Brian Donaldson finds that sweet naivety and child-like innocence abound in some new British and American dramas
Flicking through the TV schedules can often give the impression that we are living life like the eponymous character in big kids sci-fi series Kyle XY (BBC2, Sat 24 May, noon •••) Not only can we not quite understand what is in front of us, we probably don’t possess the language skills to cope with such unravelling terror. Still, if you’re going to find yourself dropped into a seemingly alien civilisation with neither a memory nor clothing, it’s good to know that you could have carved handsome looks, a nice haircut and the type of sturdy six-pack that would shame the new cast of Gladiators.
As Kyle goes about his silent, instinctive day, he is taken in by a psychologist who can’t resist having such an intriguing specimen in her home. This move is much to the initial angst of her teenage son and daughter and a husband who does little else than fiddle around in his garage and get annoyed when his liberated wife attends to emergency work matters at the weekend.
Surprisingly warm and witty, without being too cloying and corny, you nevertheless suspect that Kyle XY will have some all-American advice to inflict upon this lonely and confused extraterrestrial lad.
There are no extraterrestrials to be seen in Greek (BBC3, Sun 25 May, 9.10pm •••), unless you view the world of daft frat boys and selfish sorority girls as an alternative universe. Similar to Kyle XY, Rusty Cartwright is a wide-eyed empty vessel waiting to be filled with the world’s mysteries when he heads off to Cyprus-Rhodes University. Very much green with hints of geek (hence Greek, maybe?), he is unaware that his sister, already a student there, has been denying his existence so he won’t bumble around and spoil her chances of being elected president of the Zeta Beta Zeta house.
But when she softens, he thanks her by dropping the bombshell that the hunk she’s dating has been less than faithful. If that was all there is to Greek, it would be largely tedious, but luckily there’s some welcome humour chucked in by the members of the Kappa Tau Gamma, the black sheep of the frat house family.
The press blurb for Kiss of Death (BBC1, Mon 26 May, 9pm ••) insists that this two-part crime drama is something of a departure for the genre, given that it jumps backwards and forwards in time and tells the story from various points of view. Feel free to now start listing the thousands of shows you’ve seen over the last five weeks that muck about with chronology and narrative voice. That aside, is this effort (previously titled Blood Rush) any good? Well no, it’s awful. There’s a serious lack of credibility at its heart, partly enhanced by the fact that there isn’t a copper on show beyond their 30s. Where are the grizzled superintendents and hard-bitten DIs among this all-too fresh-faced bunch of rozzers (characters played by Danny Dyer and Louise Lombard represent the voices of experience, for heaven’s sake) on the hunt for a sick, sick killer who’s been plucked straight out of a first draft Messiah script?
While Kyle XY and Rusty Cartwright have youthful sheltered existences to thank for their overly innocent ways, what did the leader of the National Viewers and Listeners’ Association have to blame for her purer than the driven snow worldview? In Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story (BBC2, Wed 28 May, 9pm ••••) Julie Walters portrays the scourge of the BBC (though she was no fan of ITV and would surely have had conniption fits every time she saw the Channel 4 logo) as a well-meaning middle-aged Christian whose obsession with cleaning up TV led her into ever more bizarre condemnations of those running the organs of broadcasting.
This one-off drama is shot through with brilliantly nuanced detail, reflecting the cocoon she wrapped herself in. As she cycles around her Shropshire village, behaviour both sordid and saucy goes on around her, from her elderly neighbour sneaking a glance at the Profumo scandal in the papers to the visiting press crew who have been gentle towards Whitehouse in her home only to have a curse-fuelled disagreement as they leave. And only she could have not spotted the unfortunate acronym of her first campaign group: Clean Up National Television. With Walters on great form and Hugh Bonneville sublime as the eccentric BBC Director General Hugh Greene, this is one Mary Whitehouse experience you should savour.