Sex, Lies and Media Tropes
Looking at two shows wherein cheating is a key part of the game
By Richard Lord
“He who has not lived before the Revolution,” wrote a wistful Talleyrand in the early 1800s, “has not tasted the sweetness of life.” Talleyrand, that quintessential political chameleon and survivor of political reversals, had lived before the Revolution and enjoyed the many advantages of the aristocratic life.
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos also lived before the Revolution which officially (if not in reality) wiped out the French aristocracy. Like Talleyrand, he was himself a member of the aristocratic circles, passed many evenings in their salons and soirées.
But Choderlos de Laclos evidently had a more sensitive social and psychological palate than Talleyrand. The life of the aristocracy he perceived bore a distinctly mouldy, bittersweet taste. In 1782, Choderlos published an epistolary novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which turned a cold eye on the doings and wooings of this overly privileged class. Les Liaisons presented a bored, spoiled caste who could only tap their own emotional emptiness for thrills.
In the late 1980s, British playwright Christopher Hampton took this material and turned it into a brilliant play that shone a harsh light on Thatcherite Britain and other Western societies through the prism of Choderlos’ 18th century world.
Hampton, one of the more accomplished British playwrights of the post-war period, had also lived before and after a revolution. In Hampton’s case, this was the social revolution of the 1960s which transformed Britain from a staid, boring bastion of tradition to the swinging centre of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
Hampton’s own personal background - born in the Azores, raised in Aden, Egypt, Hong Kong and Zanzibar before settling in his parents’ homeland, England, for secondary education - provided him with a unique perspective on culture clashes. This was a theme Hampton explored in some of his best original plays, such as Savages, Tales From Hollywood and even Total Eclipse, where the clash is between the respectable haut bourgeois world of Paul Verlaine and the rowdy, street-wise sphere of his protégé and lover Rimbaud.
It is also a great clash of sorts that Hampton explored splendidly in his Liaisons Dangereuses. But here the clash seethes not between cultures, nations or classes; no, this conflict is between the received Enlightenment values of order, reason and commitment to the betterment of the human condition the play’s characters espouse and the chaos, rash sexual antics, and lust for debasement of oneself and others that the main protagonists pursue.
The two central protagonists, Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, are pampered aristocrats bored with their own debaucheries - and boredom is the only vice they cannot abide. One-time lovers, Valmont and Merteuil are now bound by both contempt and mutual admiration for the other’s amorality. As Valmont admits to Merteuil, their “passions” are “as cold as they are superficial”. In such a bind, sexual conquest is just a form of achieving social prestige at best, contempt at worst. No wonder that Valmont early on warns the Marquise that she should not stick to just a single lover as ‘exclusivity in sexual relationships is unhealthy’.
We soon learn that Merteuil’s two favourite words are “cruelty” and “betrayal” - in that order. And both she and Valmont will make ample use of these as the play progresses - though she much more skillfully than he.
We see how they use these weapons very quickly. The pair decide to amuse themselves - and seek revenge for casual slights - by entering a diabolical wager. Valmont boasts how he can, in short order, seduce first Cecile, an under-aged convent-school girl (still a virgin) and Madame de Tourvel, a married woman from their social circle known as a paradigm of virtue and marital fidelity. Merteuil quickly takes him up on this boast and offers him one last night of amorous pleasures with her should she lose the bet.
But Merteuil is one who hates to lose, and even when it appears that Valmont has triumphed, she pulls a trump card out of the bottom of her deck. Immune to love herself, she can see it when it infects others. Valmont, she realises, has fallen in love with one of his conquests. In short, he has fallen to the one temptation those of their temperament fear and loathe. And now Merteuil is set to prove that she is indeed much more skilled at wielding cruelty and betrayal than the emotionally revived Vicomte. And as Valmont’s aunt sadly declares at one point, “Those who are most worthy of love are not made happy by it.”
Using this material from Choderlos de Laclos, Hampton was able to frame a fearful symmetry wherein the betrayals and deceptions lead inevitably to Valmont’s final demise. It is not without reason that the key mantra Valmont invokes during his break-up scene with Madame de Tourvel is “It’s beyond my control.” Indeed, it is; everything in their tight, corrupt universe is now under the control of the Marquise de Mertuil.
