National Treasure, Channel 4, 9pm.

national treasure.jpg

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/national-treasure/on-demand/61953-001

‘They think I’m fucking Jimmy Saville,’ says Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane) when he’s arrested for rape.

A writer could have a lot of fun with this four-part series, as I’m sure Jack Thorne does. The litmus test for National Treasure is whether the named and shamed celebrity such as Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris or indeed our very own Cliff (although the tabloids are playing coy on that one) was allowed to hob-nob with the Royals and had Prince Charles, or poor old Diana, on speed-dial or Messenger. Oscar Wilde, who knows a thing or two about how fickle celebrity was, tended to rattle on about: ‘All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.’

Thorne sets up the before and after of the celebrity death spiral. I was a bit confused at first. Viewers see Finchley hobbling with a walking stick behind a glamourous lady host in evening dress, in what to me looked like cells in a prison, and because I knew the nub of the story, I thought this was him getting jailed, with possibly some kind of hallucinatory episode. But it was more prosaic and simply the backstage setting of a London theatre. Finchley was shown hyperventilating before he went onstage to present a lifetime achievement award to his comedy partner and he deadpans, in all seriousness, that it wasn’t him getting the award and that wasn’t fair. Nobody loves him, but of course they do, they just love his partner more, but he’s still in the business, with a daytime quiz show and his agent is still trying to cut deals with the big hitters. This is the before.

Before anything happens normality is a big house in London, but not too big, he still bumps into his neighbour taking his bin out. The grandkids are bickering and his wife, Marie (Julie Walters) is keeping an eye on them. Later, we learn he’s been cheating on her for years, and she’s shown to be a religious maniac because she says the Hail Mary and prays. Finchley when he stays the night with a prostitute laments Marie’s loss of beauty and gives us a Wildean epigram about women being beautiful in a way that men never are. Quite so old boy, quite so, hide all the mirrors.

Now we are in the after territory, all that’s gone before changes shape. In particular, when Finchley visits his beautiful but troubled daughter, Dee (Andrea Riseborough) she rambles on about a dream, or vision, she had about her Dad and her husband, which makes you think that the trouble with the daughter, may be dad. Incest. Finchley seems keen to establish that she’s got the money he sent her for her keep . But this may be the red herring.

Bang, bang, bang it goes and ends with a bang, with police trawling for other cases and finding them. One of them being the baby sitter, which pisses off even the saintly, or dim, Marie, depending on what point of view you take to her wifely duties. Finchley said he didn’t do it. Does anybody believe him? The real scoop would be if he does, indeed, prove to be innocent. Somehow, I doubt it, there’s more chance of getting ten minutes of drama without a break for adverts.

 

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Don’t Take My Baby BBC 3 9pm. Directed by Ben Anthony

don't take my baby

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b063f57q/dont-take-my-baby

This drama comes with lots of baggage. Around 3000 children are removed from disabled people every year. Writer Jack Thorne has distilled their voice and created composite characters that let them speak. Tom (played by Adam Long) is partially sighted. He is full- time carer and lover of Anna (Ruth Madley). She has a muscle wasting disease and every two years is told by specialist that she is going to die. She’s stopped listening. Wheel-chair bound, nothing works below the waist. Tom is lying in bed with her and jokes about anal sex. Anna gets pregnant. It’s the best or worse thing that has ever happened. The baby could kill Anna.

Cue dilemma. Are the loving couple with multiple disabilities able to care for their daughter Danielle, who may have inherited one or more of their genetic conditions? Belinda (Wunmi Mosaku) is the social worker, the link between home and hospital and her client is Danielle, not Tom or Adam. As part of a team, she has to decide whether Danielle should be taken from Tom and Anna. It’s a dilemma faced by very few mothers and fathers. There’s an old joke a speaker at the Gallowgate used to wave a piece of paper about and say ‘this bit of paper says that I’m sane, and allowed back into civilised society.’ He’d ask his audience if they could say the same.

Tom and Belinda also need that metaphorical bit of paper saying they are fit mothers and fathers. Toms slips during a hospital stay whilst they are being assessed. He’s caught holding the baby and almost drops Danielle. It’s touch and go.

Danielle never sleeps. Tom exhausted doesn’t answer the door when Belinda tries to gain entry during a daytime home visit. Not once, twice.

The babies crying. Belinda tells Tom she needs a bath. She snipes he’s her carer and he’s getting paid for his work. It’s breaking point. Belinda falls from the couch onto the floor. Tom leaves her lying on the carpet goes to the hospital and meets Belinda coming out of one of the hospital exits.   (Ignore the fact he’s blind. Ignore the fact there are thousands of other doors and entryways Belinda could be leaving through. Ignore the fact just as she’s leaving she bumps into a blind man). Tom admits he’s not coping.

Denouement. Can they keep the baby? One social worker votes no. She tells how hard it was to admit that a disabled couple she knew weren’t coping and they had to take the baby from them. Better to do it now.

Well, as the old Beatles’ classic goes. All you need is love, love, love. Love is all you need – Danielle.

Worth the watching. Wonder why such a quality drama is squirreled away on BBC 3?