Friday, 19 December 2008

Scots on the box

"Scott Harrison - on the ropes", BBC1 Scotland, 10.35pm, Thursday, 18th December. "Survivors", Tuesdays, 9pm, BBC1

mate, who, for what will become obvious reasons, must remain nameless, recounted to me how he'd once spent a very uncomfortable half hour with a sponsor in AA and a flip chart. On the left side of the sheet the sponsor wrote down every "scrape", "bit of bother", "failed relationship", "career stalled" incident my mate had ever been involved in. It was a longish list. On the right-hand side the sponsor recorded any common themes, recurring motifs, that popped up repeatedly. "Drink" featured heavily. The sponsor underlined this recurring variable, turned to my mate and said: "Hmm, do you see a pattern emerging here?"

I was reminded of this watching "Scott Harrison - on the ropes" a painful thirty-odd minutes tracing, over some months, the boxer's slide into
Barlinnie earlier this summer. I don't know if the writer/director was being a bit coy, but he set the programme up by introducing it as a diary of sorts, wondering if Harrison would succeed in having his licence to box reinstated.

Ooh, let's watch and see how that turns out.

Of course, anyone who hasn't lived on Planet
Zog for the last two years knows exactly how it turns out. There's no triumphal story arc, no tidy, Rocky-lite ending with Scott Harrison triumphantly licenced to box. Nope. Over the piece, Scott opens far too many cupboard doors with skeletons waiting to fall out. There's the odd breach of the peace charge, banjoing a polis, breaking up with his wife, and then the big one where a previous trip to Spain with his uncle looked like it was going to result in serious Spanish jailtime, because drink, a car and liberties with a local polisman's jaw had been taken.

Earlier this year, Scott, mindful of his continuing attempt to get his boxing licence back, returned to Spain to face the music. His uncle declined the opportunity. Scott's trial was delayed 'til 2009, and then his uncle killed himself.

Cue another spectacular fall from grace by Scott, leading this time to
jailtime in The Bar-L.

Is it all down to drink? I don't know.
It would appear, putting it as tactfully as I can, that Scott has mental health problems that are exacerbated when he drinks. QED, stoap drinking Scott. And give up all thoughts of boxing again. It seems that the training for a fight focuses Scott, gives him security and purpose. But after the fight? Crashing deep into depression, if his own accounts here are to be believed.

I should own up to having previous here. Back in late 2006 I wrote a feature tactlessly suggesting that the last thing Scott should be doing was fighting for a living. I got an email from one of Scott's "mates" saying I didn't know what I was talking about; boxing was good for Scott. I emailed back asking the guy if he made money out of his "mate" Scott fighting.

No reply.

Just a quick word about "Survivors", the
Beeb re-working of the 1970s post-apocalypse sci-fi series. For some reason this series has been enduring absolute pelters off the critics and I've no idea why. Compared to the ludricrously over-praised campery that is Doctor Who, Survivors is a well-executed take on the central question in sci-fi: "What if?"

And a special
JT sweetie goes to Julie Graham, who acts her socks off holding our merry surviving band together. Fans of Julie's previous work might recall that she had a youthful tendency to divest herself of her bra rather too easily, which was fine if the role was raunchy but did tend to confuse matters a bit when she tried to make the role of Maria in the Sound of Music her own. Joke, just a joke.

Thankfully, in Survivors, the kit, in the main, stays on and Julie makes the most of her dual role, as the tough but kind
de-facto leader of the band and as the mum sure that her kid is still alive, somewhere. No post-apocalyptic drama these days can make it without some stylistic nod to 28 days later, but Survivors handles the inevitable comparisons well. I'm sure there must have been the temptation to stick in a few rabid monsters, but Survivors soberly presents a believable world where we collide and collude with people much like us.

My only gripe is with the looting scenes. The Survivors are seen helping their sensible selves to boring stuff like food and fizzy water while any self-respecting looter would have the steel door at McCormicks in Bath Street aff in jigtime, the better to facilitate the transfer of ownership of a Fender Jazzmaster I've seen in there but presently can't afford.

Or maybe that's just me...

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