At the play’s conclusion, both chilling and stirring, we see that Valmont has triumphed over his old love on emotional and spiritual grounds, but has paid for this triumph with his own life. Merteuil is left in the cold cell of her own lovelessness, but she is still alive and can perhaps even gloat over Valmont’s death. (But not to fret: with any luck, the Marquise would have lost her once lovely head on the guillotine some ten years later.)
To wrap it up in a short appraisal, Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a brilliant theatrical achievement with witty, pinpoint dialogue supporting a precarious balance of emotional and intellectual forces.
For a fitting short appraisal of the Toy Factory’s mid-February production of Liaisons, it is best to turn to another Talleyrand quote - this one uttered by Napoleon to Talleyrand: “You are shit in a silk stocking.” But I hasten to add that there were many little gems embedded in all that shit. The problem was, you had to scrape off a lot of extraneous crap to appreciate the gems.
In her Director’s programme notes, Beatrice Chia confesses that she had considered leaving the project in the first week of rehearsals as she “wondered if I was too young to be directing a play whose study of love was so mature and so full of depth“. She further wrote that she “tried to grow up as fast as I could and direct as hard as I could”.
I would not presume to judge whether or not Beatrice Chia is mature enough to handle the full depths of love, but based on the evidence here, I would dare to say that she is not yet mature enough to handle a play of the sensibility Liaisons Dangereuses embodies. What Chia called directing “as hard as I could”, I would call over-directing. In short, her failure to step back and let this play speak for itself, to eschew the spate of cheap theatrical tricks and over-directing that distinguished this production, brought about a major disappointment.
The pre-show music was a tip-off to all that was wrong in the production to follow. Whereas one might have expected something from the height of the Classical period to set the tone, what we got was the standard fare of contemporary American frat parties: raunchy parodies of popular tunes. The message was clear: we are going to have us a lot of cheap, lowbrow fun here, even if it occasionally undermines the tone and themes of the Hampton script.
As the lights went up, we saw that this message was accurate. Rather than anything suggesting Enlightenment order and reason, we got a large playground with swings, monkey bars and such. Worse, several of the actors would spend key moments climbing these bars, hanging from them, swinging here and there.
As striking as this set by Goh Boon Teck may have been in its own right, it quite simply struck the wrong tone for this play. Enlightenment Europe was a place of elegantly designed country houses with neatly appointed rooms and well-laid out, sculpted gardens. It was a world in which public decorum was as obligatory as shenanigans behind closed doors were rampant. Goh’s set laid the ground for a score of disconnects with Hampton’s script. For instance, when the Marquise at the centre of the action tells her servant “Very well; show him in”, there was nowhere to be shown into. They were not in some drawing room or salon, but plunked in the middle of that playground setting.
More importantly, the set works against the finely-tuned tension between appearance and reality, between surface manners and underlying lechery and viciousness that playwright Hampton constructed so well.
But it was not simply the set and accompanying gymnastics that ran at counter-purposes to Hampton’s achievement. The tone of certain key scenes was also quite off. For instance, Valmont’s first meeting with Cecile at the cusp of womanhood is close to a sexual come-on, and this right under the eyes of her mother. The cruel but clever seduction of Cecile which will follow is thus drained of some of its sweet venom. Moreover, maman would probably not have allowed this lecher within ten chaperones of her daughter after having witnessed that action.
Then, not long thereafter, Valmont says, “Let me help my aunt to a chair” - and proceeds to pick up the old chippy and swing her around like a figure-skating partner. The frail lady was treated more like a date at one of those frat parties invoked in the pre-show than the elderly aristocrat for whom this nephew actually does harbour some affection and respect. But why concentrate on character and careful delineation of the social backdrop necessary to the story when you can squeeze in a few cheap laughs?
I am most certainly not against directors working in visual humour or serious business that serves, enhances or even complements a strong text. And to be fair, this production also had a fair sampling of those. One fine visual bit had Valmont, after breaking off with Tourvel, walk off with a limp. We know by then that the poor Vicomte has actually fallen in love with this woman, so in breaking off, he has wounded himself emotionally. This bit let us see that wound in physical terms.
Yet in far too many places, this Toy Factory Liaisons snatched a number of cheap laughs that undercut the character, such as Valmont spinning his hands comically after asking for Tourvel’s help in becoming a better person, or Valmont’s exaggerated swoon when he professes his profound unhappiness at first being rejected by Tourvel.
