The help wanted ad was simple, straight-forward:
Daily willing lad, 14-18, for housework: Scout-trained preferred. Apply between 11-12, 8-9, 5, Manor Road, Bournemouth.Little did Alma Rattenbury know when she was placing that ad in September 1934 that she was initiating a series of events that would eventually include deceit, adultery, murder and suicide. But that's the story of Cause Celebre (9 p.m., Ch. 7), the two-part "Mystery!" series that begins tonight.
Based on Sir Terence Rattigan's dramatization of one of the most notorious crimes in recent British history, "Cause Celebre" stars Helen Mirren as Alma, the 38-year-old woman who has an affair with the 18-year-old handyman she hires (George Bowman, played by David Morrissey) - an affair that ends in tragedy for them and for her 60-year-old husband, Francis (Harry Andrews).
Since the case and its outcome is so widely known, "Cause Celebre" is not a whodunit in the traditional "Mystery!" sense. Nor is it a courtroom drama, although there are several courtroom scenes in the second installment. Instead, this fine BBC import, adapted for television by Ken Taylor ("The Jewel in the Crown"), is a character study that attempts to take us inside the mind of a woman who all of Great Britain loved to hate.
"The men hate you because you represent their greatest fear - an unfaithful wife," Alma is told during one scene. "The women hate you because you had what they all secretly desire - a younger lover." So great was this frenzied hatred that when she was buried newspapers reported that people came to the cemetery just to spit upon her coffin and rip the flowers off her grave.
But there is none of that bitterness in Mirren, who plays Alma as a sympathetic woman trapped between the passion she feels for her lover and her loyalty to her husband. Morrissey is suitably immature and impulsive as Bowman, although one wonders what it is about him that stirs such fearful desire in Alma's heart. And Andrews' Francis is a delicious curmudgeon, gruff and irascible with an endearing sweetness hiding just beneath the surface. There is no difficulty feeling remorse at his ultimate end.
"Cause Celebre" is an interesting real-life story well told. It moves along at a much brisker pace than most British miniseries. But you should probably know that there is a nude scene in the first episode and some rough language here and there. (In fact, the nudity is prominent enough and important enough to the plot development that KBYU decided not to carry the two-parter at all rather than try to edit around the scene.)
* SO WHICH BASEBALL LEAGUE draws better, the National League or the American League? According to last week's A.C. Nielsen Co. ratings, the Nationals get the nod - especially if you're talking about a playoff series between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Nielsen numbers released this week indicate that two National League Championship Series games placed among the week's top 20 programs, while none of the American League games were able to crack the top 20. Score one more for the Senior Circuit - and for network preference for major market rivalries in sports championship series.
Elsewhere, NBC dominated the week with its first-run comedies. "The Cosby Show" was back on top with a strong performance, "A Different World" was a solid No. 2 followed by "Golden Girls" and the network's two new time period hits - "Empty Nest" and "Dear John," which are bound to succeed because of where they're scheduled.
The top 10 programs of the week were: 1. The Cosby Show (NBC); 2. A Different World (NBC); 3. Golden Girls (NBC); 4. Empty Nest (NBC); 5. Dear John (NBC); 6. Tuesday Night Movie: Jesse (CBS); 7. ALF (NBC); and 8. 60 Minutes (CBS), Monday Night Football (ABC), Tonight Show 26th Anniversary (NBC) and The Hogan Family (NBC).
The second 10 consisted of: 12. Monday Night Movie: The People Across the Lake (NBC); 13. Amen (NBC); 14. Sunday Night Movie: Liberace: Behind the Music (CBS); 15. National League Championship Series Game One (ABC); 16. National League Championship Series Game Four (ABC); 17. Murder, She Wrote (CBS); 18. Hunter (NBC); 19. Monday Night Movie: Unholy Matrimony (CBS); and 20. Sunday Night Movie: Going to the Chapel (NBC).
The week's big losers (not counting Fox and the memory of John F. Kennedy) were: 51. Bugs Bunny Special (CBS) and The Cavanaughs (CBS); 53. Perfect Strangers (ABC); 53. Wiseguy (CBS); 55. Simon & Simon (CBS); and 56. Live! Dick Clark Presents (CBS).