BBC4 - 3rd April 2008 - 9.00pm
Perhaps the most revealing of all the dramas in this season so far. Tony Basgallop's intricate script presented a side of greasy, game show compare Hughie Green that quite honestly left me gasping for air as much as the titular star of the show.
Central to the success of this was a barnstorming performance by Trevor Eve. He looked like him, he sounded like him. He got that infamous transatlantic drawl to perfection and there were idiosyncratic facial expressions that he caught in the performance. I've a vision of Eve sitting through episodes of 'Opportunity Knocks' and 'The Sky's The Limit' because it's certainly clear he's done his research. Eve made the man an utterly unlikeable, pompous old sod but cleverly, as the drama drew to a conclusion, Green's fall from grace actually tugged at the heartstrings as Eve caught the man's isolation and the ravages of his self-destruction. Couple that with the boozing, shagging and asthma and you've got a performance of Grand Guignol proportions. Compelling.
The story is bookended by childhood trauma. The young Green approaches a slightly ajar door and it's only later as the adult Green drowns in booze, amphetamines and sex that the trauma is revisited and we find out he's on the scene as his mother energetically shags some total stranger as his father sits nearby in tears. The cradle of Green's unpleasantness and his own casual affairs and the emotional scars he causes to his own children stems from this parental wreckage. The birthday party for his own kids where he ends up hogging his son's new train set is again a key scene that tells us what this man is about. He's all self, self, self.
The relationship with Jess Yates, which has obvious consequences later, starts out as almost agreeable but once Green suspects that he's fathered Paula the relationship is all open hostility and rivalry. The hilarious argument over the wearing of a tie is full of undercurrents. Green is being pig-headed not just because he's had control wrested from him on the production of the show but it's Jess that's trying to control him. Equally the pitch to Jeremy Isaacs and Isaacs subsequently seeing Green in full nationalist hubris on television, picking up a phone and requesting: 'Get that man off my channel' are spiky little bits of humour.
The drama then charts the decline of Hughie, his ill health, and pining for the daughter he could never know. He defends her in front of his ex-producer and a tabloid journalist in a smoky gentleman's club and fleetingly witnesses the media scramble as Paula arrives at some awards bash but he never gets close to her and that's the irony. He's spent all his life keeping people at arm's length and treating them like shit and then when he desperately needs human contact the very media he's been manipulating conspires to put a distance between them. You're torn between sadness and a sense of triumph that he's finally been dealt the appropriate hand. And Eve is totally mesmerising in the way he manipulates your feelings. He's supported by Mark Benton as Jess Yates and he's fine but I was troubled by his bald cap makeup and very broad Northern accent. I don't recall Yates sitting at his organ complete with Northern drawl. Emma Stansfield is appropriately cold and calculating as Elaine Yates and comes across as manipulative and as self-destructive as Green. Director Dan Percival again makes great use of a small budget and manages to create significant bits of 'Opp Knocks' (the Lena Zavaroni and the Muscle Man recreations are great) and spookily evokes the period. But his concentration is on getting such a committed performance from Trevor Eve.
That's three excellent productions in a row. Roll on Frankie Howerd next week.
- Freelance writer and film and television researcher (for hire).
He has contributed to a number of books and websites about British archive television and cinema as well as recent television series including work for Moviemail, Frame Rated and Arrow Video. Publications include I.B Tauris's 'Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour - A Critical
Celebration of the Matt Smith and Steven Moffat Era' (2013) and 'Doctor
Who - The Pandorica Opens' (2010).
- Adventures in Prime Time
- Behind the Sofa
- Blogtor Who
- British Television Drama
- Cardigans & Tweed
- Dez Skinn
- Dirty Modern Scoundrel
- Doctor Who Appreciation Society
- Doctor Who Newspage
- Feeling Listless
- Frame Rated
- Gareth Bundy's Blog
- Green Carnation Prize
- Int. Jason Arnopp's Mind - Day/Night
- Island of Dreams
- Jonathan Melville
- Ka-os Theory
- Lady Don't Fall Backwards
- Life of Wylie
- Life on Magrs
- Narrative Drive
- Paul Mount's World of Stuff
- Pseudo Random Noise
- Radio Free Skaro
- TV Lover
- Tachyon TV
- Tardis Newsroom
- Television Heaven
- The Custard TV
- The Digital Bits
- The Fan Can
- The Medium is Not Enough
- The Railway Arms
- The Thumbcast
- Thierry Attard's Double Feature
- from the north...
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