NATIONAL TREASURE. (2016) BASED ON OPERATION YEWTREE. DIRECTED BY MARC MUNDEN.
STARRING ROBBIE COLTRANE, JULIE WALTERS, TIM MCINNERNY, KATE HARDIE, SUSAN LYNCH AND ANDREA RISEBOROUGH.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I really enjoyed this sex crime courtroom drama TV series, although it made me feel sick as times, based as it is on the police investigation into Jimmy Savile, which dredged up a fair few other little fishies in its net as well.
Robbie Coltrane (HARRY POTTER, CRACKER, FROM HELL with Johnny Depp) is superb as ageing comedian and television star, Paul Finchley. He’d be cast in the same mould as some real life comedians like, say, Bruce Forsythe, Les Dawson and the like. Paul’s star is now on the wane, and his TV duties have dwindled to presenting- we’ll assume- a fairly crappy, if popular, daytime quiz show called Smuggle.
When we meet him, he’s presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to his own former comedy partner, Sir Karl Jenkins, an event which sticks in his craw more than he lets on to the people around him. After twenty or thirty years at the top of his telly game, Paul Finchley is now washed-up, a has-bean, old hat, a Z-list celebrity, while sycophants and his close friends presumably make sure to keep telling him he’s ‘a national treasure.’
It’s at this point that Paul is charged with raping a woman called Rebecca Thornton in the ‘Nineties, over twenty years ago. When this becomes known, several more women come forward with similar allegations, although some of these subsequently fade away again and only two end up coming to court. The woman with the first complaint, a one-time fan-girl of Finchley’s, and Christina Farnborough, the Finchleys’ former babysitter.
‘They think I’m Jimmy fucking Savile,’ Paul groans at one point.
No doubt the men whose names were on the cops’ hit-list after the revelations about Jimmy Savile felt, as Paul Finchley did, that they were the victims of a witch-hunt, but there does seem to have been a culture of ‘big stars get everything they want’ in the TV stations back in the day. Women were disposable and not as important as the big- male- stars of the day, and how they felt about things didn’t really come into it at all.
The series goes to great lengths to show us the affects of these allegations on the Finchley family. Finchley himself is shell-shocked, but steadily maintains his innocence. His and his wife Marie’s adult daughter, Dee, was a mess to begin with.
She lives in a halfway-house for women with drug and addiction problems. Her two children live with their dad at the moment, and there’s some suggestion that she may lose them to him for good if she can’t get her act together.
We keep seeing flashbacks of her and her dad together in her childhood, and Dee seems to be trying to remember whether or not he sexually abused her. Her mum, Marie, warns her at one point not to ‘go there,’ as they have enough troubles to be going on with.
A word about Marie, brilliantly played by Julie Walters. Marie is outwardly the perfect wife and mother, devoted to her family and standing by her man all the way. She’s doing that thing where she’s supporting Paul in public, and going to court with him and everything, but looking daggers at him in private, banning him from the marital bed and acting like he’s, well, Jimmy Savile, and like he’s disgraced and shamed the family.
She’s had this one-sided arrangement with Paul all their married life, an arrangement which suits only Paul, which is why I call it one-sided. He is a serial philanderer/adulterer, addicted to having affairs and one-night-stands. Even now, in his mid-sixties and walking with a cane, he has sex with prostitutes.
The arrangement is this. As Marie is unable to stop him from straying, he can sleep around as much as he likes, as long as he’s honest about it and tells her about it. She then ‘forgives’ him, but I bet he’s had to pay for his sins with holidays and new kitchens and bathrooms and designer wardrobes over the years. Carmela Soprano in THE SOPRANOS received plenty of such ‘guilt gifts’ throughout the course of her marriage to mob boss, Tony Soprano, in the hit HBO TV series of the same name.
It’s a most unsatisfactory arrangement. Marie’s soul-destroyed by all the cheating, so much so that she’s thinking of seeking consolation with Paul’s old comedy partner, Tim McInnerny as Karl, who’s always fancied her. Whatever happens, whether Paul is found guilty or not guilty, it doesn’t look like he’ll have much of a marriage to come back to.
The two women accusing Paul of rape are treated shabbily in court, as you might except. Even in real life, women like this are frequently seen as gold-diggers. Oh, the man’s rich and famous, eh? Well, then, obviously this bird’s after a nice big pay-out, whether through the courts or for selling her story to the newspapers!
This is a terrific drama, well acted and very of the moment, what with all the accusations of sexual misconduct flying around the globe today. Every month, someone new seems to get ‘cancelled’ for political incorrectness or charged with actual sexual abuse of people they encountered- or targeted- in the course of their successful careers. It’s a depressing thing to think about. Great drama, though. Watch it if you can.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: