Rob­bie’s new drama looks a real Cracker

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Television -

The term ‘na­tional trea­sure’ is bandied around a lot these days - it seems to be ap­plied to any­one who has been on TV at any point in the past 50 years - but Rob­bie Coltrane is ar­guably more de­serv­ing of the sta­tus than most.

The Bafta-win­ning ac­tor has ap­peared in ev­ery­thing from Cracker to the Harry Pot­ter movies, and now he’s back in this highly an­tic­i­pated, and very top­i­cal four-part drama Na­tional Trea­sure (Tues­day, Chan­nel 4, 9pm) , play­ing the (fic­tional) much-loved co­me­dian Paul Finch­ley.

Rob­bie ex­plains: “He’s been part of a dou­ble act that’s been go­ing for 30-odd years who, in their younger days, were in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful. They had their own TV show and did sketches. And they are both kind of viewed as na­tional trea­sures - they’re kind of like More­cambe and Wise or any of those other dou­ble acts that peo­ple love.”

How­ever, Paul could be about to ex­pe­ri­ence a very pub­lic fall from grace when he is ac­cused of a his­tor­i­cal sex­ual of­fence that dates back to the 1990s. He­de­nies ever hav­ing met the wo­man mak­ing the al­le­ga­tion, but his wife Marie (another na­tional trea­sure con­tender, Julie Wal­ters) has to de­cide whether to stand by him, and his trou­bled daugh­ter Dee (An­drea Rise­bor­ough) starts to ques­tion her re­la­tion­ship with him.

Coltrane adds: “The first episode, I think, is very in­ter­est­ing, be­cause there’s no hint in it at all of whether he did it or not. And also, whether he did it or not is not what it’s about. It’s about ‘What would it be like if it hap­pened to you, or any­body else.’”

And Paul’s sit­u­a­tion be­comes more dif­fi­cult when the me­dia gets in­volved, which leads to one of the dilem­mas at the heart of the series( and the real-life cases which have helped to in­spire it) - does nam­ing sus­pects lead to trial in the court of pub­lic opin­ion, or is it a way of en­cour­ag­ing vic­tims to come for­ward?

As Rob­bie says, there are no easy an­swers :“In the pro­gramme, my char­ac­ter does this in­ter­view with Vic­to­ria Der­byshire. Finch­ley’s ar­gu­ment is ‘Why does this have to be done in pub­lic?’ And she says ‘Well, what do you think? Should the law be pro­tect­ing the wrong­fully ac­cused, or those who have ac­tu­ally been abused? Be­cause that’s your choice.’ And it is the choice. It’s a real moral dilemma.”

In fact, the sub­ject mat­ter is so con­tro­ver­sial, it seems some peo­ple were sur­prised the ac­tor signed up for it all. He says: “I got this script and I thought ‘Oh yes!’ A lot of peo­ple said ‘Don’t touch it, Rob, it’s poi­sonous, it’s not go­ing to do you any good.’ It’s pre­tend!”

Rob­bie says: “I be­lieve with all my soul that it’s the job of drama to deal with things that the ju­di­ciary’s not very good at, the po­lice aren’t very good at, the politi­cians aren’t very good at, the civil ser­vice aren’t very good at...

“A lot of peo­ple said that about Cracker. ‘Why would you want to make an en­ter­tain­ing show about peo­ple get­ting mur­dered ?’ It’s not about en­ter­tain­ment, it’s about find­ing out how peo­ple get like that. That’s what the whole show is about.”

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