There is so much rude stuff on the telly these days, as my mother used to say, that it was pleasant to see the most vulgar bit in the first episode of the costume drama series Cranford (UKTV, Wednesdays and Sundays) concerned the etiquette of eating an orange.
Two elderly spinster sisters - Miss Matty and Miss Deborah Jenkyns (played by two of Britain's finest acting Dames, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins) - who live in genteel poverty in the Cheshire village of Cranford in 1842, have been joined by their niece, Mary Smith, come all the way from, gasp, Manchester.
Mary Smith has brought a basket of oranges - another gasp - imported by railway. Something coming into Cranford from the outside world is unheard of; something to be highly suspicious of.
Miss Deborah, the older, more pinched, of the two sisters, finds the eating of an orange "a most incommodious business". Mary outrageously prefers to make a hole and suck. Miss Deborah's prunelike mouth makes a disapproving moue, very much like a sucking shape. Her sister hastens to explain - "my sister does not approve of that word 'suck'." The three women repair to their rooms to suck their oranges in solitude.
It's the little things that count in Cranford. Based on three novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, it's one of those impressive BBC series with a knock-out cast, including Imelda Staunton as the gossip-addicted Miss Pole, John Bowe as kindly if ignorant, Dr Morgan, Philip Glenister as Mr Carter, land agent to Lady Ludlow (Francesca Annis), Michael Gambon as farmer Mr Holbrook, one-time suitor of Miss Matty, plus Julia Sawalha, Greg Wise and Barbara Flynn ...
Cranford is worth watching for those big guns alone but the forces of change and youth are blowing into town as well, most notably in the handsome form of young Dr Harrison, who trained in London under a surgeon who may have inspected Queen Victoria's private bits.
While there is much to gently laugh at in Cranford - an incident involving a bowl of milk to whiten a priceless piece of lace, which was lapped up by a cat, was pure farce - there is also much to appreciate in its subtle portrayal of a society on the brink of massive social and industrial change. Rigid codes of polite conduct are under threat. Working class people are learning to read and write. The railway is coming.
As Miss Deborah/Judi Dench observed, "It is all go in Cranford."
It was all go and a costume drama on The Pretender last Sunday on TV One as well. Future NZ MP Dennis Plant, making "not one bloody per cent" in the polls because he has no policies, wangled a last-minute appearance on Dancing With the Stars. Initially, he was useless at the rehearsals and went all sulky, moaning it was the "first thing I've done I'm no bloody good at".
But then he gained confidence - why, I'm not sure - and started raving on about it being "the dance of life, so passionate" (beware that word from a politician's mouth). His rottweiller-like adviser (marvellously, viciously played by Joel Tobeck) ground out something about "if a turd like Hide can get in for a second term ... "
With his Queenstown electorate baying for his blood, because he's never there, Dennis just could not abandon his rehearsals. Or his costume fittings. The resulting skintight white pant suit, slashed in the front to the waist and decorated with feathers, was breathtaking all right. But worried the feathers were too poofy, Dennis removed some from a really strategic place just before his first public appearance and his costume suddenly became much too revealing.
Probably the first transparent thing he's ever done in his political life.