More pit­ter- pat­ter than thump- thump

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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

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