Sex = joy in the tale with a '90s twist

14th January 2000 at 00:00
I'M GLAD to say that the debate over TV in our household is getting a little more intellectual, although, it couldn't get much less, given that it's hitherto consisted of my asking: "Don't you think you've been watching that for too long now?" and one of three children grunting: "No."

It was the The Tale of Two Olivers that got us going. Alan Bleasdale's wonderful Twist for the nineties versus David Lean's 1948 black-and-white classic, both part of December's ultimate slobfest - the fortnight during which no one moved in Britain unless it was to put new batteries in the remote control.

My second daughter was anti the Lean version. Ginny is still very PC - it's a values system

tailor-made for the rigid simplicities of an 11-year-old. As far as she was concerned, Alec Guinness' performance as Fagin was racist, ergo it was a bad film.

Sarah, a little more sophisticated at 13, preferred Bleasdale over Lean because he had attempted to explain evil. In the end it all came down to sex. "Like, Oliver's father had a really bad time in bed with his wife so he found someone else, only se had Oliver illegitimately. And this made Lyndsay Duncan (that's the wife) really jealous so she poisoned him, sent Oliver's Mum to the workhouse and tried to destroy Oliver too."

So it's simple really. The world would be a happy place if everyone had great sex. Hitler: wrong choice of girlfriend. Stalin: could never get a date on Saturday nights. To be honest, I have tremendous respect for what Alan Bleasdale did with Dickens. My problem lies with any modish belief that he restored the elements Dickens had mistakenly left out because of Victorian prudery. Bleasdale rewrote Oliver for our time - for a generation that still insists sex is the key. He even had Mrs Bumble desperate to get her hands on that big fat beadle.And Fagin was not a villain at all but a failed circus performer forced into crime. Maybe if he'd had a girlfriend none of this would have happened!

My little lecture on cultural relativism was not well received. "I suppose you prefer the other one because it looks like drippy old Casablanca," said Sarah.

Yes, the standard of debate could still be higher.

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