Matt on the Box: This Week’s TV Highlights: The Fall, Frankie, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Skint and The BAFTA Television Awards

by | May 18, 2013 | All, Reviews

And here we are once again as I run through the last seven days in TV.

We start with BBC2’s biggest drama hit in years in the form of The Fall. The Belfast-based crime drama sees Scotland Yard DSI Stella Gibbons (Gillian Anderson) arrive in Ireland to head up a 28 day review into the murder of pretty young architect Alice Monroe. As the forceful Stella gets to grips with the case, a colleague points out that Alice’s murder shares similar traits with the murder of university lecturer Sheila Gallagher. Though there is sufficient evidence to suggest the two cases could be linked, Stella’s supervising officer Jim Burns (John Lynch) doesn’t want the bother of investigating a serial killer. However, we the audience already know that there is a serial killer on the loose in the form of Paul Spector (Jamie Doran). This is because The Fall’s unique selling point is that we spend as much time in the company of the killer as we do the officers trying to hunt him down. The first episode sees Paul plan the murder of another young professional woman, in the form of feisty solicitor Sarah Kay (Laura Donnelly). However, Paul isn’t your stereotypical lonely lunatic but rather a family man with a steady job and plenty of friends. Paul is married to lovely neo-natal nurse Sally Ann (Bronagh Gallagher) and the couple have a pair of adorably cute kids. Paul is also a well-respected grief counsellor, though he does spend most of his time sketching pictures of his clients’ breasts. It appears as if Paul finds his whole world boring and his only escape is to stalk and kill these pretty women. However, he hasn’t figured on the forthright nature of Stella as she ignores Jim’s advice and goes on the hunt for her suspected serial killer. So the episode becomes a race against time for Stella to stop Paul killing again as well as potentially saving Sarah’s life.

One thing you notice about The Fall straight away is how much time and effort it has taken to make the drama. Alan Cubitt’s script is well-researched and is well-paced as he drip feeds us just enough information to keep us interested. Meanwhile director Jakob Verbruggen makes the drama seem visually stunning, including a brilliant shot in which the camera tracks across the ceiling of the Spector’s home as we see what’s going on in every room. One of Cubitt’s other masterstrokes was to introduce us to the victim, Sarah Kay, before she is inevitably offed by the killer. Most crime dramas would maybe include the victim in a couple of scenes, however we get to know Sarah so much that you think that maybe she’ll survive her ordeal. My main issue with The Fall was that I could neither identify nor really care about either of the central characters. Part of the reason for this is Cubitt’s insistence for us to only focus on Stella as a police officer rather than a fully-rounded character. We know she enjoys vigorous swimming, last minute hook-ups and swearing at journalists but that’s about the extent of her character background. Meanwhile, our only other main character is a serial killer so while I found Spector intriguing, I never really warmed to him. In fact the most compelling character is that of Belfast itself, as its history and politics are alluded to in several scenes. Despite not liking their characters, I felt Anderson and Doran both did well in the roles they were given. Anderson unleashes her inner Jane Tennison to play the no-nonsense Stella and really makes us believe in her crime-solving ability. Meanwhile Doran can play both the likeable everyman and the psychopathic killer with great ease to the extent where you feel uncomfortable watching him. Overall The Fall is certainly a promising drama with a decent cast, a good script and some fantastically shot sequences. However at the moment I can’t say that I’m particularly engaged in the action and it’s fair to say that I’m admiring The Fall rather than the really enjoying it. Thankfully, The Fall shows a lot of promise and I’m hoping to like it more when the second episode airs next week.

BBC1 offered us something a little lighter in terms of drama, with the nursing saga that was Frankie. Our titular character is District Nurse Frankie Maddox (Eve Myles) who is the typical woman who puts her career over her personal life. We see this as her relationship with her copper boyfriend Ian (Dean Lennox Kelly), suffers when she decides to get involved in the life of two patients. The first is eccentric pensioner Mr Thomas (Michael Byrne), who Frankie suspects may be in the early stages of dementia and wants to get him assessed. However, his daughter Jean (Barbara Marten) is resistant to the assessment as she doesn’t want her father going into a home like her mother did. But, when a confused Mr Thomas threatens Frankie with a knife, she feels that there is only one cause of action to be taken. Frankie is also caring for the heavily-pregnant Heather (Amy Strange) whose doesn’t want to give birth until her husband returns home from Afghanistan. While tending for Heather, Frankie’s concern is drawn to her daughter Ruby (Hannah Jean-Baptiste) who is often taken out of school with a mystery illness. Despite Frankie noticing that Ruby has a serious problem, it’s all a bit too late as Ruby starts to lose consciousness so Frankie is forced to perform mouth-to-mouth. While all this is going on, Ian is planning a surprise party for his girlfriend who later discovers that he plans to propose in front of their friends and family. Though it’s airing on Tuesday nights at 9pm, Frankie would be much better suited to a prime time slot on a Sunday while it would also be the perfect drama for daytime. A lot of Lucy Gannon’s script is fairly predictable fare while I found the majority of the supporting characters to be incredibly underwritten. Thankfully Gannon has invested a lot of time in making her lead character as likeable as possible and this is what got me through the first episode. Though she is annoying at times, Frankie is passionate about her job and is a fairly outgoing character. I also liked the gimmick of Frankie talking to Ken Bruce while listening to his morning show though this does suggest to me that Frankie is undergoing some sort of mental breakdown. Eve Myles gives an energetic and lively performance as Frankie but still is able to add some pathos to some of the more emotional scenes. While I don’t think it deserves its primetime slot, Frankie is still an inoffensive show which I’m sure will appeal to fans of medical drama who haven’t had their fill once Holby City has finished.

