This wa' />

After the title credits of Piece of My Heart (last night, TV One) there was an explanation of sorts: "These things happened here."

This was drama. But that advisory proved necessary. Even if you remembered that bad girls in the 1960s who got in trouble could not legally get an abortion, that there was no contraceptive pill, that an unmarried mother was a source of shame to a family, you might have balked at the scene in the laundry of the home for bad girls.

Why were heavily pregnant, half-starved girls sent to sweat over boiling cauldrons of dirty water while they poked at sheets with sticks? The home is the place the girls went to, to work as slaves, before they had their babies, which they had signed away.

This home, based on a real one, is run by a matron who is a good Christian woman, doing God's work and who has as much compassion as a crocodile.

The stories, those true stories, are so harrowing the difficulty was this: how to stop Piece of My Heart from tripping over into melodrama?

Fiona Samuels (who adapted Renee's novel, Does This Make Sense to You?) mostly avoided that trap by making this a story about enduring friendship.

Kat and Flora (as girls played by Keisha Castle Hughes and Emily Barclay, as women by Rena Owen and Annie Whittle) meet in the home. The croc matron tricks them into thinking they can keep their babies - if they don't go to the police with the story of the girl with the dead baby who hanged herself. The baby was her father's.

We already knew how this was going to turn out, having met the girls as women.

Flora received a letter from her daughter asking: what kind of woman could give away her baby? (Answer: there was no woman, only a girl.) She fled, from Hamilton to Dunedin, to Kat, now a hard-on-the-surface nurse who had taken in a pregnant teenager she found begging in a supermarket carpark.

There were a couple of clangers in the plot. Would a middle class woman, no matter her panic at getting a letter from a daughter her husband and sons knew nothing about, really hitch a ride to Dunedin with a truckie?

The father of the teenager's baby was a well-off law student who wanted the baby. So why the begging? And Flora had met the father: he worked part time at a nursery where she went to buy Kat a rose to remember her son by - he had been killed in a car accident at the age of 21.

That wasn't as naff a coincidence as the ending: Flora pushes aside a suitcase in a cafe, looks at the name tag, and ... yes, the case belongs to her lost daughter.

These things seemed too glib to be true.

But Piece of My Heart was, at heart, a beautifully produced, moving piece of drama, with terrific performances from all four leads.