Frasier can wash our hands of soap

17th March 2000 at 00:00
AS A responsible parent I believe strongly in the 9pm watershed and in the value of keeping my children up beyond it. Particularly on Friday nights.

It is vital my three emerge far too bleary-eyed on Saturday mornings to catch programmes like Diggit and CITV, which only serve to train up our younger generation into the screaming, whistling, laugh-at-anything studio audience so vital to the careers of people like Chris Evans.

But I do have other reasons for breaching the watershed.

Brought up on the soaps that litter TV schedules, my daughters understandably believe that love, that most ennobling yet elusive of emotions, actually consists of four stages: Fancying, Going Steady, Two-Timing and Dumping.

Sarah and Ginny know a lot about sex. Just about every member of the teaching profession has shown them how to stick a condom on a banana. But they have no idea about the complexities of the human heart.

Programmes from Hollyoaks to Neighbours rely on handsome hunks and girls with glinting white teeth being drawn to each other with mind-numbing frequency. From fancying to going steady usually takes he scriptwriters about an episode or two.

Thereafter, a quick exit from this turgid scenario has to be found, normally by way of a wicked young woman whose hobby is stealing other girls' boyfriends - or an even hunkier hunk who does the same. Then someone two-times someone or someone is dumped, and that's about it. We're all back to square one within about five episodes.

Contrast this with TV's greatest achievement, Frasier, last week, in which Daphne has just been knocked sideways by the discovery that Niles has loved her for the past six years, but the moment has never been right to tell her.

This has not been some clod-hopping re-writing of the soap-

opera facts - "Geez Daphne, didn't you know I've been in love with you these last six years?" - but six years of beautifully-

observed social comedy in which every reason why the human heart faints, shies away and gets beaten to the post has been explored.

Having watched Niles's agony for all this time, I cannot wait for 10pm tonight when we learn the fall-out from Daphne's discovery. My children will most certainly be there too.

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