This week's other new drama was One Child, I do use the world new lightly as Guy Hibbert's three-parter has actually been ready to go since 2014. In fact the drama has already been available to stream on the American version of Netflix before finally get an airing as part of BBC Two's China Season. The trailers for the China Season seem to reflect an image of a culturally diverse country however that's not the image of the country we receive in One Child. Instead it is a world in which an innocent bystander can be sentenced to death for a murder committed by a youngster related both to a powerful businessman and the chief of police. One Child is told from the perspective of Mei (Katie Leung) a Chinese-born student who was adopted by an English father and American mother and raised in the UK. At the start of the drama Mei is informed that her birth mother wants to meet her and is also informed that her biological brother has indeed been arrested for a murder he didn't commit. From there it's not long before Mei arrives in China and is escorted around the local area by a journalist who is part of a group hoping to get justice for people in her brother's position. I went into One Child really wanting to like partially as I'd been a big fan of Hibbert's previous works Complicit and Blood and Oil. However I found myself not really getting invested in either Mei's predicament or that of her brother's and I think that's because Hibbert never really lets us get to know his protagonist. In fact the first time we see Mei she's receiving the message from the journalist which is the catalyst for what happens throughout the rest of the episode. I personally would've like to have seen a couple of scenes from Mei's life prior to her receiving the message as I think a bit of background about the character would've made me care about her more. I was also disappointed by Hibbert's script as the characters almost exclusively conversed in exposition and therefore most of them came across as one-dimensional. On the plus side I found the cinematography to be great with China becoming one of the most predominant characters in the drama. Furthermore I felt that Katie Leung did a good job with what she was given and I'd like to see her in a drama that better showcased her skills. Unfortunately One Child was not that drama and instead I found it to be a forgettable series with a weak script and characters that were very hard to care about.
This week's biggest TV story has to be the fact that BBC Three has finally made the move from linear TV channel to online only broadcaster. The channel are adamant that they are going to keep offering the same quality of programme and initially have lived up to their word by recommissioning two of their biggest hits from the last few years. First up we had emotionally-charged documentary series Life and Death Row which charts the course of young adults who have been sentenced to execution. Rather unusually instead of protesting his sentence the subject of the first episode, Daniel Lee-Lopez, is hoping to hurry along the process so he can be given the lethal injection as soon as possible. Daniel had been charged with the murder of a police officer after running over an officer who was putting up some spikes on the road to slow him down whilst he was involved in a high speed chase. There was a lot of debate over whether Daniel intentionally swerved into the path of Officer Daniels or whether he just couldn't see where he was going. However it was clear from the outset that Daniel did want to spend the rest of his life in prison and felt death was his punishment for the hurt he'd caused. The programme heard from many people along the way who were both sympathetic to Daniel's decision and those who wanted to talk him out of it. There was his lawyer who was hoping to prove that he wasn't in his right mind and the mother of one of his seven children who wanted him to be there to see his daughter grow up. On the other hand we heard from Daniel's godmothers who'd reconciled themselves to his decision and were two of the most interesting characters in the programme. I found this episode of Life and Death Row to be particularly thought-provoking as it raised the question whether Daniel should actually have been found guilty in the first place and whether he had the right to want to be executed. Daniel was an eloquent young man who had seemingly come to peace with his decision even though everyone around him was trying to change his mind. However I found the most compelling character to be the dead Police Officer's widow Vicky Alexander whose meeting with other widows in a similar position to hers was incredibly eye-opening. The final scenes, which showed the people we'd met leaving the execution, was utterly heartbreaking as was hearing Vicky's accounts of the day. I personally felt this was one of the best TV documentaries I've seen in a while and am just hoping that BBC Three will still attract viewers to their new online home as Life and Death Row series two needs to be seen by as many people as possible.
On a slightly lighter note BBC Three have also brought back Cuckoo, a sitcom that is still named after a character who flew off into the sunset after the show's first series. I personally thought that Robin French and Kieran Quirke's comedy improved during its second run thanks to Twilight star Taylor Lautner whose Dale replaced Andy Samberg's irritating title character. I was surprised how good Lautner was in his role of the straight man up against Greg Davies' frantic lawyer Ken as the two formed a perfect odd couple relationship. Oddly the third series of Cuckoo links back to One Child as we see Dale living in Shanghai and having to defend himself after conducting an illicit relationship with his boss's daughter. Forced to return to Lichfield, Dale seeks sanctuary in the home of Ken and his pregnant wife Lorna (Helen Baxendale) the latter of whom is expecting her baby any day now. As we're now on the third series of Cuckoo I do feel the cast are comfortable in each other's company and therefore the chemistry between the main players is superb. Davies and Baxendale are especially believable as the central down-to-Earth couple even if they both struggle with their West Midlands accents from time to time. Lautner is also great in the role of the rather simple Dale however I'm not quite sure how much of a stretch it is for him to play a good-looking simpleton. Whilst the cast are on form, the material is sadly lacking and there were very few moments during this first episode of series three that actually raised more than a titter from me. In fact the central storyline, in which Ken dreaded the fact that he would have to go on paternity leave, to be quite old-fashioned. In fact the central joke that it would be beneath Ken to look after his child whilst his wife deigned to go back to work felt like something from another decade and felt especially dated when you consider that this series is one of the first to debut on the BBC's new online platform. The final set piece, which involves Ken getting stuck in the hospital while Lorna gives birth, feels like something out of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em rather than a contemporary sitcom aimed at a young audience. So, whilst the cast deserve some praise for working with what they've been given, overall the third series of Cuckoo hasn't exactly got off to the best of starts which begs the question why it got brought back at all in the first place.
That's your lot for now but remember you can follow me on Twitter @mattstvbites and I'll return next week with more of the same.