In gangland, Alzheimer's can seriously damage your wealth
TELEVISION:A drama about a crime boss with the disease has great performances but soon descends into cliche
Alzheimer’s disease in TV dramas usually features a very old person shuffling around in slippers and putting the house keys in the fridge – but a gangster with the condition? That’s new. And it worked in The Fear (Channel 4, Monday-Thursday), a drama shown over four consecutive nights and starring Peter Mullan as Richie Beckett, a crime boss in his early 60s.
He’s still profiting from his control of Brighton’s seedy sex and drugs underworld, but now it is with the veneer of respectability: the trophy house, the boutique hotel, the gallery-owning wife, and rounds of golf with the chief of police. But his memory and reasoning are slipping, and brutal events from the past keep flashing though his head. He’s prone to violent outbursts that he instantly forgets. “I haven’t laid a finger on anyone in 15 years, and I’m not going to start now,” he says convincingly just minutes after we’ve seen him assault a cyclist in a road-rage incident.
While he’s trying to control his thoughts, a turf war breaks out with the arrival of a gang of Albanians intent on taking over his patch. And as soon as they appear, with their shiny polyester shirts, gold necklaces, eye-gouging violence and “how many girls you want?” dialogue, The Fear veers from the intelligent authenticity of Mullan’s performance deep into stereotype territory. And could Brighton’s police be so dim as not to know that a bloody gang war had broken out, what with the street shoot-outs and the arson? The copper who stopped Beckett’s car missed the severed head in the boot and the gun on the back seat. But Mullan’s performance, as a man slowly and painfully realising that dementia is taking hold, was powerful and nuanced; he’s the reason this drama was compelling despite the corny gangsta scenes.
“Do you write ‘Dear Edge’ or is it ‘Dear The Edge’?” wondered Thomas Kochs, the general manager, as he set out to write the welcome note for one of his guests in the entertaining documentary Inside Claridge’s (BBC Two, Monday).
A handwritten card is one of the things you get when you pay north of £6,000 a night for a room at the London hotel. That and superluxury art-deco surroundings, discreet service and, if you throw a few more grand a night at it, your own butler. One guest, a Japanese pop star booked in for a month, requested that a jacuzzi be installed in her penthouse. Others spring for an entire room redecoration, a stinking-rich take on Oscar Wilde’s apocryphal “either the curtains go or I do”.