National Treasure, Channel 4, 9pm.

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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.

 

Broadmoor

 

https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/broadmoor/series-1/episode-1

Broadmoor is a bleak sounding name. Its  150-years old, an  asylum, sixty miles from London that is expanding out to meet it. It used provide a daytrip for gentile Londoners to go and gawk at Broadmoor’s inmates. Now the cameras have been invited inside. I’m not really sure why.

Broadmoor we are told holds 200 ‘patients’ at a cost of £300 000 per year, per patient, an annual cost to the NHS of £60 million pounds a year (or one Millenium Dome). Note the word patient. In the world of the sad, the bad and the mad these are classified as the the last of these. So it’s home to Peter Sutcliffe and the Krays and somebody else whose name I can’t remember, but I’m sure must have killed a number of folk. The other residents that were shown seemed far more sad than bad. A young boy in particular, with a working diagnosis of Asperger’s had, we were told, tried to murder his family. His artwork was stunning.

Then we had middle-aged Lennie, who seemed a bit hyper. He had threatened to cut a psychiatrist’s head off with a machete. Some people might think that wouldn’t be a bad thing. But it got him moved pretty quickly from one mental health unit to Broadmoor.

So far, so blah, blah. Security was Broadmoor’s main concern. We were told that behaviour was controlled. Residents who modified their behaviour and were able to interact with their peers were given greater freedom. Drama came with giving a patient in his room (not his cell, although the door was locked 23 hours a day) a glass of milk. A tag-team of six staff hung about as the door was opened and a glass of milk pushed in. Safety first.

What interested me was that most of the staff were heavy and coloured. That’s the nature of the job. Lots of sitting about and a tendency towards obesity in patients, but also in staff. The coloured bit interested me more because in the mid-seventies when Jimmy Savile gave Rolf Harris a guided tour of Broadmoor most of the staff would have been white and lived in subsidized housing close to the hospital. Jimmy Savile had his own set of keys (so much for security) and was said to have blackmailed staff over the amount in overtime payments they claimed for.

Staff after each ‘incident’ had ‘time out’ to discuss it before going back to work.

Compare Broadmoor with Russia’s Toughest Prison where they keep ‘the Condemned’.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04m3k1q

They employ the same system of rewards and punishments for prisoners. These are societies sick. Prisoners who were until recently executed — a change that the warden and some prisoners lament as a change for the worse.

Care was basic. Live or die.

I’m pretty sure you could move patients from Broadmoor to Russia’s toughest prison with annual savings of £55 million pound a year, £550 million in ten years, multiply that by 1000 in property and land sales and we’d almost have enough to buy a Trident missile to save us from the Russians. Needs thinking about in these cost-conscious times.

http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole


broadmoor