For those of us who deeply admire Stephen Poliakoff the BBC have laid out a banquet - not so much a taster menu as a complete blowout. Last week those seeking out rare television drama gems had to juggle whether to record the new adaptation of A Room With A View whilst getting a Poliakoff hit with the exquisite Joe's Palace or vice versa. If your DVD was up the spout you were quite possibly in tears. If you'd watched the reruns of the first two parts of Shooting the Past a couple of days before, I doubt you headed for the Forster.
I remember the impact Poliakoff's Shooting the Past had on its first showing in 1999 - the best evocation of how pictures tell stories that I can recount. A collection being so much more than the sum of its parts; that storytelling is one of the most important attributes of the human race; how the brain is exponentially superior in every way to a computer no matter how large the electronic database; that business schools may be money making machines for churning out mini mes but they do not develop the soul: all these concepts were set out for the viewer. When something is so near perfect, any minor irritant galls, and my ointment's flea was Emilia Fox playing the redheaded leather trousered Spig who lopes and stares to minor effect. Up against Lindsay Duncan, Timothy he can do no wrong Spall and Billie Whitelaw, she didn't stand a chance; eight years on she's still not really fit for purpose.
Next up was Joe's Palace, bringing together worlds so disparate you expect the dissonance to be greater than it is. Unlike some interpretations, I didn't believe that any of the people Joe met thought he was wise, brilliant or clever. He was a young, lonely, inexperienced soul, a quiet boy neither overly naive or worldly. He was easy to befriend, mildly exploited, but saw things as they really were. He was simply the least complicated of the people around him, a cipher with little personal baggage. Chippyness was reserved for all the remaining characters, their baggage slowly unpacked for the viewer.
Holocaust references can jar - like child abuse, its horror can be misused to create undeserved dramatic tension. In Joe's Palace the revelations of the source of the billions that had bought the 'palace' and its contents were portrayed with frightening originality. Jewish men in Berlin forced to crawl naked through the park whilst the women perched in trees chirruping like birds were extraordinary harbingers of ultimate degradation.
Last night we had Mark Kermode head to head with Poliakoff, who openly shared his absolutism; his vision, his script, his work. It's a rare artist that can command control. I could rabbit on about A Real Summer or the fact that I loved The Lost Prince and Gideon's Daughter. I don't care that all the pieces are set in luscious surroundings; there is more than enough cold reality available on every channel every day (and for some good reality stuff see The Street where you can have your Spall and eat it too). All I know is there is more brilliance to come.