Magazine article The Spectator

Television Friends Reunited

Magazine article The Spectator

Television Friends Reunited

Article excerpt

Paula Milne's drama serial White Heat (BBC2, Thursday) starts in 1965 which to some of us might seem like yesterday, but is equidistant between the end of the first world war and now. So to most people it's ancient history. Various students in London are looking for accommodation, which is strange since Churchill died in January, around the start of their second term.

Doesn't matter. You take your historical milestones where you find them. The students are selected by their young landlord Jack, a reach-me-down leftie whose father is a wealthy Tory MP. Jack wants them to be part of a socialist commune reflecting all demographics - white, black, gay, working class, and so forth. Jack has the odious arrogance of many public school lefties. You'd think members of his ideal society would want to save time and drink the Kool-Aid now. But they stick it out.

Because it's 1965, we expect to hear The Who singing 'My Generation' at any moment, and 9 mins 05 seconds in we do.

Then at 09.57 the first VW microbus drives into shot. At 10.21 we glimpse the Black and White Minstrels on a bakelite television (in those pre-PC days I merely found them wearisome, all dreary songs and synchronised top-hat doffing); at 12.36 someone lights the first joint. Charlotte (above) masturbates in bed, but no need for that much longer - the permissive society has begun! In case we'd forgotten, there's a scene when a funhating GP grudgingly hands one of the girls a prescription for the pill, and Joan Bakewell appears on television, interviewing a feminist. Joan Bakewell! Still with us, campaigning in the House of Lords now, proof that not everyone from the Sixties was a vain, lazy, self-indulgent, self-obsessed slob.

Having somehow avoided mass suicide, most of the flatmates are still alive. We cut to the present day, when one - we'll learn which at the end - has died, and left their money to the gang. They're coming back for what I assume will be a Big Chill reunion.

One of the now grown women says to her now grown friend, 'Charlie, there's not a day when I haven't regretted what I did to you, not a day, ' so clearly we're in for torment and betrayal. Also the art teacher is horrid to a pretty girl pupil, so they're going to have an affair. …

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