Noah's Ark television review
by Thomas Sutcliffe
16 September 1997
My five year old is currently very fond of a small plastic pony
which came free in a box of cereal. After a short time in the freezer
the pony develops a bleeding wound which can be magically "healed"
by a gentle rub. You can collect a whole set of such injured animals
all mutely appealing and all suffering from the same minor
hurt. No rubber gloves are needed and certainly no lethal injections.
For the moment then, until the cereal manufacturers issue a tiny
captive bolt as part of their vet's set, it wouldn't be entirely
fair to say that Noah's Ark is indistinguishable from this
calculated piece of merchandise. The television series might be
identical in its exploitation of bestial sentiment, it might be
just as lifelessly plastic and produced by a similar injection-moulding
process but it narrowly has the edge when it comes to realism. Damn
close thing, though.
This is, I freely confess, an ill-informed opinion. I gave up watching
last night's episode when someone said "It seems our lemur
was part of that container load of wild animals that was smuggled
into the country." (What had the smugglers done barcoded
their exotic fauna and supplied an itemised shipping docket?) The
line was so indolently insulting in its fudge that I thought I had
better leave before I lost my temper. It's possible that the drama
then developed into a troubling and moving account of rural life,
one alert to the complexities of emotional life. But not if it kept
faith with Part One, which was a shameless pick and mix of recent
bucolic escapism complete with local bad boys (minor chord
here please) and cosy marital banter. The episode began with a cat
being rescued from a telegraph pole a departure from cliche
that counts as grittily subversive and which was also the occasion
for a little generational sparring between Anton Rodgers (kindly,
wise, rumpled wool) and his son Peter Wingfield (clinical,
efficient, starched cotton).
The plot consists of animals being comical and animals being pathetic
and the dialogue is utterly shameless: "Kerry really loves
that little horse," says one of Noah's clients as he arrives
for a consultation, "...it's her first pony you see."
The little girl playing Kerry did a creditable job of looking upset
when there was a loud bang from the stable but it is as much as
Anton Rodgers can do just to get his lines out. "I'm very angry
at what was done to that pony," he said last night, in the
kind of mildly inquisitive tone you would use to ask if anyone had
seen your watch recently. If you really want an idea of the tortures
an actor's life can include, though, tune in for the ineffably sappy
look on Peter Wingfield's face during the soft-focus credits. Think
of your most embarrassing passport photograph ever and then imagine
that every Monday evening at nine it is broadcast to the nation.