TV review: Years and Years, BBC One (4 stars)

TV review: Years and Years, BBC One

New Russell T Davies drama speculates on a world going ever madder

The rise of populist politicians has led the world into ever more dangerous places. Trump in the US, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Putin in Russia represent figures whose fragile egos and pandering to the basest human instincts appear to direct government policy. Meanwhile, over in wacky old Ukraine, they have just appointed a president whose main credentials for the job was that he once played the Ukrainian president on a satirical TV show.

In the near future-set Years and Years (Trump is about to be voted in for a second term while we then spring forward to his last few perilous days in office), Russell T Davies returns to the small screen with a six-part drama that speculates on how bad things could get when we elect people who would struggle to spell nuance never mind allow some of it into their thinking. Emma Thompson is chillingly effective as entrepreneur Viv Rook who says something awful on a Question Time-style panel show before forming a new 'people's' party to challenge the status quo.

Her rise to power provides the backdrop to the elements that Davies seeks to filter through Years and Years via the largely dysfunctional Lyons family, featuring siblings Daniel (Russell Tovey), Edith (Jessica Hynes) and Stephen (Rory Kinnear). He chucks in the often futile nature of social activism, the rampaging dehumanisation of technology, and the fracturing of family networks, plus conspiracy theories and the superpower struggle between China and America.

While there's a touch of Black Mirror about some of the nosediving humans v technology interfaces, Davies makes this his own with typically raucous humour, the teasing out of delightful performances, and a fair bit of sex during what we still quaintly call 'post-watershed' viewing.

Episodes watched: 1 of 6

Years and Years starts on BBC One, Tuesday 14 May, 9pm