Peter Rhodes on a TV classic, exclamation marks and writing your own obituary
We are, thankfully, a peaceful and law-abiding nation and it takes a lot to tip us over the edge. But if we were to have power cuts this Sunday at about 9pm, expect riots.
For such is our dedication to Happy Valley (BBC1), a crime series which transcends the usual cops 'n' robbers stuff and touches something deep in our own lives with its dissection of crime, insanity and families. It is a truly splendid piece of work and I can only echo the advice of one reviewer who suggests we should scrap the Bafta formalities this year and simply hand over the awards to Sarah Lancashire and her colleagues.
One complaint. The old showbiz saying: “Always leave 'em wanting more” should not apply in Happy Valley. The one-hour format is too short. If two-hour episodes are good enough for Endeavour and Poirot, they're good enough for Sgt Cawood.
Dame Esther Rantzen has revealed that she has lung cancer. She says she's optimistic, as well she might be. Every week seems to bring some new therapy to turn last year's killer into this year's manageable condition. Even so, like any good journalist, Esther has already written a long list of thanks for the people she loves and works with. It's called writing your own obituary and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone aged over 60, just to be sure the newspapers get it right.
Radio 4's Word of Mouth considers the exclamation mark. Some writers say it will be killed off by emojis as used in texting, while others cherish its power to shock, warn or make things more intimate.
I take the view that an exclamation mark says to the reader: “This thing I've written is so brilliantly amazing that my eyebrows have just flown off my head.” In my days as a lecturer in writing (seriously), I advised students to ration themselves to one exclam, as we hacks call them, per year.
Sadly, even as I do my bit to reduce the national clutter of exclams, thousands are being churned out, often by clergymen writing parish magazines who seem amazed beyond all reason that the spring fete was rained off and the verger said it was a fete worse than death! Oops, there go my eyebrows!