Lost in show­biz

Rob Lowe’s sausage party

The Guardian - G2 - - Front Page - Ma­rina Hyde

At this stage in the process, I sim­ply did not be­lieve it was pos­si­ble. But mirac­u­lously, it is. I have found it – the only Brexit take I can still bear. Be­hold: Rob Lowe, in Bos­ton – the Lin­colnshire town that recorded the high­est leave vote in the EU ref­er­en­dum – hold­ing a tray of flesh items that we shall come to shortly.

For now, you will have ques­tions. Pri­mar­ily: what is go­ing on? Se­con­dar­ily: where do I buy a ticket to this par­tic­u­lar meat raf­fle? And in a dis­tant third place: why on earth have you brought Brexit into this? So let me sum­marise the tele­vi­sion com­mis­sion that got us to this mag­i­cal space. The photo was taken this week, on the set of a forth­com­ing ITV drama called Wild Bill. Premise: Rob Lowe plays a high­fly­ing US cop who is ap­pointed chief con­sta­ble of East Lin­colnshire. How? Why? I gen­uinely can’t imag­ine.

But I do have ITV’s press re­lease on the mat­ter in front of me, and con­se­quently can tell you that “Wild” Bill Hixon has a first-class de­gree in crim­i­nol­ogy, a mas­ter’s in psy­chopathol­ogy, a doc­tor­ate in sta­tis­ti­cal map­ping and a trau­matic re­cent past that he and his 14-yearold daugh­ter, Kelsey, are try­ing to put be­hind them. He was the US’s top met­ro­pol­i­tan po­lice chief three years run­ning – so by telly logic, the mar­ket town that skewed 75% Brexit is the next ca­reer step.

As the show’s writ­ers put it: “Wild Bill gives us a chance to write about mod­ern Bri­tain and mod­ern crime through unique eyes … Dis­plac­ing Rob in Brexit Bri­tain and specif­i­cally in Bos­ton, Lin­colnshire, al­lows us to tell sto­ries that are left­field and un­ex­pected.”

Well, I mean … yes. I don’t think any of us truly ex­pected this. In fact, if I had to come up with some­thing I liked about this com­mis­sion, I would say: ev­ery­thing. Ab­so­lutely ev­ery sin­gle thing about it.

It is as if the cre­ators had a bril­liant evening com­ing up with ran­dom com­bi­na­tions, achieved by pick­ing one card from each of four piles la­belled: “US ac­tors”, “UK mar­ket towns”, “Sub­gen­res” and “Is­sues”. They ended up with “Rob Lowe”, “Bos­ton”, “Fishout-of-wa­ter cop” and “Brexit”. But it could just as eas­ily have been “Keanu Reeves”, “Saf­fron Walden”, “Bodyswap com­edy” and “Au­toma­tion”. Or “Emilio Es­tevez”, “Dews­bury”, “One last job” and “Fail­ures of ne­olib­er­al­ism”. I would ob­vi­ously watch all of them so hard.

Frankly, I couldn’t love these cre­ators more if they’d sim­ply turned up to the com­mis­sion­ing meet­ing, looked the head of ITV drama right in the eye, and gone: “Young Guns, but in Lud­low. BOOM.” And then dropped a lit­tle pre­tend mic. Take eleventy mil­lion pounds and get writ­ing NOW. You can ex­pense as much Ad­der­all as you like.

Ac­cord­ing to ITV, Wild Bill is “funny and dan­ger­ous in equal mea­sure”. And on the ba­sis of this set of pic­tures alone, I strongly agree. Hats off to Lowe, who looks to be in very deep in­deed, in what is eas­ily his edgi­est gig since Bad In­flu­ence.

And so to Bos­ton, Lincs, where Tues­day saw the pro­duc­tion out and about on a lo­ca­tion shoot. Thanks to an en­ter­pris­ing pho­tog­ra­pher, we have a full series of snaps of Rob en­chant­ing lo­cals in the breaks be­tween ply­ing his trade. That trade is act­ing, and these pic­tures serve as an eter­nal re­minder that – short only of jour­nal­ism – it is the most dig­ni­fied of all the pro­fes­sions.

My only com­plaint is that we don’t have ac­cess to live footage in which the com­ments of pass­ing mar­ket shop­pers are picked up by the sound equip­ment. Pre­sum­ably some of them took a sim­i­lar tone to one Daily Mail com­menter, who I can pic­ture draw­ing long and ru­mi­na­tively on a Lam­bert & But­ler be­fore typ­ing the death­less ver­dict: “I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a por­tion of Rob’s pork loin.”

