Welcome once again to another look back at the last seven days in TV.
Kicking off with a traditional bit of Sunday night crime drama courtesy of Case Histories. Case Histories, based on the novels of Kate Atkinson, first hit our screens in 2011 with three stories being divided up into two one-hour programmes. Similarly this series features three of Atkinson’s stories, however this time around each novel is presented as one ninety minute programme. This means that the episodes flow better, as there is no awkward break in the action, while the viewer is allowed to enjoy the story in one uninterrupted sitting. This first instalment, entitled Started Early, Took My Dog, sees troubled Private Eye Jackson Brodie (Jason Isaacs) return to Edinburgh following a botched job in Munich. Jackson’s reappearance in the city pleases secretary Deborah (Zawe Ashton), who has been taking jobs under his name. His latest assignment is to help Australian Hope McMaster (Emma Hamilton) to track down her birth parents. Jackson’s investigation leads him into questioning former police officer Ray Strickland (Maurice Roeves), with whom Hope’s adoptive parents had some contact with. Meanwhile, it appears as if someone is posing as Jackson, as he starts to receive angry phone calls warning him to stop looking into the case of Carol Braithwaite. When he tries to track down Carol he discovers that she’d been murdered years ago with police officer Barry (Gary Lewis) and store detective Tracy (Victoria Wood) both finding the body. The episode also follows Tracy as she buys a child from her prostitute mother after being appalled by the way she is being treated. When Jackson discovers the truth about Tracy, he is torn over what his course of action should be and which former police officers can be trusted. The episode ends with Jackson’s erstwhile love interest Louise (Amanda Abbington) announcing her engagement, and his daughter Marlee (Millie Innes) telling him she’s returning to Scotland.
I seemed to be one of the few people who enjoyed Case Histories the first time around, though I agree the two-part episodes were overlong. Judging by this first episode, the decision to slash the running time was the right one and there was just enough plot crammed into this ninety minute programme. The character of Jackson Brodie is certainly an intriguing one and is a protagonist who I don’t mind spending ninety minutes with. Of course part of the reason for this is due to Jason Isaacs’ performance as he adds depth to the character which means he’s not just the stereotypical lone wolf. We see that Jackson is morally torn from the get-go but he also has a good relationship with his daughter and a tumultuous one with Louise. I also like the fact that Case Histories doesn’t take itself too seriously with little bits of humour being employed throughout the episode to counter-balance some of the more harrowing scenes. Possibly the highlight of this first episode was the brilliant turn from Victoria Wood who I’ve always found to be an underrated dramatic actress. Here she easily portrays someone who has been affected by an incident in her past, and is trying to live her life in the best way that she can. However, as we see throughout the story, this is easier said than done especially when she ends up basically buying a little girl to save her from her horrible mother. I have to say, I didn’t think Case Histories was perfect, and I personally could’ve done without Jackson being followed everywhere by a little dog called The Ambassador. But, overall I feel that Case Histories is one of the stronger crime dramas currently on our screens and I for one am glad to have it back.
While we’re on brilliant crime drama, Scott and Bailey finished its inconsistent third series this week with a double bill. The two episodes saw the breakdown of the relationship between Janet (Lesley Sharp) and Rachel (Suranne Jones) after the latter indulged in some extra-marital rumpy pumpy at the former’s house. This seemed to be the final straw for Janet who agreed to work with Rachel but had had enough of her constant problems. Meanwhile Sean (Sean Maguire) also ended his marriage to Rachel after realising that she’d been unfaithful on more than one occasion. Surprisingly, Janet found a new friend in Rob (Danny Miller) as she realised that she’d never really known Rachel. In the series finale, Rachel and Janet were reunited when Gill (Amelia Bullmore) was kidnapped by the emotionally damaged Helen (Nicola Walker). As Gill’s syndicate learnt of the abduction, Scott and Bailey were called to CID HQ by Julie Dodson (Pippa Haywood) who was heading up the negation. I personally felt that this final episode of Scott and Bailey was one of the strongest hours of British drama so far this year. The scenes between Gill and Helen were particularly compelling, with Walker and Bullmore both on top form, as the police chief was frightened for her own safety. The tumultuous relationship between Scott and Bailey also allowed Sharp and Jones to shine, with the duo’s awkwardly silent car journey being a particular highlight of mine. In addition, I enjoyed the fact that all the loose ends were wrapped up in these final two episodes. So we learnt the identity of the syndicate’s mole as well as the fact that it was Helen who was behind the choking and abduction of Gill. Once again Sally Wainwright has presented a set of characters that you really invest in and care about, but who also feel incredibly realistic. Despite the fact that I don’t think this series has been Scott and Bailey’s best, I’m still going to be annoyed if ITV don’t commission a fourth run for one of the UK’s best police dramas.
