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Monday, September 04, 2006 

Grauniad-watch: Shome mishtake, shurley?

Even by Grauniad standards, it's dropped a major clanger today. Mark Ravenhill, the playwright best known for "Shopping and Fucking", writes in the G2 section about racism and television. He has something of a point in general, but he completely blots his copy book by writing this bilge:

But it's there in other dramas, too. Take the hugely entertaining Life on Mars, the time-travel cop drama. Isn't a great deal of the action created because the central character, a 1970s cop thrown into the modern world, needs to be educated out of his sexist, homophobic ways? The show is about the reform of the white, working-class male - still the most dangerous breed in the mind of the liberal urbanite. He probably loved Maggie. Could vote BNP. Almost certainly has a pitbull. Give him some educative drama - fast!

What the show hasn't ever shown, though, is the central character expressing any racism - even if he is later to be educated out of it. Which parallel 1970s universe does this cop come from, I wonder? A pretty obscure one, if everyday police conversation wasn't peppered with racist jokes and banter.

All of which must make you wonder whether Ravenhill has actually ever seen Life on Mars or has instead just read about it. Life of Mars is actually the other way around - a 1970s cop isn't thrown into the modern world, a modern cop is thrown into a 1970s world. We don't see a 1970s cop having to come to terms with a world in which "political correctness" has run rampant, but rather a modern cop having to cope with casual prejudice and petty corruption. Where Ravenhill may well be right is that racism wasn't featured as prominently, to my memory at least, as the pre-mentioned sins were.

If anything, the show revels in this slightly edgy premise, which made it all the more fun and enjoyable. That Sam Tyler, played by John Simm, is almost believeable as a police officer with principles is all the more credit to the writers and performers.

These days, it's incredibly easy to fact-check anything. A quick search on Wikipedia, Google or IMDB will bring up all the information needed on practically any TV show or film. Ravenhill has the excuse of writing from memory, but the sub-editors don't. Either they're lazy, or just don't bother to check the crap that sometimes fills out G2. I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't been looking for the handy chart G2 does on a Monday with all the arts reviews from the weekend papers. Others have probably beaten me to it, but I've emailed the fabled Readers' Editor, and doubtless we shall have a suitably ashen-faced apology within a couple of days.

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