10 February 2005 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
This 'Lime' was a lemon.
If someone had filmed the daily activity in the Lime Street railway station in Liverpool, they would have had a better TV show than this one. The very short-lived 'Lime Street' was an action-adventure series that simply wasn't very good. The most notable thing about this series is that the tragic death of one of its cast members gave the producers an excuse to terminate the show's very brief run without admitting that the show was a flop.
The opening sequence of the first episode set the pace, as fussy Englishman Edward Wingate and cynical American James Culver find themselves -- in a very contrived set-up -- aboard a plane that's about to crash, with only one parachute. Culver smoothly announces that he can save both of them, but only if *he* gets the parachute. He promptly takes it and bails out. At this point, I expected him to say 'So long, sucker.' Then, Wingate jumps out of the plane *without* a 'chute. We see Culver catch Wingate in midair, then use the parachute to slow their joint descent.
This scene shows what was wrong with the entire series. It's an exciting action sequence, well staged, but it's contrived and phony. What are the chances that such a situation would occur in real life? And we know damned well that the two men in this sequence (filmed in long shot) are expert skydivers doubling for the actors, so there's no real suspense.
It gets worse when they reach the ground. Wingate hugs Culver and proclaims 'I love you!' We know that Culver isn't going to reply 'I love you, too.' Every episode set up Wingate as the fastidious Englishman, slightly effeminate, so as to make Robert Wagner's character Culver seem more of a hard cynical two-fisted action man by comparison. John Standing was a talented actor (I fondly recall seeing him in 'Private Lives' opposite the great Maggie Smith), but he was lumbered with a badly-written character here.
Culver and Wingate were meant to be detectives, operating from an agency in Lime Street. Culver was a widower with two young daughters: this must have been familiar casting for Robert Wagner, who had to raise his two daughters after the drowning death of his wife Natalie Wood.
Culver's elder daughter was played by Samantha Smith, a schoolgirl who had become a celebrity after writing a letter to Soviet premier Yuri Andropov. The ensuing publicity got her cast in 'Lime Street', but it was no stunt casting: she shows real talent and presence here, as well as being photogenic, and could have had an impressive acting career. Ironically, Samantha Smith reminds me of the young Natalie Wood. Tragically, after only a very few episodes of 'Lime Street' were made, Samantha died in a plane crash ... in a situation far more realistic than the very contrived set-up of this show's first episode.The producers had the option of recasting her character -- especially as it was only a supporting role -- but 'Lime Street' was clearly not very good, so Samantha Smith's death was used as a pretext for pulling the plug.