REVIEW All The King's Men BBCI, Sun 14 Nov Mr


Nursery crime: All The King's Men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again. Couldn’t, indeed, put anything together again ever, because they had all vanished into a yellow fog. The E company of the 5th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment were friends and servants of the King and Queen, led by the manager of their Sandringham estate, Frank Beck. Stationed in Gallipoli, they met their murky fate on the 12th of August 1915 on their way across the Suvla Plain.

Legend has it that as they approached a wall of enemy fire, a cloud descended and swept them all away to safety. Hysterical friends, families and fellow soldiers latched on to this story and saved the British

military from ever prowding an adequate explanation. dramatisation, written by Alma Cullen and directed by Julian Jarrold, pulled in a heavyweight cast and took a brave stab at Saving Private Ryan-style battlefield horror.

It argued with a positive overload of due respect that the military allowed a fairytale to gain credence because they couldn’t bring themselves to admit that a whole battalion had been finished off by Turkish assassins. The travails of Captain Beck (David Jason, so noble and patriotic as to be made of wood) and his youthful band of men in the desert were contrasted with agonies of those at home primarily Maggie Smith’s maternal Queen Alexandra.

Presumably to maXimise the contrast between Little England life and the chaos of desert warfare, the programme seemed to adopt a policy of deliberate mundanity in its first half. Sentimental king-and-country hyperbole, afternoon tea and young love shuffled to the fore, but their treatment was numbingly unimaginative. The battlefield scenes were better, providing a gory counterpoint to the tweeness of the opening; but the subplot, concerning a grieving wife's sudden descent into self-degradation, was underdeveloped and gratuitous.

An admirable attempt to challenge both military cover-ups and sentimental myth-making that sadly ran a bit low on style and resorted too often to cliche. (Annabel Slater)

PREVIEW Wives And Daughters BBCI, starts Sun 28 Nov, 9pm.

‘E 3

Keeping mum: Wives And Daughters

While Alan Bleasdale makes his teleVisual debut in the period drama field With Oliver Twist, seasoned hand Andrew Davres is back With, what they like to call, a major new drama serial. Wives And Daughters differs from prevrous DaVies adaptations in at least one respect; whereas Pride And Prejudice, Mi'dd/emarch and Vanity Fair are acknowledged classics in the literary canon, Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel doesn’t occupy the same place in the public’s period psyche.

’Wives And Daughters is a neglected masterpiece,’ states Davies. 'More than almost any book I know, it tells us what it feels like to be alive.’ It was The Gaskell Society who advised him to get

his adapting gloves onto their author’s '

final work. ’It’s about the things that make life happy in very ordinary families,’ he recalls. ’It uses the same materials as the soaps, but it manages to be unputdownable without resorting to grand melodrama.’

Molly Gibson (Justine Waddell) has her life turned upside down when her father (Bill Paterson) deCides to re- marry. It’s not just a new mum in the shape of Francesca Annis she has to get used to but a step-sister, Cynthia (Keeley Hawes). Luckily, the two become instant pals and then, less fortunately, potential rivals in love. All the while, Cynthia is carrying a horrible secret, drawing Molly inexorably into

on rites-of-passage and the strains on true friendship, the series paints a vrwd picture of a small community and its scandal, gossip and loyalty.

Were Gaskell alive today, chances are she would be tuning in to this production rather than Bleasdale’s Oliver Twist. ’Gaskell loathed Dickens’s exaggerated creatures,’ insists Wives And Daughters director Nick Renton. ’Here was a woman writing more simply and perceptiver about the way people live. It's not surprising that this book is given to training psychotherapists to help them under- stand family dynamics.’

(Brian Donaldson)

This ,


small potatoes Channel 4, Tue 16 Nov *t *

The future of the national Sitcom is yet to be safe in anyone’s hands. On the back of the very likeable but hardly revolutionary Spaced, the Goodness Gracious Me writing team have given Channel 4 another unworthy heir to their king of comedy, Father Ted.

In episode two, the whole cast experienced love problems With Ed (Tommy Tiernan) finding himself out of his league; Rick (Sanieev Bhaskar) encountering a female With a more aggressive libido than himself, and Bennett (Morgan Jones) and Juliet (Emma Rydal) splitting up Without being sure whether they were even an item

The saddest thing of all is that small potatoes is infused With the all too disappointing reek of talents being mildly wasted. Experienced stage and screei‘ actors have found themselves mouthing lines which range from the clever to the clumsy and all the way down to the clinically unfunny. (Brian Donaldson)

The chips are down: small potatoes

delivering a dead leg.

REVIEW Chewin' The Fat BBCI,Thu 11 Nov ***

Grabbing Scottish comedy by the ba’s is, I’m sure, how these two not very young scamps would like to see themselves. And true to their word, this hits the spot occasionally, but too many times they end up merely

Returning for a second blubbery series, Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill put the ’och’ in parochial, cracking dozens of jokes that only people born inside the Glasgow city boundary will ever understand. Their spoof trailer for a BBC drama about Glasgow hard men was fantastic, but others have the same irritating Scottishness that was tired when Francie and Josre were pre-pubescents.

Some sketches come on like a celtic Fast Show and the highlights (a duck's football commentary) now outweigh

Below the belt: Chewin' The Fat

' the lowlights (grumpy old men such innovation). Humour about Scotland and

based on recognisable Scottish characters should be encouraged, but relying on too many old stereotypes alone should not. (Mark Robertson)

. instalment, For God And Country, 1 charted the waxing and waning of the her dangerous past. As well as a story

- the post-war influx of immigrants

I faith. Another told how he was

REVIEW Tempting Faith Channel 4, Sat 13 Nov *1:

The makers of this documentary series set themselves the Herculean task of creating an overview of religion in Britain over the last 60 years. The first

British public’s faith during World War II. It also covered the experiences of

who, along with their dreams of a new life, brought different gods and methods of worship to their mother- land.

It was, in parts, genuinely moving. One man described how the horrors he witnessed while tending the inmates of Belsen did not diminish his

Gods and monsters: Tempting Faith

snubbed during his first visit to an Anglican church because he was

black. However, at its worst it could be charged With being Woolly, dull and not ; exhibiting enough depth or insight to hold the attention. Maybe it'll get more f interesting when they get round to cults. (Dawn Kofie)

18 Nov-2 Dec 1999 THE lIST 121