She soon gives in to him, of course. Now, a decision that director Chia deserves praise for was having Merteuil (played by Tan Keng Hua) on stage during this seduction, observing from a distance. Keng Hua’s cold stare here was chillingly effective, a testimony to the depth of her malice. Moments like these were the extra grace notes director Chia should have been working in, not the cheap tricks that filled the early parts of the evening.
Having the young couple on stage while Merteuil gives an account of their relationship to Valmont was a good notion, though it could have been staged much better - not in the juvenile pantomime way it was done here. Alas, the second time this couple appears as background visuals, as Merteuil tells Cecile’s mother about them, did not work at all: instead, it came off as superfluous.
But the director’s most obvious miscalculation was filling the first half with adolescent sexual gags. Ancien regime France was a milieu where sex and seduction were a game with carefully designed rules and players who took that game all too seriously. The lame and lewd schtick that Chia chose to titillate the audience with was akin to placing microphones in the masters’ chairs during a tense world chess championship so as to catch and amplify their farts.
The best (or worst) example of this: With Valmont’s favourite courtesan Emily taking a champagne bath, we were treated to a ribald song during which her two servants pick up empty magnum bottles of champagne and use them like huge cocks, thrusting them back and forth to the rhythm of the music.
Chia padded the production with this type of sexual lo-jinks. Almost without exception, they detracted from the play rather than adding any value to it. This bath scene, for instance, is not in the original; it was an invention of the director. After Emily emerges from the bubbly bath, we swing back to the text - sort of. Valmont, still the prince of cynicism, is writing a love letter to Tourvel. Having just emerged from bed with Emily, he uses her derriere as a writing board. This is in the original text.
However, in having added that bath element, Chia undercut Hampton’s assured wit. While not speaking from extensive personal experience in this area, I would imagine that writing on a wet butt with a quill pen is somehow counterproductive. Not only would the ink tend to run, but the sharp point of the quill could obviously do damage to a well-formed derriere, such as the one our Emily had.
I could go on with other examples, but I think I have made enough sharp points of my own here. Too, too many of the directorial choices Beatrice Chia made were appropriate to edgier, less controlled plays that she has directed recently (such as the Toy Factory’s Fireface), but totally out of place with Les Liaisons.
A shame, too, as she obviously had the funds and the cast to have produced a respectable version of this demanding show. For instance, while the acting here was certainly not up to delivering a great production of Liaisons, it was generally admirable.
Mark Richmond was not an obvious choice for the part of Valmont. Richmond has hitherto shown his best side playing slightly quirky, confused characters who mix awkwardness and enthusiasm. So how would he manage a figure like Valmont whose defining traits involve being confident, smooth, sophisticated and oh so blasé? Moreover, can you picture Mark Richmond exuding aristocratic charm?
Well, while Richmond did not deliver anything near a definitive Valmont, neither did he discredit himself. When called on at peak moments to express emotional power and depth, Richmond did quite alright, in fact. However, Richmond could have used a tad more coaching on his French. He pronounced chevalier ‘Shev-a-leer’, as if it were a mid-priced car from General Motors. On the other hand, and fittingly enough, his pronunciation of the French terms for fellatio and male genitals was quite up to snuff.
Tan Kheng Hua, a skilled Singapore stage veteran, took on the role of Merteuil and gave a creditable performance therein. Still, I somehow felt she was wrong for this role. In Choderlos de Laclos’ novel, Merteuil is described as ‘having the face of an angel’. It is, in fact, that angelic facade that allows her to be so successful in her diabolical machinations.
In casting Kheng Hua, Chia was obviously following the lead of the Stephen Frears film, which had Glenn Close in this role. Like Close, Kheng Hua brings a certain hardness, sharpness and jaded elegance to the Marquise. Not to make any judgment on their respective acting abilities, but for the look alone, it would have been more interesting to cast Keng Hua as the jaded courtesan Emily and moved the delicately featured Cheryl Miles from the role of Emily to Merteuil.
