Original Seventies series Prisoner: Cell Block H was an attempt to show what men to do women
Few characters in there were career villains, the majority were banged up because of a bloke.
At times it was too heavy on the message, while the acting and the writing could seem as flimsy as the set which wobbled every time someone slammed a door.
You only had to watch Women Who Kill (C4) last night though to realise that this feminist TV show from 40 years ago was telling the truth. In the US, famous for locking up more of its population than any other country, there are 5,000 women serving long sentences for murder.
But where men will kill strangers without motive, women overwhelmingly kill partners or loved ones. Those women who contributed last night reflected the patterns of female homicide, with the majority having murdered male partners and cited self-defence as the cause.
Amber Hilberling pushed her husband from the 25th floor of their building
The case of Amber Hilberling, who pushed her husband to his death from the 25th floor of their building, sounded like an accident. They’d had, on her own admission, a toxic relationship.
Fights were commonplace, she was pregnant, he was dealing drugs and during one fateful argument she pushed him off her. She must have pushed with considerable force, since he went through a glass door and out of it – but there seemed little doubt that she’d neither planned nor intended to kill.
Justice, fuelled by a news media that painted Amber a cold-hearted hussy, was swift and harsh. She was serving a long sentence for murder and as a bleak footnote at the end told us, died in prison – verdict suicide.
You got the impression the police, courts and the TV news crews liked stories like that of Ana Trujillo, a glamorous drifter who attached herself to well-off men.
The grisly details of how she killed her last lover, Alf Stefan Andersson, suggested a frenzied, prolonged attack and not the self-defence she claimed in court.
Cases like hers, though, seem to act too often as the benchmark. Every woman who kills is treated and tried as a calculating killer, not someone defending themselves or just thoughtlessly lashing out.
The only thing we can say in fairness to America’s justice system, is it’s just as unjust for men.
Hilberling with her husband
The best TV for 2017
Fri, December 9, 2016
Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Homeland, The Voice UK and more. Here's the best TV coming your way in 2017.
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The Best TV to watch out for in 2017 including Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Homeland & The Voice UK
He may be a venerable old luvvie of stage and screen but I didn’t doubt Sir Ian McKellen’s emotions on Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1).
The major part of Sir Ian’s genealogical journey was devoted to his mother’s uncle Frank who, like him, was an actor. Frank Lowes entered the profession in boom time, certainly for Northern England, where the rising populations of the industrial towns led to an upsurge in entertainment.
The tail end of it influenced a young Sir Ian himself, growing up in Bolton.
Sir Ian McKellen delved into his family history on last night's Who Do You Think You Are?
Frank had his professional debut in the town, going on to flourish in theatres owned by the impresario James Pitney Weston.
Had he followed his boss to the States, he might have flourished. As it was, Sir Ian watched in horror as the paper trail for his great great-uncle passed from small-town success to fleapit variety shows, then the workhouse, then the grave.
No actor could fail to feel a shiver and a trace of “There, but for the grace…”