Round-up. Your guide to my thoughts on TV’s top dramas.

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Round-up. Your guide to my thoughts on TV’s top dramas.

April 15, 2016 - 13:45
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Average: 3.8 (4 votes)
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Call me shallow, but my second favourite TV drama right now is The Durrells. Light, trite and just right for a Sunday night.

Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp in Scott and Bailey

Call me shallow, but my second favourite TV drama right now is The Durrells. Light, trite and just right for a Sunday night.

Obviously, reigning supreme at number one in my personal charts, BBC2’s utterly gripping Line Of Duty is unlikely to be knocked off the top slot until the end of this amazing series.

Here’s to the excellent Keeley Hawes for starring in two very different productions and proving what a versatile actress she is. Boy, can this girl give a guy a kicking! More of the sinister Lindsay Denton later.

But first The Durrells, in which talented Keeley reveals a serious gift for comedy and steals the show. As long-suffering mother Louisa trying to make a new life for her unruly brood on the Greek island of Corfu, she delivers a fabulously funny performance.

With a winning combination of British eccentricity, Mediterranean madness and sensational scenery, we have an instant smash hit on our hands. After their Sunday nightmares Jekyll & Hyde and Beowulf were both axed due to lack of interest, ITV’s never-say-die executives will be heaving a huge sigh of relief.

Based on Gerald Durrell’s best-seller The Corfu Trilogy and adapted by Men Behaving Badly writer Simon Nye, this is the true hilarious story of a barmy Bournemouth family struggling to cope in a strange and foreign land. Feel-good telly at its best.

Which is more than you can say for Undercover, BBC1’s increasingly disappointing replacement for The Night Manager.

A swirling mass of political correctness, this confused saga of a deep cover detective spying on his human-rights lawyer wife is part black protest documentary, part cops and robbers and wholly boring.

Thanks to its frequent lectures on the evils of racism (we know!) and its crass contention that all white police officers are prejudiced zealots, the central story is getting lost. Pity. It definitely had potential.

After the worst interview in history, campaigning barrister Maya Cobbina (Sophie Okonedo) lands the job of Director of Public Prosecutions. On the strict understanding that she can carry on saving Americans from the death penalty. Right on. How realistic.

Magnificent Maya is so clever that when the mysterious Nick Johnson (Adrian Lester) wormed his way into her affections by pretending he was a crime writer, she never once asked about his books. Just as well, there weren’t any.

Now they’ve been together for 20 years and all of a sudden Nick’s ex bosses want him to start sneaking on his high-flying missus again. He’s not keen on the idea, because they have kids. And, naturally, he’s come to realise that Maya’s spot on… the police really are awful.

The premise of a longstanding happy relationship based on a lie is undeniably intriguing. But the pervasive left-leaning narrative that surrounds it is a preachy momentum killer.

There’s nothing wrong with the message. But why ruin a grown-up drama with student-style tub-thumping? It’s all a bit wide-eyed and juvenile.

No wonder underperforming Undercover is haemorrhaging viewers faster than you can switch over to ITV’s comfortingly cosy Home Fires.  

Meanwhile, Indian Summers may never recover from Channel 4’s suicidal decision to schedule it directly against The Night Manager and ITV’s Doctor Thorne.

As the Indian independence plot spins round in the same old ever-decreasing circles, I fear we’re looking at the final series.

On a brighter note ITV’s Marcella is shaping up nicely. Who is the plastic bag killer? Is it wife beating jailbird Peter Cullen (former Corrie star Ian Puleston-Davies) or is it the crazy copper who’s supposed to be investigating him?

Great performance by Anna Friel as an unravelling detective whose anger management problems are so severe she can’t trust herself. Prone to rage-filled blackouts, the eponymous dubious heroine fears she may have murdered the love rival who stole her husband.

Written by The Bridge’s creator Hans Rosenfeldt, this dark and complex mystery is a classic Nordic noir thriller… in a foreboding looking London. Two episodes in and the nation is hooked.

In other encouraging news… the latest series of ITV’s Scott & Bailey has returned on top form. Created by Happy Valley writer Sally Wainwright, this tale of police women oop North juggling hectic home-lives and difficult careers is a highlight of the viewing week.

Back from a hedonistic year in London, newly promoted Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) leads the hunt for a couple of online sickos who are slaughtering their victims for fun.

And Janet Scott’s (Lesley Sharp) family worries go into overdrive when her 16 year-old daughter is arrested by the sex crime squad for posting revealing pictures of her 15 year-old boyfriend.

Talking of sex crimes, back with Line Of Duty, when Lindsay Denton’s parole officer tried to force her into a lewd act he soon found out he’d made a big mistake.

The Former DI Denton dispensed her own form of justice in violent fashion. Another brilliant scene in a superb series that has taken over from Happy Valley as the must-see TV drama of the moment.

There are 2 Comments

NancyD's picture

Is Marcella, the Notting Hill noir thriller a masterpiece or just baffling? I can't really decide, but I am certain is that it's a gripping roller-coaster ride.
The police drama set in London tells the story of Marcella Backland, a former officer who tries to put her life back on track by solving a serial killer case.
Everyone's a suspect, even Marcella - played by Anna Friel - has blackouts and could have been the one who dragged out the bag. The series is awash with nail biting twists and turns, but it's all preposterous and implausible. A guilty pleasure!

Nige Smith's picture

This was actually very good, nice storyline, good pace, great actresses. The formula is good and it works.