Kheng Hua also missed a few chances to focus us on the character’s unyielding malice. For instance, having stage-managed Valmont into Tourvel’s bed, she connives to split the pair up. Merteuil should send shivers down the spine in this scene; Kheng Hua did not. Indeed, Merteuil’s most deadly verbal dagger in the whole play is pointed right at the heart of Valmont: “Once upon a time, you were a man to be reckoned with.” But here it was delivered by Kheng Hua without the proper rub of venom on it.
Cheryl Miles was herself commendable as Emily, though she played her more as a flighty fluff of a thing than the shrewd, conniving creature she could be. A bit more impressive, in a richer role admittedly, was Vivien Wee as the easily corruptible Cecile. It is clear that Wee has not yet fully developed as an actress, but her talent was clear at several key points in the show.
In fact, one of very good moments of interaction between characters in this production came at the end of the scene where Cecile confesses the loss of her virginity to Valmont to Merteuil (of all people!). At a key moment there, a good rush of female bonding ensued as Vivien Wee and Tan Kheng Hua shared a laugh as an act of relief, followed by the older woman hugging the younger. Of course, our sense of this bonding is deliciously tainted because we know the principal role the Marquise played in the deflowering.
The best female performance of the evening belonged to Andrea de Cruz as Madame de Tourvel. Now I know quite a few eyebrows around town were raised when word got out that de Cruz had been given this crucial role. After all, she is known mainly for TV hosting work and her live theatre experience was rather thin of late.
But De Cruz gave a fine, measured performance that nicely caught the various contours of this character. Tourvel’s moral dilemma when first pursued by Valmont came through clearly, while the wrenching emotional twists after she has given in to him and her heartbreak when he ends the affair were rather moving. In fact, I could not pick out a single false step that de Cruz made in taking us on that difficult emotional ride this character undergoes.
One of this production’s most compelling segments was the near-seduction scene early on, wherein Tourvel, after kissing Valmont, falls to the ground softly crying (both for her lost honour and out of love). Then, just as the knotty relationship is about to be consummated, Valmont withdraws - excuse me, pulls back - and calls for his aunt, as Tourvel is ‘not feeling well’. This scene was both well-staged and acted, with de Cruz’s crying being quite convincing and well-delivered, while the look of doubt on Richmond’s face as he pulled back, born of a first twinge of conscience, was exemplary.
Timothy Nga also proved fairly good as le Chevalier Danceny, nicely mixing callowness, youthful devotion for his beloved and youthful corruption (the latter under the guidance of the Marquise). Danceny can be portrayed as a real twit, without the complexity that makes him an essential part of this volatile ensemble, but Ng gave us the better reading.
Still, Danceny’s turning up suddenly (from behind a curtain) as Merteuil’s latest lover should come as a greater surprise than it did here. The fact that it did not suggests that Nga had not established that callowness and sense of a devoted lover indelibly enough up to this moment.
The standout in the subsidiary roles was Christian Huber as Valmont’s manservant Azolan. Huber was fairly solid throughout, striking the right tone for his character in both demeanour and comportment, delivering his lines convincingly.
Indeed, some of this production’s truest moments come in the interaction between Valmont and Azolan. Huber strikes the right tone as one who is both servant and confidant: deferential, but with clear notes of snobbery, appropriate to the most trusted servant in Valmont’s retinue.
In return, Richmond plays against Huber with the right level of noblesse oblige. Because of how well this relationship was developed, a beautiful moment came at Valmont’s death: Azolan holds his master’s head as he makes his dying confession to Danceny. Then, Valmont reaches out tenderly to take Azolan’s hand, as the servant peers down at his master with clenched affection and sorrow.
In addition to Huber, Noorlinah Mohammed deserves praise for her portrayal of Valmont’s aunt. The actress was strong throughout, handling this minor role with grace and intelligence. Her strength was epitomised in her barely controlled grief upon Valmont’s death in the duel. The music here was also good, with deep, plangent tones dominating.
Indeed, the whole technical side of this show was fairly impressive, as one might expect with this type of well-funded production. Dorothy Png’s light design was good, as were little touches such as a string of light bulbs representing stars descending from above, as if summoned by Valmont. This came during that first seduction scene, in which de Cruz and Richmond were also both at their best.
The sound and music adjuncts (by Andrea Crothers and Don Richmond) were generally effective, though there were some bad moments in this regard (and not only in that ill-considered bath scene). For example, the final pivotal scene between Valmont and the Marquise was spoiled by loud music: Merteuil even had to scream out her chilling declaration of “War!” at the scene’s climax. Not good.
