The Deal (C4) Byron (BBC2): Monarch Of The Glen (BBC1): The Deal might well have been subtitled When Tony Met Gordon.

Instead of a simulated orgasm in a deli, there was a verbal showdown in a restaurant. And Tony and Gordon didn't live happily together ever after - allegedly.

As the film opened the statement that "most of what follows is true", you were left to make up your own mind the accuracy of Peter Morgan's script chronicling the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

It began when they moved in together, sharing an office in the House of Commons, to the fateful restaurant meeting when a decision on which man should go for the Labour leadership after the death of John Smith.

Director Stephen Frears' assured drama didn't take sides, although the facts cast Blair as the villain of the piece, with Cherie as his Lady Macbeth. He and Brown had an understanding that when the time came, Brown would go for the leadership. Instead, Blair's "Southern appeal" and voter-friendly image was seen as an advantage over Brown's "presentational difficulties", by which they meant he could be moody and difficult.

No one else got much of a look in. Peter Mandleson, with and without moustache, hovered on the sidelines, although the political analysis of his role in this affair extended no further than remarks about his brightly-coloured socks and the fact that "that man smells of vanilla".

It all seemed convincing enough. Of course, only Blair and Brown can vouch for its accuracy - and they're unlikely to be telling (until they publish their memoirs, of course). Taken on face value as a piece of drama, this was gripping stuff once you got past the problem of the actors inhabiting the two leading characters. Thankfully, the makers opted for actors rather than Rory Bremner-type impersonators. After five minutes or so, you'd forgotten they were Michael Sheen and David Morrissey, and accepted them as Blair and Brown.

The politics in Byron were of a sexual kind. He liked having a good time and a woman who laughed. Not that he was a great joke teller. In fact, he used big words like profligate and felicitously, which were a bit of a turn-off. But, as played by Jonny Lee Miller, he lived up to the description of mad, bad and dangerous to know.

"You need a wife," a married woman told him after being chatted up.

"You're a wife, I'll have you," replied Byron saucily.

Trouble was he fancied his half-sister. Marrying "the princess of parallelograms" Annabelle ("she can square some roots while she waits") wasn't the solution. Nor was taking her to see his half-sister's new baby. "She's definitely a Byron isn't she?," said Annabelle on seeing the infant, little realising how close to the truth she was.

The nearest we came to anything naughty in Monarch Of The Glen was nude bathing in the outdoor jacuzzi. Otherwise it was feelgood business as usual - lots of spectacular Scottish scenery and a few mini-dramas. Laird Archie discovered a ticking wartime bomb in the cellar but, as this was the first of the series, we could be sure that Glenbogle would still be standing, if a little damaged, at the end of the episode, even if viewers had nodded off.

Published: 29/09/2003