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Sex ‘n’ Death (BBC-2 1999, Martin Clunes, Katy Cavanagh)

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As TV game shows compete to get bigger, better and more daring, this original movie premiere takes a sideways look at the future of television. In the very near future Ben Black is an anarchic TV presenter in destructive mode who will go to any lengths to win ratings. Nothing is too vulgar, distasteful or shocking. If there is a line to be crossed he will cross it, if there is a taboo to be broken he will smash it to pieces. He is a monster – and millions of viewers love him for it.

Black’s obsession with framing unwitting victims live on air creates chaos all around him. He doesn’t quite exist yet, says Martin Clunes (Shakespeare in Love) who plays the TV bad boy. But we have already had the forerunners of the kind of show he does. It’s all about going one better and in that sense has a whiff of Jerry Springer about it.

Black, a self-confessed philanderer, is on the verge of being divorced by his wife and producer Bella. But it soon becomes clear that their tempestuous relationship is based more on love than hate. Obsessed with getting one over on his TV rival Neil Biddle, Black enters a downward spiral that ends in tragedy.

production details
UK | BBC Two – Hatrick | 1×75 minutes | Tuesday 14 December 1999 at 9.30pm

Writer and Director: Guy Jenkin
Music: Matthew Scott, Richard Hammarton
Costume: Michele Clapton
Design: Jeff Tessler
Executive Producers: Jimmy Mulville, David M. Thompson
Producer: Jane Featherstone

cast
Katy Cavanagh as Ruby
Martin Clunes as Ben Black
Trevor Cooper as William
Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė as Shona
Caroline Goodall as Bella
Martin Jarvis as Neil Biddle
Ulrika Jonsson as Herself
Kelly Reilly as Julie
Jason Watkins as Mick Luger
Andy Hamilton as Ambulance Man
Terry O’Neill as Warren Hatcher