CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews a DeLorean documentary and a new drama

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Time-travelling with DeLorean the crook… and a very young Paxo

DeLorean: Back From The Future 

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The Bay 

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The essence of television’s current obsession with true crime is not murder. The serial killers, the stalkers, the maniacs, the cannibals, they’re all incidental. What has us hooked is the psychology behind the crimes.

John Zachary DeLorean didn’t kill anyone. But his entire life, from his first cheap scams to his $100 million car swindle, was a criminal enterprise.

DeLorean: Back From The Future (BBC2) told us from the start that this man, whose knife-blade sports car with its looming wings epitomised 1980s excess, was a complex phoney. ‘I don’t think he is just one person. I think he is several people, and he presents a side of himself like the side of a prism that he wants you to see,’ warned one contributor.

The documentary examined DeLorean from every angle, hopping back and forth through his life to strip away the charm and the lies. Thanks to the Michael J. Fox trilogy of Back To The Future movies, the car now symbolises time travel. The film-makers could have traded on that cheesily, but chose to keep it simple instead.

DeLorean: Back From The Future (BBC2) examined John Zachary DeLorean from every angle, hopping back and forth through his life to strip away the charm and the lies

The real sense of time travel came from the news footage. A youthful Jeremy Paxman with a head of riotous curls reported from the streets of Belfast, where DeLorean set up his factory with £54 million of Labour government funds in 1978. And a boyish Gavin Esler stood on a Californian beach, a couple of years later, thrilled at the prospect of driving the first production model.

Leap forward four decades, and both men are now silver-haired elder statesmen of journalism. Paxo sneered at DeLorean’s ‘perma-tan and perfect teeth’, while Esler lamented that when he tried to get out of the brand-new car, its gull-wing door jammed — on camera.

LUMINOUS TANS OF THE NIGHT 

Was it my telly or did half the chefs on Celebrity Best Home Cook (BBC1) have green faces? 

Either the studio lights were reacting with their make-up, or some of them are aliens. 

Unless that ham was a bit off …

The documentary featured appearances by figures including politicians Roy Hattersley and Michael Heseltine, and satirist P.J. O’Rourke. Several contributors were shown in a split screen, filmed from two angles, emphasising the idea that DeLorean, who died in 2005, was a man seen through a prism.

Sensibly, this film steered away from the wilder conspiracy legends that have grown up around the man — such as the theory that, after falling out with his business partner Colin Chapman, he had the Lotus F1 mogul poisoned with digitalis, the plant also known as foxglove. Chapman died of a heart attack aged 54.

DeLorean’s ex-wife, model Cristina Ferrare, dismissed him as a ‘malignant narcissist’, but it was his biographer, Hillel Levin, who pinned down the banal truth at the conman’s deepest psychological level. The plastic surgery, the fitness routines, the ostentatious lifestyle were devices not to steal money but to earn admiration. ‘I think he definitely wanted people to like him,’ Levin said. ‘Winning over people, becoming popular, these were important things to him.’

Taken far enough, vanity can be a crime too.

The crime that matters in The Bay (ITV) is not the execution on his doorstep of a solicitor (Stephen Tompkinson). Even the Morecambe police don’t seem terribly bothered by it.

Their investigation has dwindled to the interrogation of children — the boy who saw the shooting but can’t remember anything except the tattoo on the killer’s hand, and the 12-year-old delinquent girl who got rid of the murder weapon.

DC Lisa Armstrong (Morven Christie) is more concerned by the reappearance of her creepy ex (Joe Absolom), who is worming his way back into her children’s lives. Maybe, as he claims, he just wants to be liked. 

He’s going about it in an odd way.

Christopher Stevens finds the police somewhat distracted in ITV’s The Bay as their investigation dwindles

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