Brian Donaldson finds that a strong stomach is required to get through some of the upcoming dramas and documentaries
A public health warning should accompany Storyville: The English Surgeon (BBC2, Mon 31 Mar, 11.20pm ••••). Around the one hour mark, just make sure you haven’t got your dinner in front of you as the sight of hotshot London neurosurgeon Henry Marsh scraping, chiselling and drilling into the open cranium of a fully awake patient may turn even the most stoic of tummys. In this excellent film from Geoffrey Smith, we meet a man who has had it up to here with the tangled mess of NHS red tape which hampers his effectiveness, discovering some sense of why he got into medicine in the first place over in Ukraine. While the drama of open brain surgery is tough enough to watch, the trickier task for Marsh is to tell a 23-year-old that she will soon lose her sight and to inform an old lady that her grandchild will be dead within a year.
Tougher than all those tasks put together, though, is forcing yourself to stay awake during the opening salvo of Gossip Girl (ITV2, Thu 27 Mar, 10pm ••). Based on some shabby book or other, the semi-anonymous eponymous voiceover lass writes a blog which stalks the beautiful young people of New York’s Upper East Side, sparked off by the dramatic return from boarding school of one Serena van der Woodsen, played by an actress who could well be about 34. There’s a nasty piece of work who looks like Vincent Gallo as a teen vampire and a rump of glitzy bimbos (both male and female) who virtually merge into one by the end of the first episode. Cane (ITV3, Thu 27 Mar, 10pm •••) has a bit more going for it, mainly in the shape of Jimmy Smits, making his telly return after doing presidential battle with Alan Alda in The West Wing. The show dubbed ‘the Latino Godfather’ features Smits as Alex Vega, at the centre of an inter-family struggle for control of the sugar business in South Florida. We could do without the recurring salsa motifs on the soundtrack (you wouldn’t expect to watch Taggart to a bagpipe accompaniment) but the episode is lifted with a finale which has the previously sweet Vega showing his more ruthless side.
We all love Adrian Edmondson don’t we? For years, he played a series of drunken buffoons who regularly got whacked over the head with an oversize frying pan wielded by Rik Mayall or had his testicles accidentally trapped in numerous zippers before getting serious roles on the likes of Holby City which you just had to chuckle at. He’s back doing comedy of sorts in Teenage Kicks (ITV1, Fri 28 Mar, 9.30pm ••), a studio-based farce in which drunkenness plays a large part, albeit of the middle-aged, substantially-paunched variety. Unsurprisingly, it’s about as funny as a quad bike accident. There are few laughs to be had during Sleeping With My Sister (Channel 4, Thu 27 Mar, 9pm •••) in which we encounter Scots couple Nick and Danielle and US pair Tom and Stefanie who share one thing in common: they first met their half-sibling in adulthood and fell head over heels for each other. It’s the love that these days daren’t speak its name. Though some will instantly plump for ‘incest’, others with less of a kneejerk reaction might go for ‘genetic sexual attraction’. Whatever you call it, this film shows how such a scenario is tragic and touching and not a little bit grim.
Grim is one adjective which suits He Kills Coppers (ITV1, Sun 30 Mar, 9pm ••••) down to a tee, but that’s what makes it so promising. Based on the Jake Arnott novel (his second fiction to be televised after BBC’s The Long Firm), it beautifully reproduces London’s sultry summer of 1966 and features a pouting baddie who would make a fine double for Christian Bale. British psychos aren’t just restricted to the gangs in this, though, as the rozzers and journos are also crooked beyond repair. Not even Henry Marsh could fix these broken souls.