Hidden Down The TV Guide #7: Watching the detectives, Ant & Dec, and more
TV detective shows. Each channel seems to have a particular feels to them right? The BBC, gritty, dour, kinda miserable but almost always high quality. ITV, the tabloid version, peaking with three cliffhangers an hour (before each break), try to appeal to all mainly people in slippers and knitted jumpers (yes you Midsomer Murders, and you Poirot), but really excite no-one. And Sky? Well they just go for entertainment value. So let's have a deeper look, oh, and take in some Ant & Dec, and Dermot O'Leary too. Here's what we watched last week.
Monday is The Walking Dead day, or used to be before it got a bit boring. Read what I thought elsewhere on the site. Now it’s all about Silk on BBC1 or DCI Banks on ITV. The BBC courtroom drama has built on the previous two season’s strengths and is now one of the better late winter / spring drama shows. Despite the slightly cranky writing it’s all held together but great, if a little typecast, performances from Rupert Penry-Jones and Maxine Peake as a posh boy QC and tough Northern lass QC respectively. The real gem here though is Neil Stuke who is tremendous as Billy Lamb, the old school clerk who is dealing with a threat to his position within Shoe Lane and his life from prostate cancer. It’s a nuanced and emotional turn; who would have expected that from the bloke from Game On. DCI Banks on the other hand is a hackneyed attempt at a police drama, think Vera but with none of the charisma that Brenda Blethyn brings to that role. You can pass an hour watching it but it’s not great.
Tuesday brings three very different police dramas. Starting with BBC’s Shetland, as Scandinavian a drama as the Beeb could hope to make. Suitably grey skies, an atmospheric use of it’s rough terrain, the interesting central character of Douglas Henshall’s DI Jimmy Perez, and a subtle, restrained, scene-stealing guest appearance from Brian Cox (he of stage and film, not the science “millions and millions and millions and millions” one) all give it great potential and some needed gravitas. The well written story is involving, and the rest of the characters interesting; so far it’s resisted falling into DCI Banks cliché territory.
Sky Living’s Elementary takes a slightly lighter view of the world of crime, with the interplay between Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock and Lucy Lui’s Watson still central and still surprisingly fresh after nearly two seasons. While it has coasted at times this season recent weeks have brought a return to the quality of the first season.
And then there’s The Following, on Sky Atlantic, and it’s cartoonish approach to the police thriller genre. Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy are irresistibly hammy in the central roles. The flashbacks to season one in this week’s fix reminded you of how good the show used to be. These days the fact that Purefoy’s Joe Carroll isn’t the weirdest, most dangerous person on the show, and Bacon’s Ryan Hardy isn’t the most on-the-edge cop illustrates how camp the show has become. It’s still great fun though.
Wednesday brings Line Of Duty which is ace. You must watch it on BBC iPlayer if you haven’t already, or read my spoilerific review. On ITV at the same time was an altogether different proposition, another of their “passes an hour whilst reading a magazine” type cops shows, in the form of Law & Order:UK. The outstanding Bradley Walsh is literally the only thing that makes this program slightly watchable, his transformation from cheeky chappy game show host into troubled alcoholic DS Ronnie Brooks is convincing; witness the small moments like the scene on the roof of the car park where Brooks is rubbing his hands together to get warm. And this first episode of the new series is promising, with a new partner and Patrick Joseph still slumming it as their boss. Before that though in the 7pm slot is the horrible experience of an hour of The One Show with the insufferable Matt Baker and dim as a used light bulb Alex Jones. It’s like a TV version of your local newspaper, just duller and less relevant. Collectaholics on BBC2 was far more interesting than it had a right to be. Following three obsessive collectors, of train and tube artifacts, of lager cans, and of a house from the 1940’s, we were skilfully led through by Mel Giedroyc whose lightness of touch allowed the subjects and their collections room to be strange. Who would have thought a stash of over 7,000 lager cans would be worth more than ten grand.
Thursday brings an anemic night of telly. Having had three weeks of the Hairy Bikers Asian Trip it’s time for a break from their brand of cooking show. So it’s onto Astronauts: Houston we have a problem part of Channel 4’s space week. It’s a little disconcerting to see The X Factor’s Dermot O’Leary fronting a space show, where’s the other Brian Cox when you need him? Dermot’s brand of knee slapping familiarity actually worked well with his at ease co-host, astronaut Mike Massimino. Covering a few space based escapades it was a thrilling look at some missions where thing didn’t go as planned. One of the most fascinating things was the quality of the camera feed from the Hubble Telescope to NASA back on Earth. That was followed up by a the more tabloidy How To Be A Billionaire which followed three self made billionaires and their travels to build businesses, do wacky things, and own amazing homes. There was the space guy, the robot guy, and British guy. Mildly diverting as it was the premise was stretched thin over an hours viewing.
Friday brings the BBC tentpole of Jonathan Creek but that’s not getting a third chance after last week’s aborted second chance. Terrible TV. Shame on you BBC and Alan Davies. A sad way to end the week then, roll on Monday and the choice between Silk and The Widower which we've previewed.
Finally some Saturday viewing in the form of the bleak, slow brewing True Detective which we've covered elsewhere, and Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. Everyone know's the Geordie lads show is just Noel's House Party but fronted by those cheeky chappies, but is it cleverer than that? Not really but it does nick other ideas, there's a bit of that show we're not allowed to talk about, the one from the eighties where that white haired man in a tracksuit gave out big gold medals and made wishes come true, there's also some of Beadle's About in there. They've basically nicked the best of the eighties and nineties light entertainment and bundled it together. And made a huge career out of it. Well done lads!