Remote Control - TV round-up
Brian Donaldson finds some good, a bit of bad and plenty ugliness in a new crop of British dramas
It’s Easter time, so there seems no reason on this ungodly earth why we shouldn’t crack open the chocolate eggs and indulge in a bit of The Passion (BBC1, Sun 16 Mar Feb, 8pm ••). Anyone who remembers Robert Powell being strapped to the cross back in the 70s and giving Jesus a decidedly Etonian twang will be delighted to learn that this new, hugely atmospheric BBC/HBO production makes similarly bizarre choices when it comes to its regional accents. So, we have a Welshman and a Geordie given disciple status while, probably controversially, a murderous crook is handed a Scouse accent. And hats off to James Nesbitt for becoming a stern Pontius O’Pilate.
Actually, I didn’t spot a single Scot in the opening episode of The Passion, so it’s a treat to have the gravelly burr of Peter Mullan showing up in The Fixer (ITV1, Mon 17 Mar, 9pm •••). Mullan plays a mean b’stard who is the public face of some shadowy state-sponsored assassination squad who want people operating illegally outside a law which can’t curtail them done away with. So, Mullan hires Andrew Buchan (Party Animals) who is doing time for the murder of the aunt and uncle who systematically abused his sister. The pumping soundtrack could do with being toned down a bit, especially as this show does its best work while being a bit moody, exemplified perfectly by Buchan’s permanent scowl.
It’s difficult to feel anything other than despotic anger at something like The Things I Haven’t Told You (BBC3, Mon 17 Mar, 9pm •) in which a teenage girl is killed in a ball of flames, tracking us back via her narration to the events which brought her to this point. Written by a 26-year-old and aimed at lord knows who, it features one of the lamest scripts to have floated around since the unwise resurrection of Crossroads and proudly showcases some of the most wooden ‘acting’ since, well, the unwise resurrection of Crossroads. It’s all fine and well the BBC encouraging new writers, but please have workshops, do power brunches, get heads of departments together and do whatever it is you need to do to push something as bad as this over the minimum quality control requirement. And if that process has actually been undertaken with this, then it’ll take more than Jesus to save us.
You can just imagine the excitement overflowing at the power brunch which resulted in the first episode of the latest series of Holby Blue (BBC1, Thu 20 Mar, 8pm •••) throwing a character from Holby City into custody for an assault with surgical scissors she claims not to have committed upon a man who tried to rape her months earlier. With a buddy buddy cop duo at the show’s core and a Previously On which features a dramatic sequence in which a disgruntled wife cooks then throws her man’s dinner into the bin, this should be appalling. And in the main it’s hardly Homicide, but when the threads all come together at the finale, a sense of vacuous satisfaction is achieved in having put yourself through it.
The ideas people over at ITV have been working overtime this year with the Moving Wallpaper/Echo Beach scenario of peeking behind the scenes of a rubbish soap and they’re at it again with Rock Rivals (ITV1, Wed 19 Mar, 9pm •), a dramatised version of X Factor. Michelle Collins plays the Sharon Osbourne-style judge and Sean Gallagher is the Simon Cowell of the show. The twist, such as it exists, is that they’re married but he can’t keep his hands off the studio’s bimbonic women. If you can imagine the BBC making a fictional Newsnight and following a Paxman character around while all he does is eat sushi alone before heading off for a dump (also, thankfully, alone) then you’ll get a vague semblance of the pointless, shallow experience of watching and, I imagine, appearing in this dross. Now, a drama made out of Countdown: that I would watch.