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Thing of the week:
Holding On
By Ian Grant
It's been done before, of course. But this is as relentless as British television drama has been for some time.

Four episodes into 'Holding On' and there's still no sign of any easy answers. By using London and its hell-is-other-people insanity as a setting, we're dragged kicking and screaming through events that savagely undermine any sense of logical cause and effect. The word 'uncompromising' could have been invented for it.

It's about panic attacks and nausea, an unavoidable feeling of seething, filthy randomness. Very Sartre. It's about people trying to find causes to embrace, significance in their lives...and failing. It's about a taxi driver who can be pushed far enough to kill a passenger in his rage at his wife's affair but can't face speaking to her about his feelings. It's about people trying to explain...and failing.

Forgetting the odd lapse into corn, it is brilliant, ground-breaking television. Much has been made of the adoption of various dramatic styles for the filming of each character - Phil Daniel's vile restaurant critic is shown in nauseating fish eye lense close-up, the tax inspector is permanently acting out an episode of 'Cracker' - and much of it is, I think, wrong. The purpose, far from clever-clogs parody, is to emphasise the lack of understanding - each character is always looking at themselves, engrossed in their own world and their own perception, never able to see things through anyone else's eyes. Again, very Sartre.

Not a lot of jokes, then. And that'll be the test of 'Holding On', the thing that could transform it from a fine attempt into a modern classic. What separates the great from the good is not the ability to trawl the depths of despair but to climb out again. It's relatively easy to write fiction or drama that doesn't seek any answers, that opts out of that search in favour of a kind of bland, blanket nihilism.

But if you take one of Hubert Selby's masterpieces or 'Bad Lieutenant' (the most potent, shattering piece of cinema this decade), their magnificence is drawn from redemption, resurrection, faith. Going back as far as 'King Lear', the same is true. As works of art, they draw beauty from the most anguished of situations.

In 'Holding On', the stage is set for just such a triumph. Heaven only knows if it will be brave enough to achieve it. Regardless, this is fierce, raging television.