TV COLUMN: Lawful Killing: Mark Duggan, The Choir: Gareth’s Best in Britain, Peter Vaughan

James Waller Davies
James Waller Davies
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Lawful Killing: Mark Duggan (BBC1) was an ambitious, but ultimately flawed and failed, attempt to try get to grips with what happened on the day Mark Duggan was fatally shot by armed police in London, 2011.

A docu-drama flies or falls on the quality of its documentary side and the police not taking part in this production immediately made it a lop-sided venture in the face of the massed ranks of Duggan’s family and friends who did.

Duggan’s killing in 2011 gained more exposure not because of the incident itself, but for the subsequent riots – the worst in modern British history – which fanned the flames of both the press and the inner cities and the buildings torched in the mayhem.

The interviews with Duggan’s family and friends were genuine. They believe in their cause, their claim of injustice at the killing, and they had the passion and sincerity of their perspective to add emotional weight.

The police were played by actors – and even good actors in the staged verisimilitude of docu-drama cannot act genuine sincerity. They were emotionally out-gunned in the inevitable paradox.

The inquest, lest it be forgotten, found the police not guilty of an illegal killing.

However, that is not to say that a lot of questions – not least how the gun allegedly carried by Duggan was found so far in both distance and time from where the shooting took place – remained unanswered.

The questions left unanswered because of a police refusal to reveal sources, or to make public evidential assumptions, were more problematic and created a murky hole in the centre of the programme. A programme seeking to explain the truth of an event has its hands tied behind its back from start when such important facts are unobtainable.

By the end, the audience were none-the- wiser. All that could possibly be confirmed were the inherent prejudices of opinion that were there from the start.

The Choir: Gareth’s Best In Britain (BBC2) concluded this week. The final, as the rest of the series, was a disappointment. The singing was ‘alright’. The finalists were ‘alright’. It was all just a bit ‘alright’.

But there was no sparkle, no pizzazz. Not even Malone, himself, could get this one going.

Reality TV works best when ‘real people’ go on a journey. Starting with established choirs doesn’t work as well as taking a bunch of everyday folk with barely a tuneful tooth in their head and turning them into a coherent melodic mass. The producers and researches sunk this series before Malone got anywhere near it.

Once again the ‘and finally’ bit of this column is yet another passing away of another TV star. This week, Peter Vaughan. Yes, I went ‘who?’ too. But once you realise it’s Grouty from the prison sit-com Porridge, that grumpy, sneering, menacing face comes into view. Older readers may recall him from the 1970s comedy classic, Citizen Smith.

Vaughan is one of those English characters who were better known not for themselves, but for the stars they played alongside. Vaughan’s list is pretty stellar, ranging from Frank Sinatra, to Anthony Hopkins and Meryl Streep.

But most of all it will be for Grouty, Slade prison’s gangster overlord, rubbing up against Ronnie Barker’s Fletcher. Cue repeats of Porridge next week.