In Defence of Sex; Television

Article excerpt

Byline: JACI STEPHEN

Up Rising ITV, Sunday *** (GOOD)

In Defence ITV, Monday **** (RECOMMENDED)

A Many Splintered Thing BBC1, Tuesday ** (ADEQUATE) Hope And Glory BBC1, Tuesday ***** (EXCELLENT)

Hoaxbusters ITV, Friday ***** (EXCELLENT)

The news that Channel 4's TFI Friday is to be axed came as something of a shock; I had no idea it was still on. The dangerous, funny show that used to be compulsive viewing turned, over the years, into a matey, all-boys-together showcase for Chris Evans's friends, admirers and heroes. His obsession with the Spice Girls was embarrassing; his drooling over girlies infantile; and his increasing failure to employ sharp interview techniques when awestruck by people like Sir Paul McCartney disappointing.

Like Jimmy Tarbuck and Bruce Forsyth, who regale us with anecdotes about their golfing chums (ie each other) and call it comedy, Evans (another golfer, as he kept reminding us) lost sight of his audience. It's a shame; he's an enormous talent, but if there's one thing that money and showbusiness success do, it's buy stars into the very establishment and company of establishment figures they once despised. It's hard to see clearly when you have stars in your eyes.

The Broadcasting Standards Commission's annual report, published last week, criticised an episode of TFI Friday in which a seven-year-old boy was nearly reduced to tears after losing a staring competition. It also said television bosses should recognise viewers' dislike of bad language, sex and violence before the 9pm watershed.

This week, they would have been hard pushed to find any. Take Up Rising. It opened with sun, birds, countryside, and someone on a bicycle: Midsomer Murders meets Where The Heart Is. There were scenes in a garden and a pub: Ballykissangel meets Heartbeat. There was also a collection of quirky locals, some barking and others very earnest: ITV post-8pm Sunday night meets BBC1 post-8pm Sunday night.

No bad language, no sex, no violence.

The only vaguely smutty moment was when Ronald (Anton Rodgers) told Terry (Kevin McNally) that he had been to see Harriet (Georgia MacKenzie) and 'her briefs were all over the table'. Terry was shocked, and then clicked. 'Oh, she's a barrister!' How we bellowed at that one.

Then a pig went missing and some llamas ran riot at a fete, pulling down the marquee. As if this excitement were not enough, Harriet was having trouble with her Aga (though why she had it on at the height of summer is a mystery).

I'd have killed for some sex, violence or bad language, if only to keep me awake.

The problem with Up Rising is that it doesn't know what it is. Billed as a comedy, yet having the ingredients of a Sunday night rural pre-watershed drama, it's not funny enough to be one and not deep enough to be the other.

In episode two, it reverts to a half-hour formula, which may help to establish its identity.

There wasn't any sex, violence or bad language in In Defence, either, which must be the longest a Ross Kemp character has ever been on screen without hitting anyone. Here, he stars as defence solicitor Sam Lucas, struggling with his moral conscience in a dodgy judicial system.

Much criticism has been heaped upon Kemp in this role, most of it personal and of the 'he doesn't look like a barrister' variety. …