Travelling back a century or two now for a crime-solving adventure courtesy of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. This is the second feature length drama to focus around Victorian detective Jack Whicher (Paddy Considine) following a successful showing in 2011. Unlike the first instalment, this new Whicher is entirely fictionalised as we see the transformation of Jack from former police officer to private detective. In The Murder on Angel Lane, Jack has now left the force however is dragged back in after saving a woman from being robbed in a dodgy pub. That woman turns out to be Susan Spencer (Olivia Colman) who comes down from the country in an attempt to find her missing niece. It transpires that Susan’s niece Mary came to find the father of her child however this trip ended with her murder, though thankfully the baby survived. Though the police step into help, Susan has more faith in Whicher’s abilities and hires him as her private investigator. This inevitably means that Whicher clashes with the police regularly as well as winding up several other locals. Whicher’s investigation eventually leads him to an asylum where he is finally confronted by his own past as he searches for the clues to crack the case. I have to say I found it hard to remember what happened in the first Mr Whicher adventure even though I did watch it. Unfortunately, The Murder in Angel Lane is as forgettable as its predecessor while the story wasn’t interesting enough to fill the ninety minute running time. I have to say I wasn’t at all interested in the investigation or the majority of the characters that we met throughout the drama. Thankfully at least Considine is on form here and made me at least a little bit intrigued in the damaged yet brilliant Whicher. Of course, Olivia Colman was also brilliant however I feel ITV deceived as slightly as I didn’t feel she was in the drama as much a we were led to believe she would be. I have feeling that, if this one-off does well in the ratings, we could have more Mr Whicher in the future. However, if the programme does return, there needs to be a drastic improvement in story quality and a shortened running time so the drama doesn’t drag as much as did in The Murder on Angel Lane.

Moving away from TV drama for the moment we come to Channel 4’s new documentary series Skint. The programme centres around a rundown estate in the heart of Scunthorpe, a town that has fallen on bad times since the collapse of its steelworks. Skint presents Scunthorpe as a place where most locals either live off benefits or shoplift goods before selling them on. The buying of stolen goods is a massive theme throughout Skint as we see a man pull up to the estate’s famous wall and flog a load of meat that has ‘escaped’ from a local warehouse. One man buying this meat is Dean, a former steelworker who now lives off the social in order to support his ever growing family. Dean’s latest child, who is born during this episode, means that there are now nine mouths to feed in his household and there’s only so much meat that one man can buy. There is also worry over the behaviour of twelve year old stepdaughter Leah, who has been misbehaving from school and later is found to be shoplifting. While, for the most part, Dean’s story is one of comedy there are other more serious tales to be told in Skint. There’s teenager Connor who has been expelled from seven schools and is regularly violent towards his long-suffering mother. Most tragically of all is drug addict Tracey who funds her addiction by shop-lifting and selling her body. I really felt for Tracey as she prepared for a night on the street, and later when she was arrested for shop-lifting. My main issue with Skint is the disparity in tone between the light-hearted nature of Dean’s family and the much more serious issues explored in Tracey’s storyline. Dean was a great docusoap character and I loved his latter scenes in which he decided to get a vasectomy after his wife had yet another pregnancy scare. However, I didn’t feel that Tracey’s scenes fit into a show that was more intent on presenting Britain’s poor as loveable rogues. I feel this subject has already been covered a lot better in the BBC3 show People Like Us, but Skint lacked a lot of the humour needed to creates a successful docusoap. Ultimately, Skint was entertaining in places, but it seemed to have a muddled message which may be due to the inclusion of a lot of very different characters. 

Finally, it would be amiss of me not to talk about the BAFTA Television Awards that occurred earlier in the week. There was a lot of joy in CustardTV HQ as some of our favourites triumphed, these included Sheridan Smith, Olivia Colman and the mighty Last Tango in Halifax. There were a couple of big shocks throughout the night namely that The Olympics didn’t win either of the awards it was nominated for. I think a lot of people felt that The Opening Ceremony would win the Audience Award as it was the most-watched programme last year by a vast margin. However it seemed that the internet nerds voted with their mouses and disabled enough cookies to mean that Game of Thrones was the unlikely winner. Meanwhile the Sports and Live Event award was won by the Paralympic Games, an event which I felt was a worthy winner. That’s because everybody was already going to watch The Olympics, however Channel 4 made the Paralympics seem like a big deal and made it almost as memorable as the main games. For me the biggest shock was the Jimmy Saville Exposure documentary not winning an award, and indeed if you watched the TV broadcast you wouldn’t know it was nominated. What I did like though was that the majority of the winners looked genuinely chuffed to win awards which made the BAFTAs seem like a big deal. Indeed, when watching an American awards show most of the recipients show little emotion and instead give graceful acceptance speeches. However, I felt that Alan Carr and Sheridan Smith both took their BAFTA wins to be career highlights and this was reflected through their reactions. Surely there were some poor choices, Made in Chelsea’s win being a prime example, but ultimately most of the winners made sense. The event was capped off with a lovely speech from Fellowship winner Michael Palin who was both entertaining and insightful in equal measure. Despite the fact that neither Line of Duty or Good Cop were nominated, I still feel the BAFTAs gets it right most of the time though I may change my mind if Broadchurch doesn’t sweep the board at next year’s event.

Remember to get more of my insights into the world of TV follow me on Twitter @mattstvbites

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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