Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Why aging Playboy Ray was a step too far

COMPULSION (ITV1, Mon) was based on Jacobean tragedy The Changeling – one of our A-level set texts in days of yore – which is riddled with the gory and the unbelievable. There’s a virginity test. A bedroom-based woman-swap. And a last-act blood bath.
However, none of them come close to topping the most flabbergastingly inconceivable conceit of Compulsion – namely that the beauteous young Parminder Nagra would fancy Ray Winstone. At least when Ray was Henry VIII, he was, he was, there was a title and a bit of status up for grabs to attract the requisite six wives. Here, there was just belly.
Belly and creepiness, anyway. Ray played Flowers (an updated version of the Jacobean disfigured manservant De Flores) who is obsessed with spoiled little princess Anjika (Nagra). When she gets into bovver over an arranged marriage, Flowers helps her out by bumping off the suitor in exchange for her spending the night with him. Yeuch.
It all got decidedly more yeuch when Princess Anjika decided she’d rather enjoyed her night with Ray and wanted rather more of it. Portly middle-aged men with a stack of top-shelf mags by their beds may have warmed to the blue movie dialogue but, for the rest of us, it pinballed from the risible to the offensive.
It’s not such a terrible idea to update classic works for a modern audience, provided there are feasible modern parallels. But, the fantastical murders and social misogyny in Jacobean tragedies require a very thoughtful approach if they are to fast-forward successfully through the centuries. This was so lacking in that kind of care that when we saw it was directed by Sarah Harding, we seriously wondered if it was her from Girls Aloud. On second thoughts, she’d have made a much better fist of it.

GEORGE GENTLY (Sun, BBC1) is the kind of name that fits into Sunday nights like toes into Totes Toasties. He might as well be called Harvey Horlicks, Nigel Nightcap or any other name that could just as easily belong to a Classic FM presenter.
George is, of course, a detective (what else?) He’s set in the ‘60s. He’s played by a TV treasure (Martin Shaw).
And he has a bumbling sidekick. So far, so Sunday night cliche.
Where George Gently tries to veer away from Heartbeat territory is in its plotting, which is relentlessly dark. This week, George happened upon a child abuse ring, with Jill Halfpenny in a beehive reflecting on her traumatic past in a children’s home.
Sadly it was all cack-handedly scripted, with ‘60s life viewed through a determinedly patronising 21st century lens ("Have you ever heard of the word paedophile?" a character asked at one point.)
The dialogue stuck rigidly to the Agatha Christie format ("More tea vicar?" "How can I help you, inspector?") which the plot’s aspirations of grittiness seem trite.
And despite the array of bad Geordie accents before us, it was clearly filmed in Ireland.
ITV’s Foyle’s War makes a much better job of investing in a period. As for Martin Shaw – Judge John Deed was a far better character. And not a name you’d find on Classic FM.

They said it
It’s bad enough Kirk getting Roy’s History Today. We don’t want Roy with Kirk’s Nuts on his doorstep, do we?
Norris goes all Carry On Kabin on Corrie.

– What did you say about Vietnam?
– I dreamed I were there, fighting for the King Kong
Another Corrie classic shared between Eileen and dim son Jason.

I judge everything on whether it’s worth the calories. This is not – Pru Leith shares her top tips on how to stay shapely as a Great British Menu judge.