In the subsequent scene between Valmont and his aunt, while nicely played by the two actors, the sound again did its mischief: their voices had to compete with the music, and the music sometimes won.
But one technical achievement that should not go unmentioned: during that climactic dueling scene, wedges of white paper wafted down from the rafters, suggesting snow. But as Valmont is mortally wounded, the pieces of paper turned to red, suggesting blood. This was the sort of directorial touch the play calls for and that Chia showed herself well capable of when she was focused. A more steady focus throughout might have made this - to borrow Merteuil’s words - a production worth reckoning with.
Later in the season, in late March, the Substation presented a more contemporary take on sexual and emotional infidelities, Lionel Chok’s Adultery. Now, you might think from this title that the play involved a lot of bed-hopping by people lawfully wed to someone other than the present occupant of that bed.
As it happens, the Mosaic commandment that gets broken most often in this piece is one of those nebulous “thou-shalt-nots” down at the bottom of the table. But I can see that calling a play “Coveting Thy Neighbour’s Wife” would not be quite as catchy as or have the draw “Adultery” has. And, fair enough, there is a bit of reported extramarital bonking that sets off a key plot spin late in the action, so the play’s title is not a complete scam. Besides, we have much more to take playwright Chok to task for here than his choice of title.
The Eastertide show opened with a parody of the 20th Century-Fox film beginnings, though this one credits (if that’s the appropriate word here) the Substation. It then moves into the home of film critic Nick, whose wife has just walked out on him, causing his constricted world to collapse in on him.
Chok lifted the idea and much of the structure for Adultery from Woody Allen’s early film Play It Again, Sam (itself originally a play). However, this major influence is attributed nowhere in the author’s longish programme note. (A standard courtesy Chok did extend to Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy in the programme for his last stage effort.)
Woody Allen’s film had Casablanca’s iconic hero Rick being channeled into the life of a nebbish film critic, Allen Felix. Rick’s main task was to give the critic advice on how to be less hopeless with women - including blind dates and the wife of a good friend, herself a rather close friend.
In Chok’s Adultery, the story opens with our film critic, Nick, at home watching Titanic for the umpteenth time. Before you can say “I’m on the top of the world, but feeling like shit”, Jack, Titanic’s star-crossed lover, appears on the scene and begins going over Nick’s relationship woes with him. Jack will soon exit to make room for Nick’s best friends, Amy and Ben, there to give their own solace and advice to the recent newly dumped Nick.
Ben’s contribution to soothing Nick’s pangs of loss is blunt locker-room bravado telling Nick to run right out and meet and screw as many girls as he can. (This with his loving wife right there at his side.) He even arranges a blind dinner date for Nick for that very evening. (Suggesting that Lionel Chok is the last person you would want to call for solace and advice right after a major relationship goes belly-up.)
Much later, we discover that good friend Ben has been doing the dirty with Nick’s wife, Carol. Which is part of the reason Carol walked out. All of which comes as no great shock, however, as the author has been telegraphing little clues along the way. But then..
Let us not go any further with this. The sad fact is, not only is the plot as rearranged by Chok implausible, but the writing of Adultery is appallingly inept. The playwright would have been fine if he had hewed closer to Woody Allen’s work. But a larger influence for Chok seemed to be those dreaded Singapore sitcoms at their average level of mindlessness.
Put aside for a moment the fact that Chok displays little knack for making male-female relationships believable, appeared to lack knowledge of either the real pleasures or costs of sexual betrayal, and trivialised the power of love to both permanently wound and temporarily heal. The fact is, the basic craftsmanship of the dramatist here was so poor.
At many points, it seems that Chok had not read, or re-read, earlier parts of the play. Not that I can’t fully sympathise with anyone who does not care to read over sections of this script, but the playwright certainly owes it to his audience and his actors to do so. Had Chok re-read certain sections and ironed out the inconsistencies there, his Adultery might not have been quite as dire as it wound up being.
For instance, Nick describes himself as a film critic-slash-film reviewer, but then gets offended when he is later called a reviewer. And when blind date Charlotte arrives, she says his place is a mess - but it just is not.
