15 APRIL 1989, Page 40


Well timed

Wendy Cope

It surprises and pleases me to learn that some readers take this column seriously enough to allow it to influence their viewing habits. The first evidence of this was a letter from a man who said that he and his wife were very grateful to me for putting them on to LA Law. And now someone has written to the editor asking him to tell me to mention the day of the week and time of the programmes I re- view, so the correspondent doesn't miss them. OK, but don't blame me if they change it. Just when thirtysomething (Channel 4) seemed to have settled at 10.15 p.m. on Wednesday, they moved it to 10.25 p.m. This, in fact, is a good idea because it solves the problem of the overlap with another recommendation, Shadow of the Noose (BBC 2, 9.25 p.m., Wednesday, if the series hasn't ended by the time you read this.) Actually, I think the suggestion is a sensible one, particular- ly welcome now I've realised that all those days and times will push up the word-count and save me some work.

Quite suddenly and unheralded, LA Law (ITV) is back in its old slot, 9 p.m. on Thursday. Arriving home from a holiday early on Thursday evening, I very nearly missed it. On second thoughts perhaps it wasn't unheralded — I didn't see last week's TV Times. Anyway, it was a nice surprise and just as enjoyable as ever. One thing that struck me this time was that the courtroom speeches are very well scripted. Often they focus on a contemporary issue — on this occasion it was private security guards — providing a cogent summary of the arguments. So it isn't just the clothes and the love affairs that make this prog- ramme so appealing, though, of course, they do help. Mastermind (BBC 1, 8.40 p.m., Sunday) looked promising this week because two of the contestants had chosen specialist sub- jects (Lewis Carroll and Gilbert and Sulli- van) that I thought I knew something about. Well, it seems I know just as much about the history of the Conservative Party 1832-1914 and, in all three cases, it is pitifully little. But there's always the gener- al knowledge to cheer up those of us who have butterfly minds and a willingness to make guesses.

The latter part of Sunday evening on BBC 1 was taken up with illness. First it was mental illness, in a That's Life special entitled 'Trouble in Mind'. I never normal- ly watch That's Life (9.25 p.m.) because I can't stand it. That statement begs the question that people used to ask me about tapioca pudding. Yes, I did try the prog- ramme, ages ago, and a little was more than enough. However, Sunday's edition was good, touching on a number of prob- lems but driving home one main point that it is scandalous to close down the old mental hospitals without providing adequ- ate facilities for care in the community. The junior health minister Roger Freeman had a rough time. His only shield against the flak was a promise that 'we are going to announce our proposals soon'. The most affecting contributor was a saintly man called Reg, whose wife has Alzheimer's disease. Film of these two together was heartrending evidence of love surviving against all the odds.

The Everyman film 'Just an Illness' (BBC 1, 10.25 p.m., Sunday) looked at attitudes to Aids. It included a nicely Phrased contribution from the Bishop of Edinburgh, criticising those who seem pleased that 'God is finally zapping the buggers'. If so, the bishop continued,

God's targeting is very imprecise, causing the deaths of many innocent bystanders. 'Is He an enraged terrorist?' Do the people who would like to think so take any notice of bishops? Maybe not, but it was agree- able to hear them verbally zapped.