Antics in old-style newsroom

JANE BOWRON
Last updated 05:00 07/04/2012
Jayd Johnson in Field of Blood

RESOLUTE: Jayd Johnson plays budding journalist Paddy in Field of Blood.

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REVIEW: Just as I was saying a fond farewell to Jason Isaacs in the wonderful Case Histories which came to a halt last week on Prime, along comes Field of Blood to fill the crime gap on Vibe on Thursday nights at 9.30pm.

It's the eighties and Paddy Meehan is working at the Glasgow Daily Times as an underling `copy boy' busting her britches to become an investigative journalist. She's 19 years old, poor, shabbily dressed, still lives at home with her parents, and has to share a bed with a sister who doesn't appreciate her sister's noxious fad diet of boiled eggs and black coffee.

At work the overwhelmingly male staff taunt Paddy about her weight, from the sarcastic editor, played by Dave Morrissey who says the copy boy looks as if she'd be no stranger to a macaroon biscuit, to the cynical hacks and their pub mates referring to her as "the fat lass", or "just the fat tart who makes the coffee".

It's hard to see where the lard is on actress Jayd Johnson who plays Paddy, but she's compared with her colleague Heather, a blonde, skinny Glaswegian Farrah Fawcett lookalike who is the only other female on staff and knows how to swing her backside up the office aisles to elicit what she calls a "semi so they're putty in your hands" from admiring sexist males. Think the lads from Ashes to Ashes.

One bloated male hack looks at Paddy's duffel coat and shabby boots and sneers at her overall demeanour describing her as the epitome of "the union of Catholic mothers". And Paddy is very Catholic, coming home from a hard day at the office, rolling from sexist punches and trying to solve a gruesome child murder, to cross herself before a statue of Our Lady in the hallway, then pushes away her mother's meat and three veg for yet another boiled egg.

At times it feels like you're watching a Scottish take on Bridget Jones' Diary with a bit of Taggart and Inspector Rebus thrown in as we watch the bolshie budding cub reporter develop a nose for cracking the case.

The author of the book upon which this series is based, Denise Mina, even risks what the editor calls "a Frank Capra moment" when Paddy tells the editor why she wants to be a reporter – because the media is the last hope of the masses when all other avenues have been explored.

Morrissey, obviously chosen for his reputation for playing characters who burn with a cynical but passionate intensity, peers bleakly out his office divider window and asks why on earth she would want to sink to the level of the rest of the newsroom.

"Why do you want to be so mean spirited," he begins.

"Look at them – hearts like bone, and minds trained to think the worst of everybody?"

While everyone's busy calling each other names, Paddy has been out putting two and two together and showing up her betters, as they steal her stories while she does all the leg work. Farrah Fawcett aka Heather betrays Paddy's friendship by writing a front page lead disclosing that, as fate would have it, Paddy's cousin's son has been arrested for the murder of a little boy down by the canal.

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The front page scandal sends Paddy's family orbital, not to mention Paddy who literally has a paddy dragging Heather kicking and screaming through the office, much to the delight of the men, achieving more than a semi over the realised fantasy, as the 19-year-old ninja ends the fracas by flushing Heather's head down the toilet.

But Paddy unknowingly gets her own back by having used Heather's name to interview witnesses, one of whom is the perpetrator who phones `Heather' for an arranged meeting. Believing Heather to be Paddy, the perp bludgeons her to death with a baseball bat. As the blood flows from what surely must be a fatal head injury and the credits roll we have to wait till next week's concluding episode to see how Paddy deals with her white lie that has ended so tragically in her colleague's nasty murder. Just as well Paddy has Our Lady in the hallway to pray to.

One to watch:

Tonight on The Sitting on TVNZ 7 at 8pm it's Richard O'Brien, creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and musician Greg Johnson having their portraits done, followed by a new show at 9.30pm celebrating the old in The New Old presented by Wallace Chapman tracking the rise, fall and rise again of NZ craft beer.

Interestingly there appears to be almost a complete absence of religious programming, while UKTV presents an Easter weekend worshipping at the crime altar with the usual tired old suspects – George Gently, Miss Marple, Midsommer Murders, Agatha Christie, Zen and a new Australian howler, the deeply missable Dripping in Chocolate at 7pm on Sunday.

- The Dominion Post

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