National Treasure: England’s nostalgia problem

Robbie Coltrane  plays the stoic comedic actor Paul Finchley, one half of a treasured TV comedy duo. We start at an award show, National Broadcast Awards and in the unglamorous back door of showbiz, Paul Finchley presents the lifetime achievement award to the other, more successful part of the duo Karl Jenkins.

Karl gets awards and laughs from audiences, Paul parrots his old catchphrases in the back of a taxi. At home Julie Walters plays his religious, passive, long-suffering wife.

We see a quiet life of two pool who are pretty decent grandparents but are barely a married couple anymore, mundane middle class.

Until the knock at the door.

“There’s been an allegation of rape.”

The Detective at the door states, I think it’s the first time we’ve seen a character get arrested for rape without it being the end of a soap opera. There’s no music, there’s no protest, just the confusion of a man who didn’t see this coming.

National Treasure is a risk by Channel 4 that potentially doesn’t know what they’re getting into. If you’re too sympathetic to Finchley you risk alienating every victim of sexual abuse that tunes in. Make him look too guilty and you perpetuate the witch hunt culture which sparked dozens of prematures arrests with Project Yewtree.

He’s interview alongside his shark of a lawyer, he’s accused of raping a woman in the 1990s on the set of a movie. Paul genuinely looks like he doesn’t know the woman and the uncertainty of his guilt or innocence sets in.

“Have you been faithful to your wife.”

“No comment.”

Released from the jail, through the back door, the allegations are on the front of every newspaper in the morning. Paul visits his daughter Dee in the halfway house, she proceeds to tell him a long drawn out dream she had where he beat her husband around the head with a rock.

Paul spends the night with his mistress and returns home to a cold Marie (Julie Walters). We realise that she knows about the affairs, she knows about all the affairs and she’s ignored them. She prays while he husband bastardises their wedding vows, two hypocrites living in the same house.

The ending scenes see seven women come forward, their pictures dotted between newspaper clippings of his career and a feeling that there is something that we’re not being told.

“They think I’m Jimmy fucking Saville”

And in there lies the problem, the BBC squashed a Saville expose and nobody talked about the problem until he was dead. Because we’re British and we live in nostalgia, things are funny for years, we remake things to death and have a blindspot when it comes our TV stars. We don’t know who is guilty and who is innocent because we didn’t address the problem until it was too late.

Robbie Coltrane is phenomenal in the role, so is the rest of the cast, the amount of acting heavyweights in this mini-series is going to make an intriguing watch.

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