So many things in this play are just plain stupid. For example, Nick’s doctor has him taking antibiotics in place of painkillers. Now any doctor who would even consider antibiotics as a substitute for painkillers should have his/his licence revoked and be barred from even giving free advice to friends. A bit of research on the material is the minimal one should expect from a playwright. But Chok seems to have done little work in this regard.
The jokes are just as lame. Ben claims that he has to run off to Jakarta because an oil tanker there has collided with a penguin and caused a massive oil spill. Come on: if you’re going to make a bad joke, at least make it credibly bad. When was the last time you heard of a penguin plying the waters around Jakarta? I wonder if you can even find a penguin in the Jakarta zoo.
And just when you thought that Chok had hit rock bottom with his poor jokes, the guy started drilling. Ben defends his infidelity by claiming that he was so bored while traveling on business, he just had to cheat. If he didn’t have an affair, he pleads, he would have started hallucinating. Just as that moment, who should jump out but Jack from Titanic. (Get it - hallucination... Jack? Ouch.)
And at the very end, Adultery descends into the level of a bad cartoon: Jack pops out again, frantically looking for Nick and opening a small cupboard you could barely squeeze a pair of telephone books into. Did Chok never consider that his audience might have brought along a certain level of intelligence to his play?
Lacking believable characters, credible dialogue, intelligent humour and a believable plot line, Adultery was a lost cause from start to finish. Was there anything to praise in the script? Well, at one point, Nick presents Amy with an unexpected birthday present, a glass figure of a man. His explanation: “You always said you wanted to see through men.”
Wanted to see through men... a glass figure. I suspect you are not doubled over with laughter right now. But believe me, that is about as good as it gets with this script.
The direction is also weak, and the blame here again goes to Lionel Chok, who took on that role. The basic blocking was sufficient to the purposes, but the director was never able to bring out any contours in the characters or anything more than the first dimension he had given them as writer.
Plus, Chok did not seem to be very attentive to his own text. For instance, Nick dressed to the nines to go out on a date looked more like he was on his way to a Kopitiam. And when one character pointed out that Nick seemed disturbed, as he was shaking and his teeth were chattering, the actor served up neither of these activities. It is the director’s duty to make sure an actor at least attempts these things.
The acting itself ran from weak to very weak. Edric Hsu as Nick generally moved through the evening as if he were waiting for his character, like Jack, to materialise. Craig Ower, who apparently has many acting credits to his name, cannot add this performance as Ben to any list of “credits”. The best one can say about him here is that he was serviceable.
Grace Wan has been on something of a downward trajectory in her recent theatre appearances. She was quite strong in Luna-id’s Agnes of God, much less so in last year’s A Chorus of Disapproval, and heading further south in this show. But she was, nonetheless, by far the strongest of the three leads.
Wan has a good face that she can use well to show a complex twist of thought. She also elicited sympathy for her character at a number of key points throughout the evening, quite an achievement with this script. But she was also weak in many aspects. For example, when trying to express a difficult emotional surge, she would move her hands about strangely, as if in the first stages of learning sign language.
In some ways, Gillian Tan was the best of the lot. Gillian took on two small parts here: blind date Charlotte and unfaithful wife Carol. She did an admirable job trying to bring believability to both, and was fairly good when Carol first stomps back into Nick’s life. But at the climax of that scene, Tan fell back into empty gestures and posing, aborting what could have been the show’s only powerful moment.
The nicest thing to say about Richard Kiely in the role of Jack is that he is just 18 and has just started serious training as an actor. The fact that he was not even minimally believable as the central figure from Titanic was not altogether Kiely’s fault: he looked much more like the British actor Richard E. Grant, badly in need of a haircut, than he did Leonardo di Caprio. And did no one notice that di Caprio’s character in that film is American and speaks with an unmistakable, American accent. Kiely’s accent in this show was unabashedly British.
Brush all that aside; Kiely still has a great deal to learn as an actor. He never created a credible character (and a strong Jack would certainly have helped this show). Moreover, he tended to show stress and urgency by waving his arms around energetically but aimlessly. But this was perhaps the closest he ever came to the character of Jack, as he looked like he was miming semaphores to try to signal a rescue boat somewhere in the North Atlantic.
Come to think of it, perhaps Kiely’s brisk arm-waving was actually his astute comment on this show. It certainly was in desperate need of urgent rescue. Sadly, none ever came.