BBCZ, starts Mon 14 Feb, 9.30pm.
As the monster that is the docu- soap machine continues to spawn at an alarming rate, its offspring threaten the very existence of quality television. It comes as something of a relief when a substantial drama serial fights its way onto frustrated viewers’ screens, offering us a rare glimpse into a kinder world in which vacuity and banality aren’t rated as indispensable entertainment.
Nature Boy is the latest work from Scots screenwriter Bryan Elsley, much lauded for his memorable TV adaptation of lain Banks's The Crow Road. This four-part serial follows the adventures of David (Lee Ingleby), a seventeen-year-old foster boy, as he embarks on a mission to find the father he never knew, leaving behind his beloved local nature reserve as well as the miseries of life in a dreary North West of England town.
David’s affinity with the natural world not only helps his survival as he journeys through England, but also leads him to affect the lives of characters on both sides of the ecological divide. Most notable among these are committed eco-warrior Jenny (Joanne Frogatt) and the troubled family of a Labour politician whom David encounters in the industrial North East.
While the essential plot of Nature Boy could be viewed as just another version of an oft-updated fable, Elsley uses this formula to dramatise controversial and highly topical subjects. The ambiguity of environmental issues is addressed through the relationships between the characters and is a theme particularly close to the writer.
'The inspiration for the series came from my experience of living near Sellafield,’ he explains. 'Living by a nuclear power station is an emotive subject for local people. On the one hand, the station has the power to damage their environment with pollution, but
it also supplies the community with jobs. There's real dramatic potential in such a contradictory situation.’
Beautifully shot and paced, Nature Boy is at once gentle and touching, but also contains some genuinely frightening scenes, including depictions of domestic violence and school bullying. It's almost impossible to contemplate that this rich piece could originate from the same source as the dismal Young Person’s Guide To Becoming A Rock Star.
'It was a bit fluffy,’ he admits. 'Actually, it’s been a fluffy couple of years in TV drama, but I'm confident there's still a market for intelligent fare.’ With screenwriting contributions to the new film of Banks's Complicity and an ongoing collaboration with Ewan McGregor's Natural Nylon company, it seems that Young Person’s Guide is an uncharacteristic blip on Elsley’s otherwise upwardly spiralling career trajectory.
Bleak and unrelenting, his direction and performance in the title role of the 1979 movre can now be wrtnessed by a wrder audience, thanks to those brave people at FilmFour. This UK television premiere wrll no doubt have the moral minority up in arms at the bloody gore and hard-nosed cheek of one of the most notorious films of the era. Once Viewed th0ugh, you may well wonder what all the fuss was about in the first place.
Ferrara plays Reno, a struggling New York artist at pains With his desperate lot and the festering world around him. So much so that he takes his frustrations out on the crty’s male homeless — not by refusrng their pleas
PREVIEW The Driller Killer FilmFour, Fri 18 Feb, midnight.
Who is Abel Ferrara? Is he a master analyst of alienation, gurlt, sin and redemption? Or a semi-cult exploiter of the worst elements of the human
Slain and Abel: The Driller Killer
condition? Whatever he is, you tend not to forget his movres once yOu have seen them. Seeing them in the first place has often proved difficult and With The Driller Killer, he made his name as a forerunner of ’video nasty' horror.
for a spare cigarette or five bucks — but by taking a drill to their skull, legs or spine and destroying both spirit and flesh. Quite why this should be is never made clear, lending the film a darker edge than it w0u|d were it all to be neatly explained away. A spot of DIY was never qurte this thrilling. (Brian Donaldson)
We put TV celebs on the couch. This issue: John Thomson
Big break As one of The last \nor'. team, Thomson has grated our st reen as Roy, the henpetked husband of Renee, the non-football lovinr; Arsenal supporter, and Californian Otter? Uirivers‘ity-es‘que strentist Professor Denzel Dexter
Finest hour Arguably, as Pete in ( o/il Feet, the only lTV (()lllt‘(l\ \soth the name, the disastrous ‘.’entii|oqi.rst of Cheeky Monkey on Know/no l‘tit‘, Knowrng You, or' as the smooth Jax.’ Club dude Louis 'Niii< e' Balfour
But that's all old news, isn't it? let s not be too hasty 'lhe Fast Show \er| return at some point this year for a farewell exti'avaganm of skett h show brilliance while Co/(l Feet has only recently disappeared from our ‘s( reens But fear not Those in need or the Thomson math (an see him in the third series of female footie drama, Playing The Field
What's he doing in that? lhoinson plays Eddie Ryan, who turned his hobby for children's entertainriient into a full-time concern. Havrnr; gained a publisher for his short stories, he is struggling to fit in \Vllil the london literary set, wearing a no—tollared suit and trainers to a wedding
Little known fact Has portrayed a PE teacher in the little known British film, The Girl With Brains In Her feet
Not so little known fact He also made a blink-and-you’ll-miss—it appearante in that other little known (lassit British film The English Patient
Not to be mistaken for Jan Tomazsecski (the Polish keeper who broke English hearts in 1973), John Thomson (the Celtic keeper who broke his head at the feet of Sam English in 1931); John Thomas (not a member of the footballing community).
I Playing The Field is broadtast on BBC7, Tue, 9.30pm
t at t 1: ii Unmissable i * * * * Very ood t ‘k t Wort a shot i t it Below average air You've been warned
3—17 Feb 2000 THE lIST 93