As it’s summertime there’s not a lot on the old telly-box, especially considering as we’re in the middle of a World Cup, so this week I’m back with a fortnight of TV goodness.
Kicking off this edition with a new properly funny comedy in Rev a religious based sitcom starring Tom Hollander as the hapless vicar Adam Smallbone. Adam has recently moved from a small parish to a large metropolitan East London one. He has to deal with a lot of new clientele including the larger swilling chain-smoking unemployed Colin and the maternal cassock-chaser and all round busybody Adoha. Then there’s the lay reader Nigel who should be Adam’s right-hand man but ends up belittling him most of the time and thinking that he would do a much better job running the parish than Adam is and there is also Adam’s over-bearing boss Robert the Archdeacon. Then there’s Adam’s wife Alex a high-powered lawyer who isn’t a traditional vicar’s wife and instead wants to have the same kind of marriage as most people have. Although these characters may seem a little clichéd the show is anything but. What puts Rev apart from other religious sitcoms such as The Vicar of Dibley and All Gas and Gaiters is that Adam is a regular man who just happens to have chosen to be a vicar. He’s not the best at his job and sometimes question’s peoples lack of faith and also doesn’t always deliver the best sermons but he certainly tries his best. He is often seen down the pub and smoking with Colin and he tries to please his wife in the best way he can. Rev also looks at the bigger picture about the younger generation’s lack of faith and a lot of family’s turning up to church in order for their children to get into faith schools. While not always laugh-a-minute Rev is an intriguing and engaging half-an-hour comedy with a superb central performance from Tom Hollander ably supported by Steve Evetts as Colin and Nigel McCall as Miles. The final episode was truly brilliant it had straight-humour, subtlety and ultimately Adam questioning his own faith and identity. I’m so glad that this has already been renewed for a second series.
Next up some quality drama from writer Dominic Savage who last year presented us with Freefall a drama looking at how the recession effected three different people. This year he deals with another controversial topic, teen pregnancy, however this is seen through the eyes of a girl who hopes to compete in the 2012 Olympics as a professional diver. Savage separates the story so we see the first half purely through the eyes of Aisling Loftus’s Lindsey a 15 year old who’s parents have split up and her mother’s new boyfriend has just moved into the house. Going against usual stereotypes her father isn’t a layabout and supports her diving while the new boyfriend just seems like a nice chap. However this sends the usual sensible Lindsey slightly off the rails and starts mixes with an undesirable selection of kids including Robert who soon professes that he finds Lindsey gorgeous. The two end up having sex and after Lindsey is attacked she discovers she’s pregnant and struggles to tell Robert. The second episode sees the fallout from Lindsey’s revelation and how it effects his life and his equally tumultuous family situation. As with Freefall, Savage is able to draw real-to-life characters and does this with minimal dialogue and a light plot. Indeed some of the best scenes featured nothing but Lindsey’s diving training and this is a testament to Aisling Loftus who, with both her performances in Five Daughters and Drive, has become this year’s breakout star. Also deserving of praise is Jack O’Connell, best known as Cook in Skins, whose performance was multi-layered with revelations about his personal situation reserved for the second episode, it is clear that he has matured as an actor and will have a bright future. The supporting performers are also featured some of Britain’s best Joseph Mawle (who was also in Freefall), Gina McKee, Kate Dickie, Ewan Bremner and the fantastic Eddie Marsan. The one thing that stopped me enjoying the programme fully was Max Richter’s tinkly piano overture which was played over and over again and got stuck in my head long after the programme finished. Despite this, Dive was a truly great two-part drama and its just a shame that we have to wait months for something like this to come along as the U.K. should be pumping out big drama every week.
