Channel 4's 4 Play drama slot has been a most uneven series so far, and Saturday's offering, "Goodbye and I hope we meet again", was uneven in itself.
Written by David Cregan in response to current controversy about building design, it was the tale of Aubrey, a successful middle-aged architect with a passion for restoring old buildings. Played beautifully by Anton Rodgers, he used his considerable charm and eloquence to fight the battle against buildings with "all the entrails on the outside" and then to extract his "reward" for doing so from whatever pretty young lady happened to he around to admire the performance. lit this case, the quest was the conservation of an Oldham cotton mill and the reward came from a ravishing E C bureaucrat with responsibility for urban grants.
Aubrey had a wife as well, a globe-trotting electronics engineer whom he only ever seemed to see at airports as one of them emerged from Arrivals and the other headed for the check-in desk.
This was a strange rclationship in other respects too. Their entire dialogue consisted of staccato exchanges on the relative merits of history and progress, he contemptuous of conferences on small batteries, she scornful of "tarring up old buildings". It was patently far easier for Aubrey's wife to cope with his penchant for extra-marital flings than with his love for the architectural splendours of the past.
Perhaps relationships like this do exist but I doubt it. It scents more likely that the marriage was just a convenient hook for a bit of a debate, and the same went for most of the other relationships in the play. This was a series of ideas spoken out loud rather than a cast of characters. The only really credible figures were the caretaker and secretary occupying the disused mill, and in a way that was a point in the argument too, since Mr Appleyard and Aileen stood as representatives of common humanity, the mass that serves to occupy the architect's housing developments and to spend its wages in his shopping malls.
This weakness was a pity, because it should have been perfectly possible to treat the same, very interesting, themes in a manner more likely to engage the viewer. And Mr Cregan was
clearly capable of doing so, had he been able to extricate himself from the architectural cross-fire.
When Aileen served coffee to the planning meeting and found them all arguing, she said to Mr Appleyard, "I didn't think people like that ever argued". He replied, "Well, you've seen Dallas". Watching "Goodbye and 1 hope we meet again" was, unfortunately, not unlike entering the unreal world of the American soap.
THE CHRISTMAS WEEK AHEAD
SUNDAY 24 DECEMBER
11.00 Morning Worship, ITV. The last of the Advent Meditations is called "Christ comes now this Christmas", and features readings by Peter I3arkworth, well known carols and harp music.
12.00 Encounter, ITV. Every day in New York one baby is born carrying the AIDS virus. "Babies in Crisis" meets Fr John Fagan, who looks after abandoned HIV positive babies in Brooklyn and tries to find foster parents for them.
20.00 To He// With The Devi/,Channel 4. A film about the American Christian rock group Stryper. A top 30 band in the USA, they are now attracting large European audiences too, and causing bitter controversy among both believers and non-believers.
22.05 The Angel's Shadow, Radio 4. A celebration of the humanity of Mary in music, prose and poetry. Featured are works by John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Bach, Palestrina, Schubert and Sati. 23.30 Midnight Mass, Radio 4. From the Cathedral of St Marie in Sheffield. The celebrant and preacher is Bishop Gerald Moverley of Hallam.
23.35 Midnight Mass, BBC1. From Clonard Monastery on the Falls Road in West Belfast.
CHRISTMAS DA Y 15.15 Birthday, Channel 4. Dame Judi Dench brings together a selection of poetry on the theme of Christ's birthday by the Rev Alan Ecclestone. 22.55 La Nativite due Seigneur, Channel 4. Olivier Messiaen's magnificent organ work, embracing both Christ's nativity and his life on earth.