Another bumper Week in TV so let’s get cracking straight away.
With the stunning Unforgiven finishing on Monday Nights, ITV1 has presented us with a second three weeks of unmissable drama in Whitechapel. Whereas Unforgiven focused on a female protagonist, Whitechapel pumps with testosterone with a mainly male cast and females either featuring as victims or Community Support officers. The story revolves around a Whitechapel police department populated by detectives who are common as muck where untucked shirts and don’t wash. Their leader is DS Ray Miles played by the ever-capable character actor Phil Davis who starts by investigating the death of an often battered woman. Here he meets his new DI Joseph Chandler played by upper-class Spooks star Rupert Penry-Jones, who he instantly clashes with. Chandler is everything Miles doesn’t want in a DI, he’s posh, manicured and prefers to be hands on rather than just sit behind a desk writing up paperwork. As the case continues Chandler and Miles are presented with a theory by Edward Buchan, a writer who specialises in Jack the Ripper tours or a Ripperologist, who theorises that there’s a copycat killer. As the show goes on Chandler starts to buy into this idea joining Buchan on his tours and eventually coming to this conclusion after a second murder occurs. This first part set up the idea of a copycat killing but at its core, as well as an intriguing mystery, is a great double act the common-as-muck much-respected Miles teaming up with the upper-class Chandler sparks many light-hearted moments. While the League of Gentlemen’s Steve Pemberton revels in his role as the camp Ripperologist. It’s too early to tell if this story will play well over three parts but thanks to the three lead actors, as well as the cinematography which transposes clips of modern day Whitechapel and the Whitechapel in Jack the Ripper days, this is a drama which has legs.
Another police drama which kicked off this week was Moses Jones on BBC2. But unusually for a cop drama with the name of the central character in the title, its focus isn’t on the cops. Instead the focus is on London’s criminal underworld populated by Eamonn Walker’s ominous Solomon. The investigation focuses on a body washed up in the Thames and the possibility of witchcraft being involved. Comparisons can be made with U.S. drama The Wire as the focus switches between the investigation and those being investigating. The characters involved include lapdancers, minicab drivers and toilet cleaners all ethnic minorities living in London. The point is that these people deserve as much attention as the police investigating them. The police in question are Moses Jones who has his roots in Uganda and comes up against criticism from the black people who he’s interrogating from going against his African heritage to become a police officer. The main reason for most people to watch the show however is his the man he is forced to pair up with DS Dan Twentyman, and that’s because he’s played by the most anticipated young actor, Matt Smith soon to be Doctor Who. Although Smith’s role is quite small in comparison to most of the underworld characters he still shines when he’s on the screen and shares an impeccable chemistry with Shaun Parkes who plays Jones. Its almost a shame that the show is written in a way that we don’t get to learn more about Twentyman and Jones and if this becomes a full-blown series rather than a three-partner we may just do but because of Matt Smith’s involvement in Britain’s biggest franchise I doubt the possibility of that very much.
A very different programme which sees strangers living together was Boys and Girls Alone yet another ‘social experiment’ from Channel Four. This is a follow-up to a previous show in which a group of boys lived together but this time there’s a group of girls as well both groups are aged 8-11. Of course the boys become pals straight away and start having water fights and after a while start drawing up rules about not having water fights in the house. But as they can’t fend for themselves soon they are having trouble cooking everything instead gouging themselves on sweets and playing with tins of paint. Meanwhile the girls form two factions with the stronger bitchy girls forming one faction and the nervous timid girl and the younger girls in the other one. This feud mounts up to the point where the latter group are about to move into a new house, the other girls take paint and graffiti the house with red paint to look like a ghost has been there. They also cut off the food supply to the girls and are generally ignorant. All this footage is being watched by the parents of the kids who at the end of episode one come in to have words with their kids. Of course all the mothers of the boys end up washing their clothes and cooking for them and one of the boys even leaves with his mum having had enough of doing things for himself. One wonders why we have to watch this kind of thing and what it is telling us? That boys aren’t independent enough and that girls are bitchy we kind of knew this already. It is also quite disturbing to think of the ages of the children involved the youngest girls are just eight. I was thinking why they couldn’t have older kids but then I saw that next week the boys and girls get to mix for the next time and if they were teenagers you could end up having a bit of a different problem on their hands. While some people enjoy watching this kind of thing for me it seemed a little bit worthless seeing as it had already been done last year.
