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Millar's Vision; Street's cred.

The knee-jerk reaction to the schoolgirl sex plot in Coronation Street is to be outraged.

Shock, horror! How dare the country's top soap feature a story in which a 16-year-old girl has sex in the back seat of a car.

That sort of criticism might be valid if the Street was guilty of sensationalism.

Or worse, if the show was suggesting it was perfectly reasonable for schoolgirl Toyah Battersby (Georgia Taylor) to have sex.

Then, and only then, could you say Coronation Street had gone too far.

However, the message behind this story, which all-too-accurately reflects a contemporary problem, has been clear ... schoolgirl sex is wrong.

At no time have we been given the impression that Toyah is doing something admirable. Or that it's something watching teenagers might choose to imitate.

Instead it's clear this is a romance - if it can be called that - doomed to end in tears.

It's a furtive affair which can only have one outcome - Toyah, who has a hard enough time in the Battersby household, will suffer.

She's the sort of girl who needs care and affection, which explains why the poor soul was coaxed into losing her virginity after a holiday romance convinced her that she was in love.

The reality is she's the victim of one of the sleaziest characters to ooze across the cobbles of Weatherfield.

From the first instant we laid eyes on shifty Philip Dobson (John Donelly), we've known he's no good.

But love is blind and so Toyah is prepared to do anything for what she believes is the man of her dreams.

That's why she had sex with him, even though she knew that she should wait.

Toyah said yes because she was scared saying no would mean Dobber would dump her. It's the reason why, though her conscience has troubled her, she has nicked cash from the cafe cash register for him.

Toyah also knew they should take precautions, but Dobber didn't bother. It's not him who'd get pregnant, so he doesn't care.

Sadly, and believably, the love-struck teenager is so head over heels she hasn't stopped to think about that.

But we know disaster is round the corner. And so do her nearest and dearest.

So far, the only person aware of what's going on is sister Leanne (Jane Danson), who is horrified her baby sister has made love to this creep and even more worried no precautions were taken.

Leanne's advice was that Toyah should take the morning-after pill. It is all building to a stark warning for the millions of teenagers tuning into the Street.

As a father of two girls, I'd rather Coronation Street tackled issues like this, in the way they've done here, than ignoring them.

The Street should be congratulated if the plight of Toyah Battersby - a brilliant performance by young Georgia Taylor, by the way - means just one schoolgirl says no to her lusting boyfriend.

El of a blow for Frank

I have a friend whose home is like a pop museum, packed with all sorts of rock 'n' roll memorabilia. Whenever he goes to a concert he buys two programmes - one is instantly sealed in a poly bag, so it's preserved for posterity.

He also owns special edition autographed albums, other coveted bits and pieces and one of Prince's waistcoats.

He knows it belonged to the Artist Formerly Known As ... because he caught it when the tiny superstar chucked it from the Wembley stage.

Frank Skinner wasn't so fortunate. Like my mate, he's a pop collector. He also paid up much more than common sense would dictate was a fair price - pounds 11,200 - for a blue velvet shirt.

The reason for this extravagance, as revealed in A Little Bit Of Elvis, was that Skinner thought it was THE shirt worn by Presley at the historic 1956 concert in Tupelo, Mississippi.

But Skinner, who admitted he'd never spent as much money on a car, started to doubt that it was the genuine article. Unlike my pal, he didn't have first-hand corroboration that his prized possession really was for real.

So he trekked across America - as far as Hawaii - to try and set his mind at ease. What emerged was inconclusive. It probably wasn't the Tupelo shirt, but may have been owned by Elvis.

So what did the documentary prove - apart from the suggestion that Frank Skinner has more money than he knows what to do with?

Well, we learned that Elvis had his shirts lined because he sweated so much and he didn't want the nasty perspiration to show while he was boogying on stage. He was probably worried about smelling like a hound dog.

The week ITV drama came out of a crisis

The arrival of Detective Inspector Robbie Ross (John Michie) should make it a sexier Taggart.

Things have been a touch too cosy among the Scots cops. So Ross, who's obviously a bit dodgy and too interested in Detective Sergeant Jackie Reid (Blythe Duff), should give the drama added edge.

What about the plot, in which a soldier has been murdered at the barracks?

Don't be silly, I haven't a clue what's going on. But that's how it should be. The day I can pick the killer in the opening episode is when Taggart should call it a day.

But Taggart wasn't the only bright spot - it's been a good week for ITV drama in general, an observation I make with pleasure and a little surprise, since we've had to endure so much rubbish.

Best of the bunch was the deeply-moving A Life For A Life - the dramatisation of how an innocent man's life was ruined when he was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of an 11-year-old girl.

Newcomer Tony Maudsley and Olympia Dukakis - as the pathetic Stefan Kiszko and his devoted mum - turned in performances that are worthy of awards.

This was disturbing drama because it was a true story and because of the tragic outcome - Stefan and his mother died soon after he was released from prison.

There were also star turns in Hornblower, which looks worth the millions lavished on it. You could smell the salt sea spray in your face as Hornblower proved he is an officer and a gentleman.

Captain Pellew (Robert Lindsay) told Hornblower: "If you continue in this service as you have begun, a great future awaits you."

Prophetic words. Because this is a hit and Ioan Gruffud, who plays Hornblower, is a star.

Pie in the sky

All those adverts made you think you were missing something if you weren't linked up to Sky TV.

They trumpeted a season of movie exclusives that you couldn't see in the cinema, on video or on terrestrial telly.

Sounds fab. The reality was that Saturday's `World Exclusive' was The Patriot, a Steven Seagal effort which, believe me, you would pay not to see.

Rab's poke in the dish

Even when he's far from the streets of Govan, Rab C. Nesbitt is still a loser.

So we saw when his alter ego, Gregor Fisher, failed to triumph in Celebrity Ready, Steady, Cook.

But Gregor showed he was definitely at home in the kitchen.

Which won't do Nesbitt's chip pan image much good.

Health Club's a funny farm

The strangest thing about Health Farm, the latest fly-on-the-wall documentary, was that two of the guests looked slimmer than most of the staff.

Another oddity was why the owners of the fight-the-flab establishment imagined it would be a good idea to give the TV cameras free access.

You can only guess they reckoned the exposure would attract business. But the sight of the naked, flabby flesh of the workers, who cavorted about with a hose as they sampled the mud bath, was more like a turn- off.

And it's hard to imagine that the building works going on during the grand opening ceremony would entice many guests.

The attraction of this series is to act as a reminder of places you never, ever want to go to.
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Millar, John
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 10, 1998
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Next Article:No hiding place for a Star Trek refugee; Safe House Channel 5, 9.00pm -10.50pm.

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