Clocking Off BBC l, starts Sun 23 Jan, 9pm.

’It’s six stories that I’ve been dying to write and, selfishly, I've created a series out of them, just because I could, really.’ Paul Abbott, BAFTA award-winning writer of ITV's Touching Evil and Cracker, has earned his telly stripes and is now in a position where he can, to a certain extent, call the shots.

The executives at the BBC were willing to give him this licence and he has responded with his first drama series for the channel. The result, Clocking Off, is somewhat of a rarity in conventional TV drama; an anthology of stories unified under a single umbrella.

While he admits that ‘anthology is a very difficult word in television if you say it nobody wants to watch it', Abbott has overcome the fractured effect by choosing to set all his stories in a Manchester textiles factory, with each episode focusing on one employee's personal relationships. ’The binding element is just working life,’ says Abbott. 'We've all got jobs, we all work with a number of people. It could have been set anywhere. It's just an arena for stories. The factory is the sanctuary for the workers, away from their dramatic personal lives.’

Dramatic indeed, the six private stories reveal loveless marriages, disappearing husbands, bungled arson attempts, infidelity and gang harassment. 'It's not an issue-based piece, though, it's about relationships,’ Abbott explains. ’My drive is blue-collar drama and I’m happier with stories about ordinary people. I think they make for more interesting television.’

Although Abbott was writing about working-class lives when it came to production, he was clear that he didn’t want the scenes to look grim or depressing.

A grave matter: Great Undertakings


I On the textiles: Clocking Off

’These stories are about very ordinary people and we had to spend money on scale in order to make the people at the forefront of the story dignified.’

Not only has Clocking Off achieved a unified and dramatic look but, more importantly, it has gathered together an impressive cast. Abbott had written the series with particular actors in mind but admitted that 'you've got to see what comes through the door when you audition.’

Whether by luck or intention, the strong cast includes Sarah Lancashire, Christopher Eccleston, John Simm and Lesley Sharp. Abbott is delighted that the drama has attracted such a powerful ensemble: ‘I think the lack of vanity they have shown in just appearing in one episode, like Christopher Eccleston in episode two, is fantastic. That spells out my ambition for the piece. (Catherine Bromley)

series of Channel 4 productions With titles intended to intrigue and amuse (last year‘s Road Raj, the current Why Buildings Fall Down and the upcoming Great Military Blunders are a sample). Yet, perhaps understandably, part one showed little Sign of the black comedy which goes hand in hand With the busmess of death.

Rather than putting the fun in funeral, the serieS’ main aim is to take the fear out of death. Mr Freestone has laid 8000 corpses to rest in his 30 years as funeral director and is the last word in gruffly soothing reaSSurance. Embalmer Roy Fortes, meanwhile, has grown to detach himself from his subjects and accept death's ineVItability.

Great Undertakings shows that no matter how diverse a background we have, in the end, we all need Our own lvlr Freestone. The forthcoming cases include the burial of ashes in a football

Great Undertakings Channel 4, starts Thu 3 Feb, 7.30pm. FOr those who have never seen a dead body in the flesh, the opening segment of Great Undertakings may be something of an eye-opener.

92 THE lIST 20 lap—3 Feb 2000

Alternatively, it' you have had the experience of seeing a loved one in their death-robes, the Sight of Phyllis Grant being watched over by her son Billy Will have the memories flooding back

Great Undertakings is another in a

ground and the death of a hermit who is soon to be discovered as hideously wealthy.

If the thought of death sends you into a sweaty panic, don’t let Great Undertakings pass away Without a VieWing. (Brian Donaldson)

TV times

We put TV celebs on the couch. This issue: Andal O’Hanlon

Born ln Carrickmacross, COunty Monaghan, Ireland, 34 years ago. The third of six children, O'Hanlon's father is a doctor and politiCian and his mother a teacher Initially hoping their boy w0uld follow his siblings into medicine or acc0untancy, they eventually accepted him as a man of stage and screen

Big break As the hapless priest With the mind of a Surreal child, Father Dougal in Channel 4’s Father Ted. Finest hour His wandering around Craggy Island as Dougal, a character so far detached from the real world that the Hubble space telescope would have trouble spotting him. Still, if anyone c0uld convert people back to religion it w0u|d be him and Ted (the late Dermot Morgan).

But that's all old news, isn‘t it? Well, yes, Father Ted is no more and after dabbling in a spot of straight acting as a journalist in ITV's Big Bad World, he's now donning some tasteful red lycra tights to appear as Thermoman in BBC’s My Hero.

What’s that? The Beeb's newest Sitcom stars O’Hanlon as George Sunday, health food shop owner by day, Superhero by night. No, SETIOUSIy, O'Hanlon is Thermoman from Ultron, a man in love With a girl from Northholt His task, more often than not, is to save the world from certain doom, whether it’s erupting volcanoes or abandoned space Stations hurtling towards Gflmey.

Little known fact O’Hanlon counts the Pope and JFK among his heroes.

Not so little known fact He is also an accomplished stand-up comedian as well as a critically acclaimed author With his debut novel, The Talk Of The Town.

Not to be confused with Ski Sunday, SuperTed, Alan Hansen,

(Mark Robertson)

I My Hero starts on BBC7, Fri 27 Jan, 8.30pm.


*t it t Unmissable

i ii i t Very 00d

t it * Won a shot

it 1* Below average

me You've been warned