Jaci Stephen's Reviews

Getting their just awards.; The Mail on Sunday; May 20, 2001; Jaci Stephen

The Bafta Television Awards BBC1, Sunday*****

Sam's Game ITV, Monday*****

An Unsuitable Job For A Woman ITV, Wednesday*****

A&E ITV, Thursday*****

Holby City BBC1, Tuesday*****

There are many things I don't like about opera, namely the singers, the silly plots and the time it takes both to get to the part of the evening when you can retire to a hostelry. Parsifal, for instance, said American conductor David Randolph, 'is the kind of opera that starts at six o'clock. After it has been going for three hours, you look at your watch and it says 6.20' (Parsifal, by the way, accidentally killed a wild swan, which is hardly up there with the 'Who shot Phil?' of plots).

I felt the same way about The Bafta Television Awards on Sunday night, and by the time it was over I suspected it was time for me to start my Christmas shopping. Hosted by Angus Deayton for a reported fee of [pound]50,000, it was a terminally long event with the worst acceptance speeches on record - mostly very sober and very boring, with only worthy winners Graham Norton and Ali G enlivening the proceedings with some good jokes.

Angus did very well indeed - no mean feat in front of an audience which had to wait for the grub until after the marathon - and, apart from a couple of smutty and ill-judged comments (the most cruel ones at the expense of women, interestingly), he deserved every penny he got, not least for having to stand up through it all.

Unusually for Bafta, it was Channel 4 rather than the BBC which picked up the majority of the awards, although the station's best production of the year, North Square, didn't get a sniff of a prize. My personal favourite, Best Soap, went to Emmerdale, and rightly so. The show always loses out to Coronation Street and EastEnders in awards, so in the year it started being shown five times a week, continuing to move and entertain consistently in equal measure, this was a fitting tribute. It was lucky the award was the first to be presented, as some of the older members of the cast might well have expired in the time it took to get to the last.

There are few certainties in life, but backing Sam's Game never to win a Bafta award must be one of life's safer bets. Davina McCall, who made her comedy acting debut as Sam, was not at all bad in that OTT, loud, wide-eyed, exasperated, Davina-ish kind of way; the problem was that everyone else was playing Davina too, including the living-room door, which had the biggest part.

It's set in a flat, you see (Hey! That's original; why hasn't anyone thought of that before?) and there's another flat across the hall where the gorgeous Phil (Tristan Gemmill) sits being jealous of Sam when she's trying to make him jealous by pretending to have lovers. This went horribly wrong this week when Phil thought Sam had slept with the emaciated Alex (Ed Byrne), who looks like something out of The Young Ones, except younger, which is what TV stations want from their comedy these days.

Alex is the bad boy of the piece. He was sick in the cutlery drawer, ho, ho, taking care to move the dessert spoons first. He lied to his girlfriend Sarah (Debra Stephenson), stole Sam's Madonna tickets and, just when you thought it couldn't get any more banal, managed to be quite funny attempting an Australian accent while posing as Sam's boyfriend when the landlord turned up (you really don't want to know the ins and outs).

Byrne's lapses into humour were hints that the show could get there at some point; it just might not be in my lifetime.

Jennifer Saunders, with her impressions of Dr Sam Ryan (Amanda Burton), made it impossible to watch Silent Witness (Witless Silence) in the same way ever again; now Alistair McGowan and Ronnie Ancona have made it impossible to take half the celebrity nation seriously. Their James Nesbitt and Helen Baxendale as Cold Feet's Adam and Rachel featured in their latest series, and Baxendale's idiosyncrasies which they mimicked shone through in the one-off An Unsuitable Job For A Woman, in which Baxendale played private detective Cordelia Gray.

Heavily pregnant, she was employed by Chief Superintendent Fergusson (Struan Rodger in consistently good, spooky form) to dish the dirt on his daughter's lover, Tim Bolton (Gerard Butler). As is so often the case, all was not as it seemed, and the inquiry threw up several things about Fergusson's past, including the fact that Bolton was blackmailing him.

Cordelia was helped in her search by a mysterious copper who turned up in all the most unexpected places, never seemed to get lost in traffic and probably had more of a penchant for whispering into telephones than solving crimes. It was all very daft and very predictable (it's always the cheated-upon girlfriend wot dunnit), but very watchable, even if it did make you want to throw a bucket of water over Cordelia, if only to see her change expression.

Although I suspect it might take a lot more than that.

The best thing about An Unsuitable Job was David Harewood, who is also one of the doctors on A& E. No one can say 'Shall we go to the relatives' room?' with quite such sympathy as Dr Mike Gregson, although we know that some ghastly news is always waiting there.

Visitors should be warned: 'relatives' room' is a euphemism for 'Get thee to a florist quickly'. This week, Mike asked Judy (Katie McEwan) and her parents to the relatives' room. Sure enough, it was to tell them that Roy (David Ashton) had a malignant tumour. It's good to see Dominic Mafham back as Andrew Argyle, and the cloak and dagger-style relationship between Jack (Michael Kitchen) and Christine (Niamh Cusack) is enthralling.

Unfortunately for them, Robert (Martin Shaw) spotted them in Christine's car.

And Jack wasn't looking for her stethoscope.


Over in that other hospital, Holby City, staff were coming to terms with the death of Victoria, who was stabbed last week. The Mourning After (geddit?) saw Victoria's lover Alex (Jeremy Sheffield) in a bit of a state and being told to take some leave by Anton (George Irving).

Anton was worried about the effect of the murder on the department, and stayed cool when all around were losing it. Irving deserves to win awards for this great performance, but the anti-populist Bafta juries will probably never give him one. There aren't many things it's worth waiting for for two hours in a hot hotel room, but Irving holding his gong would be one of them.

Now that's a joke almost worthy of an Angus script.