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TV: Cell-acious stories; Bad Girls (ITV1,9pm).

LESBIAN clinches, flings between cell mates and staff, fires, riots and all round violence are just a few aspects of Bad Girls.

Previous series have proved to be a real roller-coaster ride, and the latest run looks set to be just as exciting.

This hard-hitting women's prison drama has generated a massive cult following,probably due to its rich variety of plots.

Added to that is the fact that an estimated 60% of female viewers found themselves able to identify with the hard-done-by,powerfullydrawn characters, who appear to be victims of their circumstances as much as their actions.

While some watch it just because of its salacious storylines, there is a serious side to the show.

Many inmates are the children of poverty,or victims of physical and sexual abuse attempting to survive in a world that,from their point of view, was merciless from the start.

Series four ended with a horrific fire raging through G-wing after a bomb explosion, leaving at least one inmate dead and the lives of several others in the balance.

This run picks up a few weeks later, with the inmates still coming to terms with what happened.

Denny is particularly upset as she continues to grieve for Shaz.

She and her fellow prisoners are keen on getting revenge on Snowball, who planted the bomb, as she's released from solitary confinement.

Meanwhile, inspired by Cassie and Roisin's pardon,Julie,OK and Al come up with an unusual plan to ensure their own release.

Later in the run, former soap glamour queens Amanda Barrie and Stephanie Beacham will appear as con-womenPhyl and Bev,but most fans will be pleased to know that Shell Dockley also returns to HMP Larkhall for the first four episodes of the new series.

``Shell arrives back with a bump, as I was six months pregnant with my first child when filming started at the end of last year,'' explains Debra Stephenson, who plays her. ``I now have a very healthy baby boy called Max.

``When we catch up with Shell, she is on the run in Amsterdam.

She hasn't softened at all being pregnant.

``At the prison she's up to her usual tricks with officers and inmates alike,and in some ways is worse than ever - more outrageous this time,given that she's pregnant.

``She's keen to get back with Denny and I think viewers will be pleased to know that Shell and Fenner team up again - which is bound to end in trouble. People might even wonder if it's his baby.''

While many actresses enjoy playing a variety of roles and don't like to be tied down for long,Stephenson is thrilled to be back as Shell, the character who made her a famous face.

``Some aspects of playing her were tough but despite the fact she is so bad and horrible, I do have a fondness for her,like any actor who has played a role for any length of time,'' she reveals.

So,after four years of Shell, what does she like best about the character?

``That she is so schizo,'' she laughs.

``She can change from one minute to the next. There is so much to her, she's very complex. I enjoyed being back, too.

``There were familiar sounds still back in Larkhall, like the doors slamming, gates rattling and the smell of the food in the prison canteen. I'dforgotten those glamorous moments...''


THEY'RE BACK: Those naughty girls and boys from G-wing
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 8, 2003
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