As it’s been a slow week for TV, I thought I’d briefly talk about one of my favourite shows in Only Connect. The show, which is hosted by the newly double-barrelled Victoria Coren-Mitchell, is one of the UK’s best quiz shows and I’m still bemused by the fact that it’s still stuck on BBC4. Last year’s series had audiences of over one million which, for a digital channel, is impressive to say the least. The one change in terms of this series, apart from the host’s surname, is that losing teams will for some reason get to play again. The structure of the contest is puzzling to say the least and even confuses our beloved Victoria who is just happy to go with the flow. Just like with University Challenge, I enjoy playing along with Only Connect even though I average about three answers per game. Regular viewers will know that Only Connect’s best round is the terrifying connecting wall, in which teams have sixteen clues which they then have to separate into four connected groups of four. The game has regularly been decided on this round and I have to say that the connections I usually spot are the most embarrassing such as Michael Buble songs and the shape of the Teletubbies’ antennae. Of course the show’s other highlight is Victoria herself who is sarcastic and charming at the same time and seems to have a genuine in interest in the quirky aspects of the teams. She seems to revel in the fact that some of the teams will give random answers to get a bonus point even if they are drastically wrong. Overall, I love any show that celebrates both intelligence and oddities in one fell swoop and Only Connect does both. I’m just hoping that the next series, which apparently will come later in the year, will be moved to a channel where more people will be given the opportunity to see it.
“We live alone and we die alone, and I will also be hosting Eurovision alone.” These were the first words spouted by Swedish stand-up comedienne Petra Mede as she prepared to host the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a self-confessed Eurovision fanatic and I watch both of the semi-finals before the grand finale itself. I often find that some of the more eccentric entries are knocked out in these semi-finals and I feel it’s my duty to watch them. This year’s unlucky semi-finalists included Montenegro’s rapping astronauts and Switzerland’s group which included a 95 year old man who seemingly had no idea what was going on. Thankfully, most of the crazier acts made it through to the final so the majority of us could enjoy them together. One of the year’s most controversial acts was Finland’s Krista Siegfreds whose song was a very obvious message to her long-time partner about wanting to get married. Krista, who was dressed in a wedding dress throughout the performance, ended the number by kissing one of her female backing singers, an act so dreadful that Turkey refused to broadcast the contest as a result of it. Romania’s Cezar was another highlight, with his falsetto and crazy staging he epitomised all that I love about Eurovision. Several of the entries this year seemed to have been inspired by Game of Thrones with Ukraine bringing along a giant and Norway’s Margaret Berger bearing a striking resemblance to Daenerys Targaryen. I also had a bit of a soft spot for Lithuanian Andrius Pojavis, who had the least impressive wardrobe of the evening and had to sing about shoes. On the other side of the coin there were songs that I actually liked, most notably Malta’s ode to IT Geeks everywhere entitled ‘Tomorrow’.
However I think we all knew the UK was doomed from the moment someone decided Bonnie Tyler would sing our song this year. Don’t get me wrong I think Bonnie’s amazing, and the song wasn’t half bad, but fielding a singer who was popular thirty years ago didn’t seem like a good idea. I personally predicted that we wouldn’t do as bad as last year, where we came second from bottom, and thought Bonnie would come seventeenth. My prediction then wasn’t too bad when we finished nineteenth, and above most of the other Western European countries including France, Germany and Spain. As always, the day after the contest, people asked why we still enter every year despite not winning. To an extent I can see their point as we plunge a load of money into the event only to, more often than not, finish in the bottom half of the table. However, there is something awfully naff about Eurovision that makes a compelling viewing experience every single year. I personally wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t get to indulge in this crazy contest once a year, and at the day it’s a lot more entertaining than talent shows like The Voice which take themselves far too seriously. Ultimately, any programme that features a dance segment involving Swedish meatballs deserves my attention and so I will continue to watch the Eurovision every year until the UK decides to finally pull the plug on it.
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