Did we like it?
Even if this trilogy of black monologues hadn’t been well executed, we’d have appreciated BBC1 for airing a rare bit of intelligent TV. As it was, all three of these half-hour playlets written and directed by Hugh Blick were gems.
What was good about it?
• Six Days One June was the stand-out contribution with Rhys Ifans giving a mighty, touching performance as a lonely Welsh farmer, who records a video message for a dating agency (his only date sees him branded “repulsive”) but then turns it into a video diary, pouring out his heart about his domineering mother and a gay relationship with a visiting Maori sheep-shearer.
• Before I Call You In featured an impressive Sheila Hancock as a women with terminal illness who has travelled to Switzerland to die. “I suppose what I’ve got is a bit like being eaten by a shark, except in my case there’s absolutely no chance of me poking it in the eye, splashing up the beach straight into the arms of Roy Scheider,” she says. Hancock held our attention for the full half hour which, pleasingly, closed with After All These Years by the underrated Matt Monroe.
• Bob Hoskins was made for the part in A Bit of Private Business – and was possibly a little too comfortable as an unhinged Cockney hit man waiting in a public lavatory to carry out his next kill. Remembering his life serving Mr Derek, he gets angry when he gets too sentimental (“Stop it, you’re a fuckin’ killer”); he’s regretful about the failure of his marriage (his wife wasn’t the agoraphobic he thought she was; she was a lesbian with a Charlie Dimmock fixation) and he’s got mixed feelings about his tapestry-loving son who became the gang’s top dog and went legit.
What was bad about it?
• Blick’s bleakness didn’t leave much room for laughs, unlike in his 2002 classic Marion and Geoff featuring Rob Brydon as the blithely optimistic Welsh minicab driver Keith. But this trilogy was better than Up in Town, Blick’s series featuring Joanna Lumley as a plucky divorcée.
• Two of the endings: the first was too sweet (after acknowledging her disastrous marriage, Hancock’s character didn’t let her husband in on her secret lack of fulfilment); the second was too implausible (Ifans’ farmer killed his mother and got away with it). The third was better, with a good old fashioned sting in the tale.