TONY ON TV: The changing face of the modern-day shop girl

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ARE you being served? That’s the question I asked myself as I joined an ever-lengthening queue at a local petrol station where the sole checkout assistant struggled to give any validity to the “express” over the door

But serving the shopper is not as easy as we would all like, something that was patently clear from ‘Shopgirls: the True Story of Life Behind the Counter’ (Tuesday, BBC2) in which Dr Pamela Cox stated her shopping expedition in Victorian times, charting the rise of the lowly female store assistant from the shadows to the frontline of modern retailing.

The Swinging 60s, where trendy assistants were key to a store’s style and success, made for some nostalgic memories, but the future’s the key to survival as she shows in the final of this engaging three-parter as she looks as how chain stores and shopping malls, and their staff, are adapting to an increasingly online world.

That might be the case, but when you’re not at home and the postman or delivery driver takes your order back to the depot then making a special journey to collect it seems a weak link in the shopping experience. One thing worth staying in for is anything penned by BAFTA award-winning scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern, so it’s timely that his latest work, ‘Common,’ set in the north-west of England, is being screened this Sunday on BBC1.

What seems a weak title, soon turns out to be anything but as he puts a modern focus on the ancient and controversial Joint Enterprise Law as it impacts on 17-year-old Johnjo O’Shea who gives his cousin and his mates a last-minute lift to the local pizza parlour.

While Johnjo sits in the car, one of the group has a set-to with an innocent bystander -- a confrontation that leads to a fatal stabbing and the group, including Johnjo, being charged with murder.

Nico Mirallegro plays the “innocent” teenager in this 90-minute, one-off drama, which co-stars Jodhi May and Andrew Tiernan as his parents, and the ever-versatile Sir Michael Gambon a High Court judge. For those in for the longer haul on the drama front, then tune into the spy thriller ‘The Honourable Woman,’ which starts its eight-week run on BBC2 tomorrow evening.

American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, sporting a spot-on English accent, plays the title role of Nessa Stein who takes over the running of her father’s weapons business against the backdrop of a game of political cat-and-mouse after the death of a Palestinian businessman who had close links to her family’s empire. This mini-series, written and directed by Hugo Black (‘The Shadow Line’) co-stars Stephen Rea as an MI6 agent, Lindsay Duncan as his ex-wife, Janet McTeer as the head of MI6, and Andrew Buchan (‘Garrow’s Law’) as Nessa’s brother.

However, if two months’ viewing is too much you always tune into ITV2 later on ‘TV:OD’ as host Matt Edmondson features his quirky six-second reviews of the best and worst on the box.