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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 16:54 GMT
Jeffrey Archer The Truth
Newsnight Review discussed Jeffrey Archer - The Truth, a new drama series on BBC One.



(Edited highlights of the panel's review)

MARK LAWSON:
Paul Morley, the approach is to get round libel by exaggerating everything, so Mary is a saintly figure. It works and legally it's watertight, but does it work as comedy drama?

PAUL MORLEY:
It's the funniest thing I have seen where I never laughed out loud. I watched this mechanically to see how Archer dealt with the truth and the lies. I found myself thinking, "That's clever, that's an interesting way of doing it". I admired it, but I never felt it lifted off.

Since Greta Scacchi plays Thatcher, it's logical that Thatcher will be naked. Ian has been watching very closely, and understands why the bruise on Thatcher's bottom is there. He watches it freeze frame. It's very important to him.

Ultimately, I don't know if I admired it, because it was cheaply made. When he's in jail talking to the mouse and the mouse starts to bring him stuff and he eventually builds a microwave, it starts to lift. Up until then it looked like a list of sketches denigrating the absurd life of Jeffrey Archer, but it was too predictable. It didn't go far enough.

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
It was odd and strange and I agree with Paul, one of those things you didn't really laugh at, but at the same time it was fantastically funny.

There is a maverick, bonkers quality to it, such as the scene when Willie Whitelaw says, "It's about Margaret," and Jeffrey says, "I know, I have been seeing her a lot. Have you noticed?" He says, "No, it's time you bedded her. She is going mad. We are about to have the poll tax riots".

I thought the Princess Diana stuff went over the top, but found much of it very entrancing.

IAN RANKIN:
It's in the grand tradition of Zelig: one person goes through the entire modern history and experiences incredible moments. That's all the script writer has done. It's written as a series of sketches by the guy who did Drop the Dead Donkey, in the same style and with a sense that one scene needn't bear resemblance to the next as long as it's funny.

PAUL MORLEY:
Jeffrey Archer comes out of this very well.

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
It's wholly affectionate, flattering in serious ways.

MARK LAWSON:
That's fascinating, but it may not be what they aimed to achieve.


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