Shocking, but only in its predictability
MRS IN-BETWEENY BBC3, 9pm THE FAKE TRADE Channel 4, 8pm
ALAS, poor Mrs In-Betweeny: fatally undone by what we might term the Hayley Cropper Effect. As it is in Coronation Street, so it was in the latest two-fisted revenge drama from the creator of the vengeful, two-fisted Shameless, Paul Abbott.
Mrs In-Betweeny’s big flaw was that its central figure – a fearless traveller on the gender express, seeking easeful passage from male to female – was rendered incredible by being played by a woman. Amelia Bullmore is somewhat angular of face, but she’s way too slinky ever to be mis-perceived as a man (even one who’s trying to be a woman).
Not that Mrs In-Betweeny was a total flop. Why, if it set out with the aim of shocking the king of bad-taste, twofisted, north-British, turbo-scum-life screenplays himself, Irvine Welsh, it succeeded 110% (you could only hope ole Irv was reclining in his sex-dwarves’n’ heroin-lined eyrie somewhere, watching). Graphic crudity that burst the bounds of your credulity? Mrs In-Betweeny overflowed with the pungent muck like a dysentery ward’s backed-up cludgie. It spouted non-stop from Bullmore’s curvy Aunt Emma, a preoperative trans-sexual who’d begun life as Uncle Brendan.
Aunt Emma was awarded guardianship of her/his recently orphaned nephews and niece, who, despite expecting Uncle Brendan, coped unbelievably well with his/her change of sex. For, in stereotypical fashion, the young trio were all cute but troubled, plus wise beyond their years.
What they needed to sort them out was large amounts of much-too-graphic advice on sex from Aunt Emma. This she duly provided. In addition, Emma succeeded in the sexual humiliation of her chief childhood tormentor, now a headmaster, in a public toilet. Naturally, she filmed the whole ghastly process on her mobile phone (as you do), having paraded the physical truth of her maleness before the blighter at the event’s climactic juncture (as you would). Then she procured a sassy lipstick-lesbian to romp with her gormless brother’s insatiable girlfriend for her gormless brother’s voyeuristic delight (he fell asleep, though). Elsewhere, Emma’s impossibly glam sixtysomething mother pleasured herself in the driver’s seat of her car during a traffic jam, then vomited over her windscreen.
Should any of this activity make Mrs In-Betweeny sound exciting, trust me, it wasn’t, as every incident was lobbed at us with such leaden predictability. Paul Abbott: he used to be a two-fisted creator of powerful, awkward truths. Now he presides over rubbish that appears to have been typed by hamfisted folk wearing boxing gloves.
A portrait of China’s burgeoning global trade in bogus brand-names, The Fake Trade contained major revelations about the true cost of that knock-off Louis Vuitton purse you got for £30 from Billy the Bag in Marbella. Counterfeiting goes hand-in-hand with lost jobs, people-trafficking and cruel workplace exploitation. The latter was highlighted by screen captions translating a curious question during a job interview in China. “Can you eat the bitterness?” the boss kept asking hopefuls willing to submit to his factory’s 100-hour working week.
There is a simple solution to this, of course: don’t buy brands, whether genuine or knock-off. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must change out of my working clobber – Tootal pyjamas and Pierre Cardin bathrobe – into my customary formal wear: Hugo Boss cityshorts suit, ruched Versace man-blouse and Wayfinders (the shoes with the compass in the sole). Brand-name capitalism; doncha just love it?