The Unforgettable Leonard Rossiter Scottish, Mon 11 Sep, 10.30pm.
The original Competitive Dad?
We’re so used to documentary-makers digging up the grimiest scandal and unsubstantiated rumour on our dead heroes, that it should come as welcome relief when a programme like this sidesteps such shoddy tactics. Except, when the result is as disappOinting as the The Unforgettable Leonard Rossiter, you yearn for some tittle-tattle.
The man who brought the 70s Sitcom to life With his devastatineg funny
portrayals of maledom in perpetual mm with Rigsby and Reggie Perrin had a few more bows to his artistic repertoire. But from this half-hour travesty, you would have thought that all he ever did outwith those creations was pour Cinzano onto Joan Collins’ chest. There is a passing glance at his substantial theatrical career (he died of a heart attack while preparing to take the stage in Loot) and no mention whatsoever of his film performances as the farting Frenchman in Le Petomane or his work with Stanley Kubrick on 2007: A Space Odyssey.
What you do get is an array of colleagues, family and friends all lining up to proclaim his ’genius’, ’brilliance’, 'magnificence’ and his genuine status as a ’one-off’. From his daughter we get the nugget that he may well have been the template for The Fast Show’s Competitive Dad character, so obsessed was he in crushing anyone he met on the squash court. We get that too from Rising Damp co-star Don Warrington, who also tells us that ’Len’ was such a perfectionist he insisted on flawless performances from all those around him. And woe betide anyone who couldn’t come up with the goods. Joan Collins also informs us of this. As does Neil Pearson, and so on and so on.
Thirty minutes is almost an insult to the memory of such a legend who achieved the unthinkable by overshadowing the leads during his cameo in Steptoe And Son. Still, as you’d expect, the clips shown from Rising Damp and The Fall And Rise are utterly and hilariously priceless.
THR LLER DRAMA A Likeness In Stone BBCI, Mon ll &Tue 12 Sep, 9.30pm.
Hedonism ends in grave-digging
Depite the casting, don’t expect many charmingly whimsical romantic misunderstandings in A Likeness In Stone. Jonathan Firth, he of Middlemarch and Far From The Madding Crowd fame, stars in an adaptation of Julia Wallis Martin’s brooding whodunnit which explores the somewhat darker side of womanising.
’The thing ab0ut romantic characters is they all tend to be quite similar, whereas playing someone who’s not romantic is more juicy,’ claims the yOunger brother of the equally dashing Colin, who admits that the thought of armies of Simpering A Likeness In Stone fans is a little disturbing. ’They might be a bit loony if they like Stephen.’
Firth’s character, Stephen Gilmore, is
in a group of unsavoury Oxford graduates sniffed and poked by obsessive bloodhound ex-cop Bill Armstrong (Liam Cunningham), as the events surrounding the murder of Gilmore’s studenthood sweetheart Helena, slowly unravel. Thanks to some haZy flashbacks of college hedonism and tantalismg glimpses of Helena- obsession, all three characters begin to seem equally perverse as grave-digging detective Armstrong abandons family and sanity in a fevered hunt for her killer.
’It was quite intense, particularly the interrogation scenes,’ Firth recalls. ’We were in that basement forever. Poor old Liam was climbing the wall by the time we finished. It was like a real interrogation, but the cop was the one who suffered most.’ Yet, Cunningham still delivers a growling performance to rival any recent offerings from The Bill’s bad cop BurnSide or the morbidly ambiguous Da/zie/ And Pascoe.
In fact, everyone in Michael Crompton’s detective drama seems pretty anti-sooal. Firth epitomises the middle class ’behind closed doors’ psycho, and Helena's misfit mate Joan (Ruth Jones) has touches of a Single White Female about her. Add Richard to the equation — the dope-smoking, porn-perusmg dweller of the Oxfordshire farmhouse where both Helena's body and a thousand-fold nude portrait of her are discovered — and you’ll be as keen as detective Armstrong to get to the bottom of this one. (Olly LaSSman)
DRAMA Blind Ambition Scottish, Thu 7 Sep, 9pm.
With the Festival over and the evenings drawing in, your kind scheduler has decided that what you need to fill those after-work hours is a two-hour Robson Green special. This particular beast may tie in nicely with the oncoming Olympics but it’s also a . diabolical example of a genre that's never been afraid to scale the heights I, a of mediocrity. v”.
Green plays Richard Thomas, a gritty " Geordie (quelle surprise) on the edge ’ of the British 800m team who loses his eyesight in a car crash. His ‘ / immediate response is to smoke Robbo on track for another lost cause dramatically in dark rooms while watching athletics on telly. Determined to make the Sydney Paralympics, Dick begins running again with the help of his friend and ex-coach Clive. His wife Annie, played by Imogen Stubbs (who must be a little perturbed at her sudden typecasting transformation from hot chick into long- suffering wife) does the sensible thing and starts a doomed affair with Clive.
Meanwhile, Robbo goes to the Paralympics, aided by some cheesy synth riff and abetted by the obligatory dastardly journalist. Hackneyed, lowest common denominator drama at its very worst, Blind Ambition’s message is that haying a disability needn’t disqualify anyone from heroism. Fair enough. Whether you want an evening of it is another thing. (James Smart)
Unreported World Channel 4, starts Fri 8 Sep, 7.30pm.
While the internet remains the best source of counter-cultural material questioning the prevailing view of world events, it is gratifying to learn that there are still investigative journalists out there with the ability to get behind the headlines. Author Marcel Theroux is one such man as he travels the globe to uncover harsh realities in Azerbaijan, Sudan, Indonesia and Brazil.
Theroux’s mission is to unleash the stories held back from us and, more importantly, to unravel those structures which maintain the conspiracy of silence. ’When corruption is so entrenched, everyone becomes compliCit in it,’ he states. ’Bribes are paid to get anything done and the systems make criminals of everyone; it becomes very difficult to get people to talk to you.’
Not that Theroux allows this brick wall to hamper him as he tries to get to the politiCians who are pocketing Oil revenue from the Caspian Sea, the pharmaceutical companies who c0uld be doing more to prevent death and disease in Africa, the IMF bureaucrats exacerbating the bloody conflicts in Asia and the South American landowners trying to kill off the peasant w0rkers they no longer need. It’s a mad, bad, dangerous world out there. Shame we never hear about it. (Brian Donaldson)
Uncovering some harsh realities
SURVIVAL CHALLENGE Castaway 2000 BBCl, starts Sun 10 Sep, 8.50pm.
Pity the poor Castaway 2000 participants. While contestants on Channel 4's Big Brother get to lie around in their pants, work on their suntans and occasionally worry about chickens before five million viewers, the deCidedly unsexy reSidents of rain- battered Taransay actually have to build the chicken coop. All in the name of establishing a mini-community, all the while realising that they probably won’t even secure a guest presenting spot on GMTV.
As in Big Brother, there are few Surprises and even the basic ’castaway’ premise is nonsense; since when could Robinson Crusoe nip over to the mainland for groceries? But there are some relatively juicy exchanges and disputes for the compulswe voyeur in this third series.
Though the age demographic is Wider than that of its Channel 4 counterpart (some partiCipants are actually over the age of 30) Castaway contains much the same selection of ’characters’ (upper class twn, flaky hippy, bearded crusty) who gamely play up their stereotypes for the camera.
The Villain of the piece is the tricky Ron Copsey, a Del-boy/lago hybrid who spends most of the series cheerfully ignoring community decisions while sustaining a nice little line in contraband booze and fags. (Allan Radcliffe)
Future GMTV guest presenters?
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