Small screen

The Secret of Drawing
BBC2
8 October, 8.10pm
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Love Soup
BBC1
11 October, 9pm
« « « « «Drawing is everywhere, proclaims presenter Andrew Graham Dixon as the opening gambit of new documentary series The Secret of Drawing. The series sets out to reassert what Dixon feels has become the neglected art of putting pencil to paper, nowadays ignored in favour of carelessly splattered canvases and unmade beds.
The first episode, The Line of Enquiry, focuses on the importance of drawing to the development of human knowledge and scientific enquiry. We meet Dr Francis Wells, cardiac surgeon, who not only prepares himself for an operation with a few preliminary sketches, but ends the surgery by inking explanatory diagrams for his colleagues in that medium most freely available in the operating theatre: his patients’ blood.
Graphic means to the graphic end are not uncommon, it seems. Eighteenth century British artist George Stubbs procured horse carcasses, stripped them layer by bodily layer and winched them into life-like positions, so as best to capture the unique poise of the equine form. Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, the unsentimental John James Audubon shot his avian subjects by the hundred to produce his master work The Birds of America.
Such shockers and other revelations of artistic eccentricities aside, what makes this documentary worth its salt is what it has to show us. Studies of anatomy, nature and even the moon, produced by artists in eye-popping photographic detail, are proved to be still shaping the course of scientific enquiry hundreds of years after they were sketched.
Thankfully, there is no need among all this for costumed actors dressed as Leonardo da Vinci or nifty computer generated gimmicks. The Secret of Drawing is an old fashioned but not unexciting documentary, with a presenter genuinely wide-eyed over his subject matter. If you can stand the ponderous, arty intensity into which Dixon drifts by the end of the hour, then this is well worth a look.
Anatomical studies of a different kind abound in the latest episode of Love Soup. This rom-com drama series charts the neatly parallel, but as yet still not intersecting lives, of Alison and Gil as they continue along the path of romantic misadventure.
Confronted by some thought provoking footage bequeathed her by an ex, and forced to share a hotel room with luscious model Rochelle, Alison has her sexual confidence dashed but is soon the object of an unexpected admirer’s affections.
Gil too comes across the unexpected when his seemingly perfect blind date steps out in her swimwear, revealing more than he ever could have bargained for. Meanwhile, a dream come true dustman is not all he seems for Gil’s slightly over- friendly neighbour Irene.
Not judging a book by its cover becomes the theme of this episode. It’s a path with much comic potential, but there’s a little too much earnestness to certain elements for the good gags to draw the laughs they should.
That said, this series has a lot going for it. Written by David Renwick, whose past projects include One Foot in the Grave and Jonathan Creek, it has a cast of rising comic stars (notably Sheridan Smith and Montserrat Lombard) and a novel premise. Yet, while it is watchable enough and the writing is engagingly sharp, Love Soup remains less of a clear, tasty broth, and more of a murky gruel.ARCHIVE: 0th week MT 2005