Another archive TV review from our kidda.
Life On Mars is back. Rather like the new Doctor Who and Torchwood has allowed Russell T Davies to purge a lifetime’s worth of stupid, banal ideas too silly to use on any other project (farting aliens? It’s been done before), and channel them into a children’s sci-fi show, so Life On Mars allows its makers to re-live their youth growing up in the 70s with lots of over-the-top cockney cop shows.
But there’s more to it than that. You’d get into trouble if you just did a straightforward pastiche of a 70s cop show in this day and age. So Life On Mars incorporates a neat framing-device; it has its lead character suffering from some kind of head injury, so he only thinks he’s back in the 70s!
So lots of highbrow viewers, who would normally dismiss such self-indulgent tosh, can watch safe in the knowledge that they’re participating in a kind of clever comment on modern drama. And not some kind of televisual form of self-abuse after all.
• Meanwhile, BBC2 has been showing one of those social experiment shows in the form of The Verdict. A team of 12 celebrity jurors adjudicate on a fictional case (in this instance a rape case, just to really get them foaming at the mouths). The case is portrayed as close as possible to real life, with a real judge and real barristers.
The quality of the celebrities ranges from famous (Honor Blackman) to niche (Patsy Palmer, Michael Portillo, Alex James and just about all the others) and finally prats (to avoid even the slightest possibility of litigation, this individual shall remain unnamed, but suffice it to say that he has the words ‘Collymore’ and ‘Stan’ in his nomenclature).
Collymore, with his almost universal reputation for brutishness, is only there to make a fool of himself and reveal the worrying heights of intemperate mob-thinking in this country, and he does a very good job of conjuring up such an atmosphere in the early exchanges.
But while it may come as no surprise to see Collymore expose himself as a reactionary ignoramus of the highest order, it’s startling how annoyingly reasonable Portillo seems these days. His observations are intelligent and reasonable. Was he always like this? He often comes across as a card-carrying liberal. I’d quite like to have a drink with him.
All this coming from a man who used to shit in John Major’s chocolate soufflé and cackle devilishly for hours afterwards, plotting his wicked way towards the Tory leadership. Jeffrey Archer is also in the line-up, however, and he comes across much as you might expect him to. I guess some things never change.