Whichever way you slice it, this hi­lar­i­ous pic­ture only adds to the gai­ety of the na­tion. Which is hardly long and strong in gai­ety at the mo­ment. In­cred­i­ble that I imag­ined my years of af­fix­ing Rob Lowe posters to the wall were be­hind me. (At my school we were thrilled when his sex tape came out, be­cause it meant he was def­i­nitely open to sex with 16-year-old girls.) I need this image printed A1 size as a mat­ter of ur­gency – and this time it won’t have to jos­tle for space with Johnny Depp, Prince, Lee Sharpe, River Phoenix, Im­ran Khan, Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise, Gary Lineker, Jeremy Gus­cott, Bobby Brown, Matt Dil­lon, Rupert Everett, Madonna in the Ex­press Your­self video or the afore­men­tioned Keanu Reeves. (Don’t write in; I couldn’t be ex­pected to know how one or two of those would turn out.) In days of yore, of course, Rob would have been play­ing a sax­o­phone in a yel­low vest. Or lean­ing against a pil­lar with his vest rid­ing up (dog tags: model’s own). Or be­ing re­vealed as the poster in­side Corey Haim’s wardrobe in The Lost Boys in a very meta movie mo­ment.

But life moves pretty fast. These days, I like to see Rob Lowe stand­ing in front of a stall sell­ing dog beds and com­post – that re­minds me, I must get some com­post for the Christ­mas hy­acinths – and prof­fer­ing a plas­tic tray with the words: “Tell you what, madam, I’ll chuck in a cou­ple of kid­neys and I’m still only ask­ing nine pound the lot.” Very rea­son­able. And now that fish pie’s gone I’ll have space in the freezer. Prob­a­bly need to move the choc ices up a shelf.

Hav­ing said all that, I am aware that drama re­quires con­flict. So I would be per­fectly happy to stalk on screen and de­liver a line such as: “Hixon, I am sick of de­fend­ing your screw­ball an­tics to the com­mis­sioner! Hang on … you are the com­mis­sioner. Right: we’ll do this an­other way. In­ter­nal af­fairs are go­ing to be so far up your ass you’ll be serv­ing them tripe. Some­thing some­thing Andy Garcia. Some­thing some­thing meat locker.”

As for what else we can glean from the pic­ture, it seems Hixon has some­how been al­lowed to trans­fer his US po­lice medals of valor to his UK po­lice uni­form. Not sure if this ends up be­ing a spe­cific episode plot­line, but I am afraid the chief con­sta­ble will find there are rather fewer law en­force­ment award shows in this back­wa­ter of a coun­try. (Back in the day, the Sun used to run the an­nual Po­lice Brav­ery awards, but I be­lieve they de­clined to con­tinue with their part­ner­ship af­ter the po­lice bravely ar­rested sev­eral of their se­nior staff.)

Any­way, on with the show. Ac­cord­ing to ITV’s pre-pub­lic­ity: “Rob Lowe has a mag­netic screen pres­ence which is per­fectly suited to bring the char­ac­ter of Bill Hixon to life: a blunt, take-no-pris­on­ers po­lice chief who shakes up the Lin­colnshire force.” Wait – he takes no pris­on­ers? That seems slightly ec­cen­tric, in his line of work. But given ev­ery­thing else, per­haps the least of it.

“From the out­set Bill isn’t about mak­ing friends,” we learn. “He’s here to get the job done and get the hell out as quick as his spin-class-toned legs will carry him.” Sure. But does life have other plans? “But this un­fa­mil­iar, unim­pressed com­mu­nity will force Bill to ques­tion ev­ery­thing about him­self and leave him ask­ing whether it’s Bos­ton that needs Bill, or Bill that needs Bos­ton.” I think we both know the an­swer to that one. He may be some god­damn Quan­tico quar­ter­back punk – but he’s go­ing to end up their god­damn Quan­tico quar­ter­back punk.

All that re­mains is to ready our slan­kets and crisps – and to warn the BBC that even con­sid­er­ing sched­ul­ing Line of Duty against this would lit­er­ally be why re­main lost.

Hats off to Lowe, who looks to be in very deep in­deed, in what is eas­ily his edgi­est gig since Bad In­flu­ence

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