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Fiends reunited
[March 05, 2006]

Fiends reunited

(The Mail on Sunday Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Entering the Friends Reunited website after midnight is ill advised.

The temptation to email the people who made your life hell at school is too great to resist when you are the wrong side of a bottle of Rioja. Invariably, they are mystified (a) by your memory, and (b) the fact that you still give a damn.

I'm not sure that Carys writing 'Well done Frazier' on the blackboard, after the boxer beat my favourite, Muhammad Ali, should have had quite such a long-lasting effect, and neither was she when I tracked her down in Italy.

But old grudges run deep.

It can't be often that they turn people into psychopaths, but that was what happened to DI Stuart Milburn (Hugo Speer) in Love Lies Bleeding.

He tracked down old schoolfriend Mark Terry (Martin Kemp), who was a multimillionaire with very bad taste in hair dyes (a sort of 'you've been Tangoed' mixed with old spuds).

It transpired that Mark had been put on the road to good fortune after being left a fantastic house by the wife of a teacher the boys had accidentally killed. Stuart, who had been called 'a waste of skin' by the teacher, was branded a murderer and sent away, while Mark flourished.

Now, instead of finding Mark and beating him up, as any normal man would have done, Stuart hatched a plan: to get Mark framed for a murder he didn't commit. For this, he required Mark's wife, Zara (Claire Goose), who was grieving for the loss of their son, to fake her own death.

I don't know what she was drinking on the night Stuart persuaded her to do this, but it should be taken off the market pronto. He also had to rely on a whole string of events relating to guns, brothels and lawyers for his dream to come true, and it was ludicrous.

When Mark was arrested for murder, Zara could have gone straight to the police and told them all; but no.

She preferred to wait until a time when it was unlikely anyone would listen, and her husband was on the run in a bedsit where the apparently very nosy neighbour failed to recognise the alleged killer.

Anyway, it all ended happily - well, for Mark and Zara, who were pretty much the only people who survived at the gruesome hands of the Friends Disunited monster.

For all its ludicrousness, Love Lies Bleeding was very watchable, not least for the terrific cast. I was a little mystified by the house, though.

How could a two-bit teacher in a village school ever manage to afford such a residence?

It's the houses rather than killings that bother me in Midsomer Murders, too. This week's great excitement was Oak Apple Week, into which children's entertainer John Starkey (David Bamber) threw himself with even more gusto than Joyce Barnaby (Jane Wymark) throws into her cake mixes. But with so little work, how did he and his wife acquire such a mansion?

Likewise, the Slade family, whose only achievement was that daughter Bella had once been crowned Oak Apple Queen.

Here was another case of harboured grudges. Bella, it turned out, had died in childbirth, and it was only now, eight years on, that the queen role was being resurrected. Bella's boyfriend, Rob (Tom Bennett), was having none of it and set about bumping off anyone who had ever breathed the same air as his beloved.

Absurd, all of it. But I love Tom (John Nettles), his sidekick Ben (Jason Hughes), the music, the fact that it never rains and that Joyce lives her life in a state marginally less exciting than rigor mortis.

'I find this hard to believe,' said the local GP, Dr Wellow (Simon Callow).

You and me both, but I've ceased caring.

Coppers were everywhere again this week, and as Life On Mars drew to its close, it is welcome news that series two of this inspired formula is already in production.

Sam (John Simm) did not make it back to the present, but he discovered the ugly reason why his father left home, and thought this might have been why he had been sent back to 1973 in the first place.

As the series developed, however, making it back became less relevant, as Sam, with the brilliant Philip Glenister as his boss Gene, locked swords over their different policing methods.

Apart from the occasional lapse into sentimentality, the eight-parter easily sustained the central joke, and the added levels of social comment and poignancy ensured that this was always more than a one-trick pony.

The nurses were back in No Angels, drinking too much and having precious little regard for their patients.

Anji (Sunetra Sarker) pretended to be a doctor at a school reunion, and Kate (Kaye Wragg) was annoying everyone with her over-officiousness.

These are just two of the characters in an incredibly boring line-up. If the series relied less heavily on the intrusive pop music, maybe there would be a chance for some half-decent dialogue to get through.

Normally, ER would be a blueprint for a medical show, but that too was dire this week, as yet another of those ubiquitous disasters (a mid-air collision) provided casualties by the lorryload.

That meant lots of darkness, fake blood and tedious shouting.

Not as much shouting as Davina McCall is managing in her new chat show, Davina, though. I really try to like it, but it is dreadful. The dated set, Davina's look (Wednesday's dress was having trouble staying on, and why was there a squirrel attached to the back of her head?), the pointless questions we have heard answered on a million other shows, the bizarre camera shots (is a camera operator from 1970 stuck up there on a rafter?), the appalling editing, the dreadful, out-of-tune Sugababes on Wednesday, and so on and on and on.

Writers Simon Carlyle and Gregor Sharp have a gem in Thin Ice, a sitcom set in the Derby Ice Bowl and the world of amateur skating. It is full of beautifully drawn characters and great lines, and the first episode, in which a hawk on the loose attacked a skater, was inspired. You had to see it, really.

There was more humour in Desperate Housewives, in which Bree (Marcia Cross) became engaged to the creepy George (Roger Bart) because she didn't want to hurt his feelings. Her therapist was stunned.

'Obviously there's a down side to having good manners,' she explained.

The therapist would not be long for this world, as George, under threat, knocked him senseless and threw him over a bridge. It was a week in which I learned a lot about how I might handle my grudges in the future.

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