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Saturday 23 September 2017

Cracks show in Royal wedding

ROYAL WEDDING (BBC2) BAZ’S EXTREME WORLDS (RTE2)

Were you alive on July 29, 1981? If so, do you remember what you were doing? I was and I do. I was out looking for a job. Nothing remarkable about that; lots of young people in this country were looking for jobs in 1981. Many didn't find them and had to emigrate.

It was the day Lady Diana Spencer married Charles, Prince of Wales, in a lavish ceremony that was transmitted live on television and watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The press called it a fairytale wedding -- as we now know, it turned out to be more of a nightmare -- and a large portion of the British public seized upon it as a temporary relief from the tribulations of the day: economic meltdown, millions on the dole and Maggie Thatcher in No 10 Downing Street, orchestrating a campaign to bring the working-class to their knees and destroy the power of the unions.

That most peculiar day was recalled in Abi Morgan's one-off drama Royal Wedding, screened as part of BBC2's 80s week, which has already yielded one fine drama in the shape of Sunday's Worried About the Boy.

The two couldn't be more different in style or tone, but what links them is that each, in its own way, provided a brilliant visual evocation of a time, a place and a state of mind.

Royal Wedding was shot through a yellow filter, as though someone had spread lemon curd on the camera lens, giving it a sunny, fuzzy, dreamlike feel. Squint your eyes and you could be watching a Play for Today actually made in a pre-flatscreen, pre-HD 1981.

A small Welsh village is marking the big day with a street party, of which the highlight is to be a Di lookalike competition. Fifteen-year-old Tammy (Gwyneth Keyworth) is trying hard to whip up the festive mood. Beneath the cheery veneer, however, there's bitterness and discord.

Tammy's mother Linda (Jodie Whittaker) is tired of her marriage to Johnny (Darren Boyd), a permanently stoned hippy hangover from the 70s who dreams of becoming a rock star. Unfortunately, Johnny's song are as awful as his haircut.

The local sticker factory where Linda and most of the other villagers work is on the verge of closing. Linda yearns to escape from her drab life and thinks her ticket out of the village will be Frank, the seedy, married, moustachioed factory manager with whom she's having an affair.

But Frank turns out to be as much of a loser as Johnny. Linda suggests going to India and sending for Tammy later. Frank offers her Shropshire instead.

Royal Wedding looked fabulous and the performances, especially Whittaker's, were fine. There were some amusing moments of comedy as well.



sketchy

Yet it never added up to more than a series of sketchy vignettes and the script's attempts to point out the chasm between the Charles and Di fantasy and the grim reality of ordinary life in Thatcher's Britain were heavy-handed. Irony with a capital I; drama with a small d.

Baz Ashmawy, he of the loud mouth and self-satisfied grin, is back. Mind you, it's like he's never been away, because his latest series, Baz's Extreme Worlds, is pretty much a carbon copy of his previous series. Basically, Baz does mad stuff -- because he's mad is Baz!

In last night's opener he was in Oklahoma State Penitentiary to witness the annual inter-prison rodeo. Given that a good number of the prisoners are serving lengthy sentences or on Death Row, this was a golden opportunity for a documentary in the Louis Theroux mould.

Alas, Baz is no Louis and wouldn't recognise a decent question if he was locked in a cell with it. Gormless.

STACEY'S STARS

ROYAL WEDDING ***

BAZ’S EXTREME WORLDS *

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