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Copper futures up in flames

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Yet another Sun Hill B-B-Q

Fallen Angel
Remember when The Bill was one of the best cop shows on telly? The private lives of the Sun Hill mob were rarely if ever touched upon, all the action came from the actual policing and you could easily spot the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Oh how I miss those plodding feet at the end. It's all gone horribly wrong these days and they seem unable to get through an episode now without revealing yet another nefarious activity carried out by, not a guesting villain, but a member of the force. It's barmy.

The latest exploding police station storyline brings the total of cops and support staff killed to 26. As we are only in the first quarter of the year this could prove to be as deadly a year as 2002 when no less than ten of Sun Hill's finest bit the dust.

A sad casualty of the latest conflagration is Russell Floyd, who had managed to fill the hole left by Tosh Lines. Always an interesting character, he added much needed colour to the dullards of CID and it's a shame to see him off. As he has now been in both EastEnders and The Bill, you have to wonder where he'll pitch up next. My bet is he'll pop up in Holby before too long as an overweight heart surgeon who doesn’t practice what he preaches.

The daft undercover journalist storyline thankfully also went west. Perpetrator of the terrible deed is none other than Mark Fowler, arisen from the grave. The Gabriel/David character, clearly deranged and psychotic, has surely run his course. Unlike Des Taviner, who was merely a bad lad caught up by events, this malevolent panto villain is a bit of a joke, although handy I suppose for getting rid of cast members at the end of their contracts. This is symbolic of just how ridiculous the show has become, although since the success of Corrie’s Richard Hillman, it seems every soap needs its own serial killer.

Carver plods off

Cop off or hop off?
If the drama of the explosion seemed like desperate ratings grabbing, The Bill quickly returned to its former strengths an hour later with the swansong of Jim Carver. Carver was the focal point of the original Bill pilot Woodentop where he was puppy walked by no other than June Ackland and we’ve witnessed twenty odd years of his ups and downs from his initial portrayal of a green P.C. through the CID years, the alcoholism and becoming a battered husband to his union with and subsequent betrayal of Sergeant June.

The heart of, tellingly, a half hour episode, was a two-hander between these, the longest standing of the show's characters and it showed that strong dialogue, performed as well as this, can be far more engaging and powerful than the explosive action sequences of earlier. Jim was given a real send off in an episode that ranks with the best in the history of the show. Perhaps the half hour format could make a comeback.

ITV has given a long contract to The Bill but in no way should it rest on its laurels. Brookside should have shown producers how restless viewers can get if you rely on big explosions and stunts over characterisation and effective storytelling. Put the money in to the scripts, not the pyrotechnics and the show can be great again.

Heart rending stuff but…

Angela Cannings has obviously been through an ordeal you wouldn't wish on anyone. I can’t and don't want to imagine the pain she and her husband must have gone through in not only losing their children but being convicted of being the cause of it.

While Cherished was an important piece, featuring the talents of Sarah Lancashire and Tim Spall, it was so one sided that it could well have written by someone wearing an eye patch. All the people involved in sending Angela down, the lawyers, the so called expert witness, even the jury were portrayed in an unsympathetic light. While I don't know the ins and outs of the reality of the situation, you have to assume that at least some of those concerned made their decisions because the thought they were doing the right thing. This drama didn't appear to make that assumption.

I'm all for telling tales such as these but at bit of balance would have been desirable.

Not the good life
Briers is impressive
The issue of the burden of elderly parents is an emotive and even more sensitive is the subject of elderly abuse. What was so good about Lucy Gannon’s Dad was that it addressed the issue in an unpreachy way, with believable characters put into a difficult situation.

Excellent playing by Richard Briers and Kevin Whately made this a tale that truly touched the heart and, as the best drama should, posed more questions than it answered. As the relationship between father and son broke down, the plaudits should really go to Jean Heywood and Sinead Cusack who offered excellent support.

This was a prime example that not all Comic Relief’s work is overseas and was a very important piece. Well done to all concerned.

Oliver’s Barmy

I really really enjoyed watching pumped-up wonderkid of the kitchen, Jamie Oliver, getting his comeuppance as dinnerlady Nora put him in his place when he totally failed to make an impact in Jamie’s School Dinners

Battleaxe Nora was unfazed by the scruffy chef’s celebrity and quickly introduced him to the reality of feeding a battalion of chip-loving ankle biters. Even after Jamie had dispatched Nora to his restaurant to get a day’s peace, he was hauled up in front of the headmistress for going way over budget.

Could you feed hundreds of kids for 37p a head?

While it was fun to see the star being brought down a peg or two, what also came across was how dedicated Nora was to getting the kids fed. She’s a star.

Street Life

Where is the love?
ITV's publicity department have done their best to ensure that those people who didn't know what Katy Harris is going to do to her dad, definitely do now. It’s only February but the body count in our soaps in 2005 is becoming alarming. Few people will miss the horrible Harris's though, an example of how difficult it can be to add a new family to an established soap. The Martin/Katy storyline had never been believable, possibly down to the impassionate playing by the actors concerned. Nurse Platt always looks more excited by the prospect of a game of arrows with Tyrone than a night of passion with his teenage lover.

Elsewhere, the book club storyline doesn't exactly fill me with joy but does have the advantage of giving some fine comedic material to the underused talents of Eileen Derbyshire. As Emily Bishop she has shown a major flare for these scenes in the past. Let's have more of that and less shouting from the ludicrous Candice and Miserable Maria.

Laugh? Not lately, no

A trip to the theatre last weekend to see Harry Hill has left me pining for the return of TV Burp. When Harry's not on the goggle box, we don't seem to have any one else doing the cutting edge topical stuff. 2DTV? They were too obsessed with I'm a Celeb and Tony Blair in the last series. We need more satire. It doesn’t have be too clever (take note Bremner, Bird and Fortune), just funny will do. Talking of funny, According to Bex really should be put out of its misery. Totally dire, though no doubt it'll pop up on UKTV Gold in a few months time.

The state of British comedy was summed to me this week by the fact that I was having a watercooler conversation about a sitcom this week. Not about a brand spanking new cutting edge sitcom, oh no, but yet another UKTV Gold rerun of Fawlty Towers. It may have been well-crafted but it's thirty years old now. Surely it's time its success was emulated. Its co-creator, John Cleese, was centre stage as a new series of Comedy Connections began. Sometimes this can be a fascinating glimpse into how great shows were created but the problem with Monty Python is that it has been so well documented already that there was nothing new to say. There have probably been as many documentaries about the Pythons now as they made episodes. Hopefully other shows will be more illuminating, though it's always worth the chance to see the Spanish Inquisition again.

and finally

So Eamonn has finally cashed in his chips at GMTV. It's about time too. Eamonn's easy-going style has become decidedly more crotchety in recent years and I feel he is far better suited to radio where this style works well (his Saturday show on Five Live is well worth catching). As for Eamonn's replacement, it looks like they’ll go for regular stand-in Andrew Castle who seems to handle the blandness of much of GMTV's output with consummate ease.

I’d go for McCririck; he’s your man. He may not be the most balanced presenter in the world but at least he’d wake you up. How many times have you been late for work because Fiona Phillips' banality has sent you back off to sleep?

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