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Scotland's top cops had their hands full in the latest Taggart tale (ITV).

They were trying to solve a 60-year-old murder and nab the killer who was working her way through the staff of a posh boarding school.

Otherwise Jardine (James Macpherson) and Reid (Blythe Duff) might have turned their attention to another mystery - how the school had produced the neatest pupils that chalk dust never dared disturb.

These schoolboys were like youthful tailor's dummies.

Their most immaculate green blazers seemed completely unaffected by the rigours of school life.

Although it was almost the end of term, the school uniforms didn't have the slightest crease or wrinkle, never mind any wear and tear, stains or sweat.

Clearly these boys were not the sort who had their blazer pockets bulging with everything from sweets to leaky pens.

Or who laid the jackets down to create makeshift goalposts.

They were spotless, like Scotland's Stepford sons.

Even the poor soul who was the subject of constant bullying managed to look like a model pupil.

Despite those flawless blazers, the spick and span image was a phoney facade.

The smart look masked a world of cruelty and nastiness - perfect territory, in fact, for a Taggart tale.

As students of the cop drama will know only too well, any self-respecting edition of this long- running drama has to have a mortuary full of victims.

Here the body count was four, as corpses of schoolteachers - all the result of revenge by bullied pupils - piled up in a classic complex case.

I defy anyone to have worked out whodunit and why - particularly since the Coronation Street- style transsexual revelation about the classroom serial killer was so unexpected.

But, as far as I'm concerned, being a sofa sleuth has never really been the appeal of Taggart watching.

The drama grips because it is superior crime hokum.

Even when, like this edition, it strays from the cliff-hanging territory of the three parter to the one- off telly movie.

THE Taggart touch spanned the centuries this week as the craggy cop's creator Glenn Chandler gave us The Life And Crimes Of William Palmer (ITV).

The study of this Victorian Dr Death - chillingly portrayed by Keith Allen - was crying out for the local Peelers to have had their equivalent of the Taggart team.

Hopefully they might have been able to collar Palmer the poisoner before he had despatched quite so many victims.

But then again, perhaps not. Remember, the screen has to be awash with blood before the Taggart lot finally get their man.

And Palmer certainly was exactly the sort of loathsome villain for a Taggart case.

The opening episode of the atmospherically convincing Victorian drama saw him cold-bloodedly murder six - including three of his newly-born children.

The most gut-wrenching moment was when he had one of the defenceless, innocent babies suck on a finger that had been dipped into a deadly cocktail of jam and poison.

Watching this murderous medic in action reminded me of the old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. If Palmer was your local doc, you'd want to have an orchard full of the fruit on your doorstep.

YOU might never have reckoned that Noel Coward had so much time on his hands, or such hidden talents, if it hadn't been for Goodnight Sweetheart (BBC1).

The latest desperate attempt at humour from this feeble comedy has time- tripping Gary (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Phoebe (Elizabeth Carling) sharing an apartment block with the legendary actor, writer, composer and director.

And to those skills you can now add speech therapist and nanny.

Because Noel - played by David Benson - has managed to alter his busy schedule so that he can give elocution lessons to Phoebe and babysit her tot.

It's about as likely as this comedy raising a laugh.

THE dramatisation of the life of British fascist Oswald Mosley (Channel 4) plodded - well, it didn't march along with a goose step - to its conclusion.

This was a disappointment. Not just because of the way it almost glamourised the blackshirt leader, but by an extremely wooden performance from Jonathan Cake in the title role.

You could call it a case of mahogany Mosley, I suppose.
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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:Mar 7, 1998
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