With the returns of The Krypton Factor and Going for Gold in the last few months it seems like the eighties are being remade again so it seems like the time to bring back one of the biggest iconic dramas from that period: Minder. With the same theme tune and dodgy London backdrop we are now following the exploits of Arthur Daley’s wheeler-dealer nephew Archie who actually manages to get an after-hours cab belonging to Jamie who then gets embroiled in a big car journey. From there it’s a lot of dodgy councillors, comedy female police officers and stolen money. Fresh from hosting Don’t Forget the Lyrics on Sky One, Shane Ritchie gives acting another try here while best name of an actor by the week goes to Lex Shrapnel as Jamie. While I’m guessing this is Ritchie’s natural job you’ve got to wonder why some of the actor’s in supporting roles got involved for example this week saw John Henshaw as the councillor while next week the much-elusive Rik Mayall appears. While this is entertaining enough the script never allows time for the characters to be anything else then stereotype, Archie is a walking talking cocker-ney wideboy while Jamie is the loveable sidekick. The cast do try with the material they’re given but it;s trying to be too much like the original and doesn’t seem to have anything new to say.
We switch now to something a lot more serious as the great novelist Terry Pratchett was on the T.V. this week, in Terry Pratchett: Living with Alzheimer’s, camera’s follow the now knighted Terry through the first year of living with the disease. The programme can kind of be split into two parts, one following Terry as he goes a bit forgetful at a book sighting and later-on at a reading loses his place and can’t find it reducing most of the Discworld fans to tears. Pratchett wants to take on Alzheimer’s and make the disease sorry that it got him. For someone who spends their days using their brain, Pratchett wants to try and get rid of the disease so is trying to track down possible cures being invented. He goes to see scientists who have successfully given and removed the disease from fruit flies and also gets given a helmet which is meant to restore the memory by keeping the brain waves in the head first thing in the morning. Pratchett never wants to seem like a sufferer and doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him as he does a press tour and appears on This Morning and News 24. As someone with a relative with the disease I know first-hand how Alzheimer’s can effect a person and this is particularly moving as Pratchett is someone who I’d grown to love and read his books as I grew up. To think that this great mind will wither up within the next few years is truly heartbreaking and I’m hoping in the next episode he does in fact find something that will help.
Finally, after last week’s comedy highlight of studio-based laughter-track sitcom, Not Going Out there’s a shock as there’s yet another good studio-based laughter-track sitcom in The Old Guys. Written by the guys behind the brilliant Peep Show it stars Trigger from Only Fools and Horses and Richard from Keeping Up Appearances as Tom and Roy two sixty and seventy somethings facing the last years of their lives together. Trigger’s character is a sly, slightly stupid chancer whose daughter (played by The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson) is still around much to his disappointment while Richard’s character is more normal he likes long walks and often despairs at his housemate’s schemes. Their partnership is not a million miles away from Peep Show’s Jez and Mark, there is also a romantic interest in the form of Cake Queen Jane Asher who is the object of both Tom and Roy’s affection, although she is oblivious to this. Although with its jokes about bladder content, early onset Alzheimer’s and the final gag about peeing in the sink it’s not to everyone’s tastes but at the same time these old men can use Facebook and Online Gaming so go against the stereotypical old person in sitcoms seen in The Last of the Summer Wine. With new writers but classic sitcom actors at the helm, The Old Guys is a laugh-a-minute sitcom but without the observational humour we as a nation maybe used too from our sitcoms at the moment.
Next Time: The Brit Awards and The BAFTA Film Awards