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Such a Grand affair!; LANNING; on the box.

Life ain't exactly grand at The Grand, ITV's Upstairs Downstairs of the Nineties - which started an eight-week run on Friday.

The five-star Manchester hotel, re-opening after the First World War, is deep in the money mire - with the accountant blowing out his brains while guests dance to a Viennese waltz on New Year's Eve.

Oily wheeler-dealer Marcus Bannerman (Mark McGann), brother of the owner, clearly intends to hang up Do Not Disturb signs outside the boudoir of his sister-in-law Sarah (Julia St John).

Tim Healy as the hotel Hudson - concierge Mr Collins - revealed that his son was shot as a deserter.

And Susan Hampshire as the gracefully ageing high-class hooker Esme Harkness proved she can still, just, manage womb service with a podgy businessman who insisted on hot toast at the bedside.

Writer Russell T Davies couldn't resist some ghastly cliches and lines like "sometimes we think we fought the war just for the right to be frivolous". But there is promise that The Grand will inject the roar into the Twenties with perky chambermaids (Rebecca Callard and Jane Danson) destined to be made in chambers.

I hope too that the delicious Camilla Power, who plays the owner's flapperish teenage daughter Adele, will not be as scandalously wasted as she was when she played Jessica McAllister in Emmerdale.

I still have a few reservations about The Grand - but it could be booked up healthily for ratings before the end of the season.

SIMPLY sensational special effects in the hi-tech romp The Vanishing Man (ITV, Wednesday).

Neil Morrissey, usually a man behaving badly, was a visible - and invisible - success as an air-freight pilot who disappeared during experiments into sun tanning.

What a wonderful way of getting rid of those rotten German holidaymakers who hog the poolside sun-beds!

It will be a pity if this idea, much more fun than writer Anthony Horowitz's Crime Traveller over on BBC1, vanishes completely in future.

Nicola's some Sheila!

JAWS dropped and blood pressure soared among the randy young bucks of Ramsey Street at the arrival of a bedazzling new bimbo on the block in Neighbours (BBC1) last week.

British-born ex-model Nicola Charles caused the heatwave with her arrival as Sarah Beaumont, the elder half-sister of supergreenie Catherine O'Brien (Radha Mitchell).

In time-honoured Oz soap tradition, she's a Tasmanian-born half Brazilian raver. It will surely not be long before Erinsborough echoes with the clashing of macho antler-locking over her fine feline favours.

But steady, lads. Soon all will be revealed that she's running away from wedding a filthy rich English nobleman, one Lord Steven Harrow.

And he plans to jet to Erinsborough to woo her back. What's the betting he has a monacle, says "pip pip, old fruit" and finished third in Monty Python's Twits Race.

Not to be missed!

EAT YOUR HEART

OUT CURLY...

Right carry-on, sergeant

VETERAN drill sergeants, whose leathery larynxes could produce a bellow to stop Big Ben from Tower Bridge, will have been slightly suicidal over the specially constructed sequences of BBC1's fascinating documentary Army Of Innocents (Wednesday).

The surly sarge actually had hair showing BELOW his cap.

And the NIGS (New Intake Group) looked like NOGS (Nancy Old Girls).

There were mind-boggling revelations from celebrity ex-squaddies in this marker of 50 years since the beginning of National Service.

John Peel claimed that as full-time s***house wallah he maintained the finest toilets in the British Army.

He's been doing it on radio ever since.

Michael Aspel described his barrack-room bed as "a thing of beauty" and how he was refused entry to a British Army of the Rhine brothel because he looked too innocent.

QUICK TAKES

IT MUST be spring if Audrey Roberts (played by magnificent Sue Nicholls) finds her hormones rushing about a bit in Coronation Street.

Her recent come-hither CV has hardly matched Princess Di. This week, she's been chatting up a trucker from Grimsby. So how long before she's helping him change gear?

WEDDED bliss-taking in Brookside for newly married Elaine and Mick Johnson. The bride's cancer-riddled mother stumbled down the aisle, the bride wore a lucky garter loaned by Julia Brogan and there was a telegram from sex-mad stalker Jenny. Happy ever after? Gazza and Sheryl have a better chance.

DIDN'T take long for the dolly-birds in Channel 5's soap Family Affairs to start running around in their underwear - and, tut, at 6.30 in the evening.

Only a matter of time before the ITV watchdog starts to snarl - which should work wonders for their ratings!
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Lanning, Dave
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 6, 1997
Words:750
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