Life & Culture

Nolly TV review:When the crossroads of life take a turning to obscurity

Tale of soap star Noele Gordon entertains thanks to a brilliantly light-touch script and a fabulous performance from Helena Bonham Carter


QUAYSTREET FOR ITVX NOLLY EPISODE 1 Pictured:HELENA BONHAM CARTER AS Noele Gordon (Nolly). This image is under copyright and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes in your print or online publication. This image cannot be syndicated to any other third party. For further information please contact: 07909906963

ITVX | ★★★★✩

No one’s bigger than the show.” An old showbiz adage, and a sentiment expressed by Noele “Nolly” Gordon, star of soap Crossroads. She says it in mock humbleness, and she’s right to do so, because not too many years after she was unceremoniously sacked, the show was gone as well.

This seems a bizarre subject for a three-part mini drama, a bitter episode in the annals of British daytime television, but he who can do no wrong Russell T Davies and his regular production partner Nicola Shindler have done something very impressive with Nolly, born high art out of low.

There’s a snobbishness in that terminology, indeed it’s been said it was a new production company’s embarrassment at inheriting the somewhat shoddy Crossroads that led to the plan of ditching its star in the hope it might hasten its demise.

Which is to forget just how huge a show it was. The Happy Valley finale has been the most watched show so far this year, with 7.5 million people tuning in. But Crossroads had 15 million viewers. Three nights a week. Every week.

To say that Nolly was famous is somewhat of an understatement, she was a part of people’s lives. Then she wasn’t. Covering that devastating transition is fascinating, original, and a bit heartbreaking.

We can’t truly know what it was like to live that publicly, but we can relate to forced change and loss and, of course, for those of us lucky enough to have made it that far, the terror of obsolescence. And I’m 46.

As traditional television fades (indeed it took five minutes to even access this show, through various emails and confirmations and passwords to sign up to new streaming service ITVX) there’s a poignancy to this tale of the first woman in the world to appear on colour TV. She was also the first woman to interview a British prime minister.

In fact, as a presenter, producer, executive and, of course actor, Nolly was embedded in the very fabric of the medium. Even more impressive given the era and her sex, and the fact her intellect, drive and determination was sure to have threatened her bosses, and most likely also contributed to her downfall.

But television and fame are cruel bedfellows, and as is illustrated here, no one is safe, even if you’re popular enough to have 10,000 people come to cheer support at your fake wedding. The sets might have been wobbly, but the affection for the show was rock solid, and this is an unpatronisingly sweet tribute to that.

It’s also funny and bitchy and Helen Bonham Carter chews through the main role — dialogue, cast, and surroundings — in the manner of queens of the screen of yore.

Every element is on point for her to bounce off — an excellent supporting cast led by Augustus Prew’s soulfully camp portrayal of Nolly’s co-star Tony Adams, and meticulous set-design, costume, atmosphere, music, direction and, of course, a script that conceals itself with a lightness of touch that only comes from heavy lifting.

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