Matt on the Box: Last Week’s TV Highlights: Silk, Jonathan Creek, Bluestone 42 and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway

by | Mar 4, 2014 | All, Reviews

Welcome to another look back at last week’s TV which featured the return of two very different dramas as well as some proper old-fashioned Saturday night TV.

First up we had the return of the brilliant legal drama Silk which continued to deliver at the start of its third series. After suffering from a large amount of professional jealousy in the last series, Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones) has finally become a QC and is on a par with his colleague and former lover Martha Costello (Maxine Peake). However, Martha isn’t quite sharing Clive’s joy as she finds herself losing an appeal case based on evidence given by corrupt police officers. Clive’s party is soon spoilt when the son of the head of Shoe Lane Chambers Alan Cowdrey (Alex Jennings), is arrested for allegedly killing a police officer at a protest march. Martha is chosen as defence counsel but soon lets her prejudices get the better of her as she believes that police officers are harassing David so he can provide a false statement. Going with the defence that the police are covering something up, Clive urges Martha to ask the hard questions rather than mother David before the trial begins. Elsewhere, Billy (Neil Stuke) is receiving hormone therapy as a way of putting his prostate cancer into remission. Despite taking bribes in the last series, Billy has been allowed to stay on at Shoe Lane Chambers though his position as head clerk has been somewhat threatened. That’s because new Office Manager Harriet Hammond (Miranda Raison) has been hired as the chambers’ new office manager. Billy and Harriet soon quarrel over Clive’s decision to stay at chambers and help work on David’s case rather than take a high profile case in Manchester. It becomes clear that Clive is Harriet’s pet project and that she wants to use him to improve the image of Shoe Lane. But Billy believes that Harriet doesn’t understand the law and the fact that the Shoe Lane mob are like a family. It does appear as if the argument about what sort of work Shoe Lane Chambers should be carrying out will be the recurring theme throughout the rest of the series and it’ll be interesting to see where it leaves.

From the very first shot of Maxine Peake’s Martha Costello I knew Silk was back and better than ever. Peake’s performance alone signals Silk out as one of the very best dramas currently being produced in Britain. I couldn’t help but be entranced by her as she danced along to Joy Division in the middle of the courthouse during Clive’s party. The story itself was a strong one as it represented the strong bond that the group at Shoe Lane Chambers share, one that the newcomer in their midst fails to understand. Moffat’s characters are incredibly well-drawn and event he usually infallible Martha lets her views on police corruption cloud her judgement which changes how she views David’s case. Moffat’s ear for dialogue is great, especially in the scenes set in Shoe Lane Chambers where his past career as a barrister is well-utilised. I’ve always loved the politics that are work in chambers and, with the addition of Harriet to the cast, these themes look set to continue. Neil Stuke continues to be on scene-stealing form as we see him portray both Billy’s cocky side and his more vulnerable nature as he goes for hormone therapy. Rupert Penry-Jones has let the character of Clive grow and it does appear as if we’re finally going to see him mature. The chemistry between himself and Peake continues to bubble and I do feel that this series will see them finally make a go at a proper relationship. With a trio of fine performances, well-crafted characters and compelling storylines; Silk remains one of the best British TV dramas around at the moment. I was captivated throughout the hour and hope, despite the rumours, that this isn’t the final series of Peter Moffatt’s excellent legal saga.

The same cannot be said for Jonathan Creek which returned last week for the start of a three-part series. Last time we saw Jonathan (Alan Davies) he had moved out of the windmill and had married Polly (Sarah Alexander). Last year’s special seemed to indicate that things were at an end for Jonathan as he solved one more crime with Sheridan Smith’s Joey. However, against his wife’s wishes, Jonathan is thrust back into solving impossible crimes thanks to a tragic event at a musical. The mystery in question involves an attack on the show’s lead actress (Ali Bastian) who was found stabbed in her dressing room, with the door locked. More mysterious was the fact that the director had seen her moments before and she was absolutely unharmed. The only problem with this central mystery was that writer David Renwick had let the audience in on the secret before the characters. Due to this reveal, Renwick set up a second mystery involving a bunch of letters received by a lover of Polly’s mother. Polly was also flummoxed by the assertion from her mother’s friend Hazel (Paula Wilcox) that her own mother’s ashes had completely disappeared. To help him solve the mystery Jonathan is forced to bring along Ridley (Kieran Hodgson), the son of one of Polly’s friends. Ridley is supposedly a genius and solving puzzles from the tiniest of clues, but the joke is he’s actually rubbish. By the end of the episode, all of these little mysteries were cleared up and Ridley was ridiculed for his absurd summation.

