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Street life: Cathy Tyson and Geraldine James return as reformed prostitutes in the



If Michael Parkinson broke the UK’s chat show mould in the 70s, did Terry Wogan signal its death knell a decade later? While Parkie probed a guest for the best part of an always absorbing hour on Saturday nights, the be- rugged little leprechaun crammed as many mid-table celebs into 30 minutes as his sofa c0u|d bear. Now, everyone from Frank Skinner to Gaby Roslin have been deluded into believing they are masters of the art of chat.

Just to convince us that Terry was actually a major leaguer, The Wogan Years (BBCI, Fridays) has been plundering the archives to remind us of his fawning at the feet of Arnie, Clint, Tina et al or falling at the feet of Elton. There he was, with his non- dramatic pauses, the ’comic' look of confusion, Wig positively twrtching, hands clasped to his knees and

Why Steve Coogan needs to overlay his scenes with canned laughter is a mystery of Arthur C.

Clarke proportions.

dredging up the fakest of laughter to keep them sweet, before going on to butter them up.

Not that it was Without its moments of pleasure, such as the 'Iiterary’ spat between Jackie Collins and Barbara Cartland with Ed Asner sinking ever deeper into the corner of the couch and Madonna treating him like an errant schoolboy.

Wogan may never have been on the cutting edge of TV interrogators, but at least he avorded causing any fatalities on his show. Unlike spoof chat-show host Alan Partridge, who covered his couch With the innards of a food critic courtesy of Byron’s pistol.

Hardly a major crime, admittedly, but one which ensured that a second series was never on the cards. In I'm Alan Partridge (BBC2, Mondays) Steve Coogan has resurrected the sports- casual King in a new format part sitcom/part video diary in which he pleads With the BBC bigWigs to get him back on prime time and retrieve

newly titled (Band Of) Gold

him from his 4am Radio Norwrch slot.

So, is Steve Coogan losing it? After the dismal flop of his Portuguese phenomenon Tony Ferrino, Coogan has sought refuge in his most complete and complex creation. While the details which made Partridge so great are still intact, the laughs appear to have dried up. There are moments of brilliance, of course putting a host of ideas to his boss, including arm wrestling with Chas 'n' Dave, inner-City Sumo and an exploration into so-called Yuppie Flu entitled Knowing M.E., Knowrng You. Yet, why he needed to overlay the scenes With canned laughter is a mystery of Arthur C. Clarke proportions.

It would take some delvmg from the slaphead sci-fi sleuth to get to the bottom of Albanian politics. In Modern Times - The Return Of log (BBCZ), the story of the last bastion of European Communism is set against its monarchic past. The son of the first King of Albania has returned from exile to take his rightful place on the throne.

As the film discovers, his unerring ability to explain nothing could easily earn him a place on the UK government's front bench. When asked how he planned to restore law and order, he outlined his policy thus: 'that's for me to know.’ At 6ft 10m and With a stare as cold as a British pensioner, you wouldn't be argumg.

Band Of Go/d returned as Gold (Scottish, Mondays) With an opening episode entitled ’She's Back’ Cathy Tyson and Geraldine James remain in their plum roles but both are now reformed prostitutes, With the former dining out on the proceeds of a chicken factory left to her in a murdered client's Will and the latter pursumg a career in Community Liaison. James's first task was to monitor the interrogation of a murder suspect, as whore's clients were coming to bloody endings.

On the minus, too many stock characters were thrown in the karaoke tranny and the personality- free Vigilantes. On the plus side, there was some feistin spunky dialogue which I Will be shamelessly nicking for future dinner parties 'she's so far up her own arse, she can see next year’s shit,’ and the like. (Brian Donaldson)

Tom Jones BBCI, Sun 9 Nov, 9.05pm.

Max Beesley comes on like a 905 Tom Jones. Lucky, then, that he plays the scallywag lead in BBCI’s rollicking new version of the Henry Fielding classic.

As a one-time session musician for some twenty bands (including Take That and Jamiroquai), he’s no stranger to romping and roistering. With a cheeky grin, he boasts about sexual conquests with teenage fans.

'It’s true, all that groupie stuff you hear about,’ beams 26-year-old Beesley, with an unaffected Manchester accent. 'Maybe it's a bit sad, but they’re eighteen and entitled to a bit of fun.’

Perfect training for the adventures of 18th century literature’s most notorious rogue. Now, however, Beesley has his feet on the ground and, after seven months studying The Method in New York, is determined to make it as an actor.

The History Of Tom Jones, A Found/mg, to use its full title, is this year's official Beeb costume blockbuster. For Beesley, it's his first lead role and only his third acting job. He clinched it after five days of intense auditions With director Metin Huseyin. 'I gave myself an ulcer that week, but I think it was well worth it,’ he says.

The five-part serial has a ritzy cast. Beesley struts his stuff alongside the likes of John Sessions, Samantha Morton, Brian Blessed, Frances de la Tour, Benjamin Whitrow and Peter Capaldi.

In keeping with such a saucy story,

History lover: Max Beesley as 18th century rogue Tom Jones

there are moments of nudity: 'including one full frontal of me, Where you wouldn't expect it,’ says Beesley. ’To be honest though, it was the language I found more daunting. But I had Joan Washington, the world's most famous dialect coach, on my side, and I've got a talent for accents; anyone with a musical ear should have?

Prior to filming, Beesley checked out Tony Richardson's I963 cinema version, starring Albert Finney. ’It was brilliant, but it was a romp for the 60s,’ he says. 'I believe our version is closer to the book, stressing one man’s journey from adolescence to manhood.’

(Rob Driscoll)


Some characters are bigger than the soap homes they inhabit. Welcome to the Bazza show, Brookie fans.

Here's stubble: Baua returns to The Close

He’s back and it's about time.

While EastEnders and Corrie have long relied on character-led drama, Brookside has lurched from one headline hitting storyline to another in recent years, With too many dull or downright annoying characters waiting to be caught up in something controversial.

With the once gloriously tragic Jimmy Corkhill declined into loveable family man, Brookside Close could really be domg With a character to grip the imagination. Despite a receding hairline, horrible eyebrows and a tendency to rnumble, Barry Grant is the best they’ve ever had. Appearing in a graveyard bathed in celestial light, he looked every inch the answer to the

show’s prayers when he made his dramatic return this fortnight.

Like the actor who plays him, Paul Usher, who has waltzed out of the limelight several times, Barry Just doesn't seem to give a toss, and that’s What makes him so attractive. Simpering Lindsey Will be unable to resist When he turns those eyes on her, though what he'll make of her criminal Cher impreSSions I shudder to think a motive, possibly.

The Close's bad penny oozes style and genuine menace, but unlike current nasty Gerard Kelly sadly doomed as a serious gangster by those who remember City Lights and expect his mum and bank manager to turn up and tell him off there's more to Barry than that.

Remember when he was wracked With Catholic guilt and went to confessron to admit his part in Sue and her baby's deaths and then threatened the priest if he ever told? Or the way his feelings of friendship and guilt for Terry became tWisted into obsessional love, culminating in a high noon showdown on a Windswept beach?

Sadly, he's not back for good -- in either sense and his most explosive scenes look likely to be those available on video only, a greedy move by the Show which deserves to backfire

Elsewhere, another bad lad is leading poor Dreary astray in Coronation Street But (an dodgy Jon, the non- airline pilot and fully Qualified fibber,

really be gomg to all this effort to con .

her out of {5,0007 He'd get a better rate of return sticking in at the tie shop. (Andrea Mtillaney)

7--20 Nov 1997 THE lIST111