REVIEW Great Expectations

BBCl, Mon 12 &Tue I3Apr *****

Great Expectations: white nuptial ride

Child abuse, rank poverty, unreqwted love, lost dreams, revenge and aban- donment and cold, cold death. Just another trawl through the bleak mind of Charles Dickens, this time courtesy of Tony Holding On Marchant. In a pro- duction which could threaten to give heritage drama a good name, you can almost smell the desolation, feel the weight of the characters' worlds and taste the fear that drives them.

For the uninitiated, the action begins


Who Leads Scotland? Channel 4, Sat lOApr *

Jon Snow: scotch botch

This should have been a momentous event in the dual histories of politics and teleViSion: the first ever live debate between party leaders in the run up to a British election. We’ve all seen footage of JFK outsmart Nixon to edge the 1960 US Presidency; some of us remember Bill Clinton perfecting his camera technique in 1992 to make George Bush look confused and out of touch.

So, here we were awaiting the Cut and thrust of argument, pomts scored thanks to charisma and the partiCipants’ rhetorical abilities. All slickly presented by the best the media had to offer. It didn’t work Out like that. What we got was a shambles,

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upon a harsh moor where the young Pip is accosted by an escaped convict MagWitch (Bernard Hill), in a life-defin- ing moment. The lad, brought up to be a blacksmith, later plays a part in a macabre quaSi-blind date in which the ageing Miss HaVisham (Charlotte Rampling) seeks to pair a vulnerable chap with the crass and cruel Estella for her own tWisted means (Pip’s adoration for Estella surely remains one of the most baffling loves in the canon).

Before you whistle ’rat in the kitchen’, an unnamed benefactor comes along and drags Pip into a gentry life. Of course, it’s tough to shed your past and the elder Pip (loan Gruffudd) returns to face the truth.

As if the production values weren't astronomically high enough, the acting is utterly flawless. Bernard Hill as lvlagwitch is creepy and compaSSionate in equal measure; Justine Waddell bal- ances decency with her innate coldness beautifully while Charlotte Rampling as HaVisham is not so much icy as cryo- genically frozen;

Gruffudd makes the role of Pip his own, tortured by love and the some- what irritating hand of fate, expressmg it by looking as though he’s lost a guinea and found a shilling. Notable mentions should also go to Scots actors Tony Curran as the Jealous and venge- ful Orlick and Clive Russell as the aston- ished blacksmith Joe.

Question is, should we now draw a line under the costume/heritage drama genre or look forward to seeing a pro- duction attempting to match this? (Brian Donaldson)

Jon Snow, botching this gig even more spectacularly than he did his Monica Lewinsky interView, began badly With an unwiser ad-Iibbed joke about rugby. He never really recovered, and seemed nervous and under- rehearsed throughout. Perhaps his confidence was sapped by the fact that the programme seemed to have been directed by a semi-professional wedding Video specialist.

Cameras constantly lingered too long on Snow and the protagonists, leaving them silent and awkward. Alternatively, they w0u|d cut to a reaction shot five seconds after the reaction had been made. lvlost disastrously, there were shots of 'the audience’. The handful of bored looking punters, barely occupying the first few rows at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, clearly did not feel they were witnessmg broadcasting history.

As for the politicos, Alex Salmond seemed the best prepared and most relaxed. Donald Dewar was eaSIIy flustered, prone to loud outbursts of solitary laughter, and scarin reminiscent of the cartoon headmaster in the Video for ’Another Brick In The Wall’. For the Lib Dems, Jim Wallace seemed affable if uninspiring, while Tory David McLetchie had the best sUit.

Snow ended With an inVitation to Messrs Blair, Hague et a/ to follow their Scottish colleagues lead next time a general election comes round. The preceding 60 minutes Will have offered little enc0uragement for that.

(Rob Fraser)


Rikki Fulton: The Time Of His Life

BBCI, Thu lSApr, 9.35pm.

For many a year, no stagger to the New Year bells would be complete without the company of Rikki Fulton. As Gus Macdonald confesses in this tribute to the man with the longest of faces and crumpliest of chins, Scottish Television eventually gave up on scheduling quality against him, so relentless was the ratings beating.

Amidst the standard analysis of the comic wanting to be loved and living for the SOund of laughter, Fulton is a man with one toe in homespun coothiness and another in flawless character comedy Supercop and Reverend llvl Jolly among his enduring creations.

Fulton’s fondest memories of 75 years on the planet are working With some of Hollywood's biggest icons: his early experience of ad-Iibbing with Frank Sinatra on radio and making his big screen debut opposite Lee MarVin in Gorky Park. For the Hogmanay hordes though, he can take the word ’hello’ to unploughed areas of hilarity. (Brian Donaldson)


Le Show Channel 4, Fri 23 Apr, 10.30pm.

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Le Show: hard to bare Love him or loathe him and let’s face it, no middle ground has yet been invented for this bloke AntOine de Caunes is a man who doesn’t agree with being away from our screens for too long, Having pidgined his way onto British tellies in the late 80s with Rap/do, he made the all too natural shift to Channel 4, where his d€S|T€ to show the seedier side of life was perfectly accommodated with Eurotrash.

His double act with Jean-Paul Gaultier wasn’t to everyone’s tastes with their weekly stream of double-entendres, semi-erections, big boobies and naked East Germans. Now, and somewhat ineVitably, he is fronting his own chat cum sketch show, entitled Le Show.

Your French host is aided by the cream of French and British comedy (the latter’s contributions coming from Stephen Fry and Paul Kaye). Expect a barrage of double-entendres. semi-erections, big boobies and etcetera. (Brian Donaldson) REVIEW Families At War BBCI, Sat lOApr k***

It's a long way from the cover of the NME ('the funniest men in Britain this week’ as Reeves and Mortimer were sold to students and pseuds a decade ago) to Saturday tea-time on the Beeb. Its a slot most showbiz hustlers w0uld kill your granny for. Noel Edmonds, Jim Davidson, Bruce Forsyth quite what they make of Vic and Bob's big adven- ture in the mainstream, one can only guess.

Mercifully, Families At War is closer in spirit to The Generation Game than anything chez Noel. The gags go from cheesy to the ClaSSICS (when was the last time the beiumpered Jackass made comedic reference to Voltaire?) and the set pieces are hugely silly, Culminating With Vic playing a smash 'n’ grab spider.

Plus you get to see Leo Sayer fall over tWicel Now that's what I call light enter- tainment. The Houseparty is over and TV dinners may never taste the same again (Rodger Evans)

Families At War: Voltaire cabaret