, but more infuriating was the lazy storyline. Round up some comic stereotypes, add second-rate farce material (whoops, there goes my Guinness), toss in some farmyard animals, and that'll do, eh?
And things have been no better since they returned, with Claire’s bullying, Barry’s dodgy fiancee and cartoon thugs menacing Carol — it has hardly kept us glued to our seats. Maybe the scriptwriters themselves need a holiday — but they’d better not head to Eire. (Andrea Mullaney)
10 Oct-23 Oct 1997 THE LIST 83