Rocky romance

Television - Andrew Billen is not attracted to a new BBC series, despite its handsome lead

There are moments when I cease asking myself why I am not enjoying a programme and ask instead who would enjoy it. In the case of Glasgow Kiss (Tuesday, 9.30pm, BBC1), "a new six-part romance about a widowed sportswriter's rocky relationship with a successful management consultant" (as the Radio Times puts it), I suppose that Glaswegian women must be onside, and not just because it stars the dangerously handsome Scot Iain Glen, the man Viagraed by a nude Nicole Kidman on the London stage last year.

The Clydeside of this tale of thwarted love is, after all, shot with great care to flatter its topography, architecture and citizens. In the restaurants and bars, even the waiters are made of designer chrome, yet everything is distinctly Glaswegian, too. A bistro scene in the second episode, for instance, was shot so that the street sign of Sauchiehall Street was visible through a window. Visually, Glasgow Kiss is TV's consummation of the city's 1980s "smiles better" campaign, even if its title is probably a local euphemism for a manoeuvre involving an empty glass and a split lip (wasn't a Glasgow smile an ear-to-ear surgical stitch?).

Glasgow, this series pretends, is so much reformed that it is now run by women, in particular by women like our heroine, Cara, the sensible yet passionate management consultant played by Sharon Small. I imagine that Stephen Greenhorn believes that he is writing for Caras every- where, which is why he gives his female creations (all of whom resemble Cherie Blair) not only Celtic Park-size hearts, but also, in one of his bons mots, "balls the size of watermelons".

Watching how his women get drunk is particularly in-structive. They tend to launch into in vino veritas speeches about life and love, exchange sexual confidences and "get their own back" by comparing men's penis sizes. Even when they throw up, their spew makes a statement. An emotional woman clubber tells a self-satisfied man: "People like you make me want to vomit." Except she didn't say vomit. She vomited. When the unreconstructed old-time soccer hack Forbes (Billy Riddoch) vomits, he just vomits.

Few of the men here are Forbeses, however. The leading men are so reformed that there is little for their women, in all conscience, to complain about. For example, since his wife's death in a car crash, Stuart has been looking after his eight-year-old son, Denis, with exemplary dedication. Asked if he feels he is missing out on anything, the only thing that Denis can come up with is a kite. To help out, Stuart employs a lesbian nanny, with whom he can discuss the perils of dating women. (The supportive lesbian is part of the furniture of TV drama these days.)

When a rugged family man such as this meets a beautiful career woman such as Cara, the levels of sensitivity and aggression are about even on each side of the equation. You can't imagine this pair disagreeing about anything: not politics, not culture, not the roles of the sexes. The largest gulf that Greenhorn can place between them is the one that yawns between their jobs: his is words; hers is figures.

Yet Stuart and Cara bonked in the first episode, a one-night stand that left us, if not them, wondering not when they would finally get it together, but how the series would keep them apart for six weeks. Thus far, comic misunderstandings and slapstick are the answer. In week one, finding his dead wife's Tampax in the bathroom cabinet, Cara assumed that Stuart was still married and aerosoled "LYING BASTARD" over his kitchen. Stuart, in Mr Rochester mode, ordered her to repaint the kitchen, although, through a continuity lapse, she actually painted the hallway.

Because there is, in fact, so little standing in the way of true love, the script has to keep hinting at difficulties, with the result that scenes arrive sodden with symbolism and dramatic irony. An Italian football signing, interviewed by Stuart, says of Celtic: "Every relationship has difficulties on the road. It is only in the struggles of love that true passion can be discussed." You wonder if he, too, saw episode one of Glasgow Kiss.

Then there is the kite, dutifully obtained by Stuart to appease his son. "It is not how it looks. It is how it flies," we are told - and indeed, Stuart can't get it up until Cara comes along. Then the thing, love, takes flight. (Enterprisingly, the director, Johnny Campbell, photographed the scene from above rather than below, bestowing on us a god's perspective on the tribulations of his children and their games.)

A script editor should discourage his or her charges from writing like this. But then, he or she has already allowed each episode to start with a bewildering monologue from Stuart: "It's closing time. You're heading home alone or you're going for glory. Take it from me, read the small-print first . . ." I know sports desks mix metaphors, but this is ridiculous.

With its feel-good incidental music, Glasgow Kiss is desperate to be liked. I dare say that a certain demographic is enjoying it. But, between episodes, do even liberated single career women from Strathclyde with the hots for Iain Glen give it a second thought?

Andrew Billen is a staff writer on the London Evening Standard