Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Farewell Tucker, hello Tess

Oonagh Robinson reviews the last ever GRANGE HILL and the first episode of TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES

The thought of watching the final episode of Grange Hill (BBC1, Mon) brought a tiny tear to my eye this week.
The show started back in 1978 - which has a special relevance for me because that’s when I started secondary school too.
Me and Tucker Jenkins and Tricia Yates and co - we had a bond, man.
We shared the same experiences, went through the same crises at the same time.
No-one I went to school with would dream of missing an episode.
What a shame, then, that this final outing was so... awful.
It all centred on the school prom (not disco, like it would have been in my day) and a bunch of rather dislikable kids being trapped underneath the building with an unexploded bomb of some sort.
Dead realistic then.
Elsewhere, Tucker himself turned up to talk sense into his nephew, who wanted to leave the sixth form.
“This place has certainly changed,” he commented, as he arrived on his trustee motorbike.
Hmm, you could say that. It’s changed from a school in London to a school in Liverpool for one thing. Funny he didn’t notice.
In the end, even Tucker couldn’t rescue the situation.
The bomb never did blow up, but the end was inevitable for this now mediocre attempt at entertainment.
I watched it with my 11-year-old daughter who herself has just started secondary school.
She was so entranced, she went off to read a book instead.
Would never have happened if Tricia Yates had still been in it...

Does the nation really need another version of Tess of the D’Urbervilles (BBC1, Sun)?
It barely seems a minute since the ITV1 drama department did their lavish production (although, I can’t remember who was in it or what it was like to be honest).
Then there’s the iconic Roman Polanksi film version from 1979, with gorgeous Nastassia Kinski. If you did Tess at A-Level like me, you probably had to watch her and her famously huge lips speaking all the lines in a weird foreign accent too.
This, however, is the first time the BBC has had a crack at the Thomas Hardy classic.
And we all know that when it comes to costume dramas of any description, Beeb is Best.
Gemma Arterton in the title role certainly looked perfect as the resilient country girl who is sent away by her parents to claim kinship with a wealthy (and weird) family.
But the thing about this production is that it’s being shown over FOUR PARTS.
And yes, you’re right. That’s about two more than is strictly necessary for such comparatively flimsy material.
Not that it isn’t lovely to look at - with all the right elements for a wonderful Sunday evening in.
Fair maidens dancing on a hillside in crisp white frocks, lots of ooh-ar, ooh-ar, ooh-ar accents. And gosh, but Tess’ rustic room at her new posh relatives’ pad was fabulous. Bit of whitewash and a quick sweep of the floor and it looked heavenly.
But it was all rather slow.
And maybe that’s because I was waiting to see how they would handle the infamous “pivotal” moment in Tess’ life.
Would the dastardly Alec (played by a not particularly dastardly Hans Matheson) be shown “raping” or “seducing” the innocent young girl?
Interpretations have varied over the years, after all.
In the end, the Beeb seemed to go for “rape.”
But they way they did it, in blurred slow motion with only the sound of Tess’ muffled protests was just, well... naff.
Either show what happened properly. We can take it, we’re grown-ups. Or do a cut-away to another scene - and leave the whole thing mysterious and ambiguous.
But don’t fanny about with blurred slow-mo “did he/didn’t he” nonsense.
Makes you look silly.