More pitter- patter than thump- thump
THE quaint British period crime drama Heartbeat has proven inordinately popular. Its 17th series just began screening in Britain.
Being a television program, though, it can’t rest on its laurels. And we all know there are only three drama settings on TV: police stations, hospitals and legal firms. I can’t imagine the goings- on in a legal practice in 1960s north Yorkshire would be that enticing a TV prospect, though there could be opportunities.
‘‘ M’lord, my client, spinster Peggy McAffrie, contends that indeed she, not messrs Lennon and McCartney, first wrote Love Me Do.’’
So Heartbeat spun off this hospital drama, The Royal , which has itself quickly spawned a daytime soap, The Royal Today , which we have yet to see in Australia.
To the uninitiated, The Royal quickly establishes what it’s about, which is minor dramas and moral dilemmas in a ’ 60s town as seen now through the perspective gained from 40 years later.
So those who lived in that period or who yearn for some of the historical warmth of ol’ Blighty can revel in the production, its period pop songs and nurses riding through villages on three- gear bicycles.
It’s all bright and alluring in a seaside village, Local Hero kind of way. That’s some kind of achievement given what might happen if we were to move All Saints to Tasmania. Not so bright and breezy.
Which is not to say The Royal is slight. Those who want a tad more than another Ballykissangel - Hamish Macbeth village drama are catered for with some witty writing that highlights the conflicts between progressive and conservative forces in the ’ 60s.
In this episode, from its fifth series, an unidentified black man is found sheltering in the church, sparking a wave of mystery and clumsy prejudice. ‘‘ I’ve got nothing against black people, me, I love Motown music,’’ says one nurse, while a surgeon notes with a straight face: ‘‘ Negro people of African origin can often be susceptible to illnesses we rarely encounter.’’
Then there’s a plot focusing on wife beating and another subplot about the ethics of detaining patients.
social It doesn’t become dour or too serious, though: the show maintains its chipper countenance throughout.
‘‘ He shouldn’t be leaving hospital because he’s just had a very strong analgesic’’ is as bad as it gets.
Even the occasional cliche, such as the golfing surgeon or the matronly Matron ( Wendy Craig), is dealt with entertainingly.
The Royal isn’t unmissable English drama but it is a rather charming example of its kind.
Palpitations: Natalie Anderson plays Nurse Stella Davenport