A Very Modern Murder

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER PATERSON

Murder In Mind: Regrets (BBC1); The Edwardian Country House (C4) ONCE you'd got your head around the idea of Dennis Waterman as an honest and sorely put-upon small businessman, last night's Murder In Mind turned into an entertaining satire on those aspects of modern life that drive us all mad.

There's the irritating insincerity practised by big companies, where your phone call is 'valued' but you're still stuck, plagued by music you dislike, in an endless queue until finally - if you wait long enough - you have to choose between a string of not-quitewhat-you-want options.

Or dealing with a junior clerk, weighed down with some such title as 'assistant customer representative' but bereft of all responsibility, whose voice rises at the end of a sentence as though everything he says is a question.

It was clever of writer Simon Sharkey to pitch his drama somewhere between a Hollywood film noir - the story is told in flashback from a prison visiting hall as though Waterman were Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity and a Marxist daydream where revenge is exacted on the greedy, capitalist, exploiting class.

The piece opened with a spectacular crash, a driver smashing into lots of other vehicles before landing on top of a police car. But teasingly, we never learned of the significance of this spectacular stunt scene until the very end.

What is bugging Waterman's Ken Grendle is the way his small business was forced to close down when his bank cancelled his overdraft.

It might not have happened if a transfer of [pound]40,000 owed to him by another firm hadn't been lost in transmission between one bank and another.

'It's been converted into electrical impulses and scattered round the universe,' he despairingly tells his pal - and former head salesman Dave Bowring (a resurgent Tony Haygarth, recently released from the saccharine Where The Heart Is).

Grendle's troubles began while he was in hospital, his secretary Christine (Samantha Beckinsale) not wishing to bother him over a threatening letter from the National Allied Bank (NAB) warning that his overdraft was over its limit.

She, poor girl, despite days of hanging on the phone, was unable to find a real person anywhere in the bank to whom she could explain that money was on the way.

Indeed, as she told Grendle, the bank signed letters in false names just to avoid the possibility that any individual in its employment could be held personally responsible for anything. Can this be true? GRENDLEtried his local branch of the NAB, where he encountered the rocklike manager Ms Rosser (Caroline Lee Johnson), who sneered at the [pound]3,000-odd he was paying in. She gave him a week to get his overdraft within its agreed limit - 'then we'll reduce it to what we consider a manageable level'. …