Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

National Treasure

A well-loved British entertainer finds himself accused of historic sex crimes but this isn't the Jimmy Savile story. For one thing Savile was never exactly well-loved and for another his career had a political dimension and any true account of it would involve prodding the inflamed sensibilities of Prince Charles, Tony Blair, the Thatcher memorial industry and all manner of prelates, politicians, police chiefs, broadcasters, hospital administrators and.... I don't think it's going to be be coming to the screen any time soon.

No, this well-loved British entertainer is an ageing comic with his best years behind him, one half of an iconic double act.  He wasn't a habitue of the Palace or a Christmas guest at Chequers. He didn't have carte blanche to roam the corridors of the nation's hospitals, prisons and children's homes. No-one at the TV company he worked for had any inkling of him being a sex-beast. Well, perhaps his comedy partner did, but certainly not anyone in any position of authority.

But that said, having acknowledged that issues have been dodged, this has been a damn good series. The word "masterpiece" is in the air and I'm half inclined to pluck it out. It's a closet drama, concentrating on the people in the comic's immediate circle- himself, his wife, daughter and partner- their sufferings, evasions and shifting loyalties. Melodrama stands at street corners, beckoning like an evil clown and is mostly given a wide berth- especially at the end- where melodrama would have been acceptable but evading it is even better. The direction is nervy, the camerawork expressionist.  The final episode- much of it taking place in the courtroom- is harrowing.

Coltrane is inspired casting; he's a national treasure himself- and there's always been that ambiguity about him: sweet cuddly fat man or Glaswegian hardnut? Waters does grey and grim as though Mrs Overall had never existed, Riseborough is all naked wires and flying sparks, McInnerny is the shell of a man who used to be funny. No-one is monstered, no-one is exonerated. You come away thinking just how bloody hard it is to be good.
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