I used to be a massive fan of Jonathan Creek and it was one of the programmes I enjoyed watching when I was younger. The fact the programme has come back for specials over the past years has meant that we’ve been able to keep up with Jonathan sporadically, something I’m more than happy with. However, judging by this first episode, the new series won’t be matching the quality of the earlier instalments. First of all, I don’t believe in the marriage of Jonathan and Polly, primarily because there’s no chemistry between Davies and Alexander. Part of the charm of Jonathan Creek is his partnership with his female sidekick, but at times Polly and Jonathan don’t even seem that they like each other very much which makes their marriage impossible to believe. Secondly, I didn’t like the fact that we were let in on the secret of the ‘locked door mystery’ before any of the other characters. One of the best things about past episodes of Jonathan Creek have been the way in which the audience have been allowed to try and solve the mystery at the same time as Jonathan. This new format means that Renwick has spoilt his tried and tested formula and I for one didn’t like being let in on the secret that early. The secondary mysteries that Renwick set up along the way, presumably to compensate for letting the cat out of the bag at the theatre, are all fairly weak and I wasn’t at all interested in any of them. To me this episode had an overly comedic tone and Renwick tried too hard to parody several subjects including the overblown world of the West End musical. Meanwhile, the character of Ridley was basically on hand to ridicule the successful Sherlock and I have to say it reeked a little of jealousy. On the positive side, Davies is as on form as ever and still seems to enjoy himself whenever he is asked to revive the character of Jonathan. There were also a couple of nifty comic sequences, the opening scene in particular, but I could’ve done with a bit more drama and a little less comedy. Based on what I saw in last week’s instalment, I think it was a mistake to bring Jonathan Creek back as the drama now feels like a shell of its former self. I’m just hoping that this first episode was the exception rather than the rule as if the rest of the series is like this then it will tarnish the legacy of once brilliant TV series.

Elsewhere, BBC3 brought back bomb-disposal sitcom Bluestone 42 for its second full series. When it first debuted, Bluestone 42 courted controversy due to its Afghan setting and the fact that it made light of the serious work done by bomb disposal units. However, when I started watching the programme, I feel it inherited the legacy laid down by such classic sitcom as Dad’s Army and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. I feel that this series will be stronger than the first due to the introduction of Towerblock (Matthew Lewis), the new second-in-command who was raised on a Northern housing estate. His arrival in the Christmas Special irked squadron leader Nick (Oliver Chris), a private school graduate who has had everything handed to him. This class warfare subplot added an extra element to a comedy that already had a lot going for it namely its well-written script and believable situations. Nick and Towerblock are at odds in this returning instalment which sees the former arrogantly believe that he can pass his weapons exam without training first. Obviously his attempts to act superior see him fall flat on his face as he is ridiculed by the rest of his team. I found this to be an incredibly well-told story, something I also felt about the story involving the attempts of Simon (Stephen Wight) to suck up to his commanding officer (Tony Gardner) by reading The Art of War. But disappointingly it appeared as if the sitcom was attempting to pander to the BBC3 demographic with a subplot which saw one of the team racing his genital crabs. After a fairly impressive series one, and a great Christmas Special, I was a little disappointed with the first episode of Bluestone 42’s second series. That being said there were still a number of great jokes and the cast share fantastic chemistry. I do have faith that the programme will go on to become one of the better British sitcoms of the last few years and I do hope that more people will start watching it.

Finally, making their long-awaited return to Saturday nights, were Ant and Dec with the eleventh series of Saturday Night Takeaway. Despite hosting the incredibly popular Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, it always seems as if Saturday Night Takeaway is the show the Geordie duo love doing the most. I feel it’s because the programme is a passion project and they have a real affinity for presenting some good old-fashioned Saturday night television. The opening episode of the series saw the pair hold a meeting of all the faces of ITV who would be able to give them advice about how to make this year even better. Though the sketch was undoubtedly funny, it did serve as a reminder of how low ITV’s star quota is with performance from such luminaries as Jeremy Kyle, Keith Lemon and the Loose Women. Luckily, the show was just as well-paced and funny as it ever has been with returning old favourites such as Little Ant and Dec and Win the Ads. In a very clever segment, the duo also revealed to one couple how they’d secretly attended their wedding even photo-bombing them at certain points. Adding an extra bit of adrenaline to proceedings was the new run of Ant Vs Dec in which the boys perform admirable stunts just for our entertainment. Talking of entertainment, the end of the show show, featuring a performance from Michael Bublé, was classic showbusiness and ended things on a massive high. Though I wasn’t a fan of every segment, the super computer in particular doesn’t do anything for me, overall it was business as usual for Ant and Dec. They have now carefully honed the show so they know what works and this tried and tested formula always provides extremely entertaining results. However, the main reason I enjoy it as much as I do is because you can tell Ant and Dec are enjoying themselves too which I find entertaining in and of itself.

To read more about my TV thoughts follow me on Twitter @mattstvbites

Matt Donnelly

Matt Donnelly


Made in Staffordshire, Matt is the co-editor of the site and co-host of The Custard TV Podcast. Matt has been writing about TV for over fifteen years and has written for the site for almost a decade. He's just realised this makes him a lot older than he thought he was.


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