Now I know what you’re thinking so far all this has been BBC based drama and I haven’t watched anything on the commercial channels, well think again readers. First of is ITV1′s new cop drama, Identity, which has since been cancelled. One of the reasons for this, I think, is that it is very samey and reminds me a lot of U.S. crime shows featuring a police unit that specialises in a certain type of crime. As you can probably guess from the title, it looks at identity theft and tracking down the criminals who are assuming others identity. Heading up the unit is Martha Lawson played by Keeley Hawes who seems not to be fed up with crime shows despite her appearances in both Spooks and Ashes to Ashes. Here team also includes IT expert Tessa, young wippersnapper Jose Rodriguez and Shaun Parkes’ Anthony Waering a DS who’s in line for a promotion so always very cautious about some of the team’s more dubious antics. In the first episode Martha takes a risk on adding a new DI to her unit in John Bloom played by Aiden Gillen who, depending on who you ask, is most famous for playing Stuart in Queer as Folk or Tommy Carcetti in The Wire. Bloom has spent 15 years undercover and obviously has ‘issues’. In fact at the end of episode one we see he is still involved with the murky underbelly of Turkish society. The plot seems very formulaic – someone’s identity has been stolen, the group follow several leads and finally track down their man or woman. Identity is not without its cham and indeed the performances especially from Gillan and Parks are very good as is some of the more techinical work but its nothing we haven’t seen before and done much better. In a way I understand why ITV decided to cancel this but at the same time I’m all for giving new drama a chance to establish itself.
More drama now with a new police procedural in Identity which has unfortunately already been cancelled. One of the reasons for this, I think, is that it is very samey and reminds me a lot of U.S. crime shows featuring a police unit that specialises in a certain type of crime. As you can probably guess from the title, it looks at identity theft and tracking down the criminals who are assuming others identity. Heading up the unit is Martha Lawson played by Keeley Hawes who seems not to be fed up with crime shows despite her appearances in both Spooks and Ashes to Ashes. Here team also includes IT expert Tessa, young whippersnapper Jose Rodriguez and Shaun Parkes’ Anthony Waering a DS who’s in line for a promotion so always very cautious about some of the team’s more dubious antics. In the first episode Martha takes a risk on adding a new DI to her unit in John Bloom played by Aiden Gillen who, depending on who you ask, is most famous for playing Stuart in Queer as Folk or Tommy Carcetti in The Wire. Bloom has spent 15 years undercover and obviously has ‘issues’. In fact at the end of episode one we see he is still involved with the murky underbelly of Turkish society. The plot seems very formulaic – someone’s identity has been stolen, the group follow several leads and finally track down their man or woman. Identity is not without its charm and indeed the performances especially from Gillan and Parks are very good as is some of the more technical work but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and done much better. In a way I understand why ITV decided to cancel this but at the same time I’m all for giving new drama a chance to establish itself.
Getting a bit lighter now with a one-off drama that looked at a gang of friends who, at one time or another, all lived together in the same house. When the now married Danny and Belinda decide to try and reunite the group they don’t expect for high-flying Hannah to land on the door but after being let go by her boss she returns to the reunion and runs into old flame Martin. Martin and Hannah had split up after she starting sleeping with Rob, another member of the group bizarrely played by Irish stand-up Ed Byrne. Finally there’s Sarah who was the group’s emotional core and after everyone went there separate ways had a mental breakdown. This one-off, perhaps a pilot, saw all of them reunite as Hannah went to live with Belinda and Danny while Rob and Martin resumed their friendship and Sarah’s sister worried about building her expectations up. If this ever gets to a full series the big storyline is obviously going to be Hannah and Martin’s will-they-won’t-they relationship which is complicated as Martin is engaged. The other big story is that Belinda is cheating on Danny and lying to him about her ‘Spanish Lessons’ eventually driving Hannah out of the house seeing her moving in with Sarah at the end. It’s obvious that the BBC are trying to make their own Cold Feet with Reunited. Although it chugs along nicely enough it is ever so predictable – the wife and mother trapped having an affair, the loveable Irish charmer, the star crossed exs and the ‘scatty one’. It doesn’t help that among the cast there are actors who have done this kind of thing before including Navin Choudry (Teachers) and Jemima Rooper (As If). But I always think its a bad idea to put a drama pilot completely down, the acting wasn’t bad and there is room for an improvement if the BBC decides to commission it for a whole series. But I would say tone down the clichés and try to create something that is apt for the 2010s.
Finally a very odd programme indeed which I’m often forced into watching as there’s nothing much else on after University Challenge. Antiques Master tries to find out who is the U.K’s best all round expert in Antiques in terms of identifying price, date and use of certain antiques. The whole feel of the show is slightly creepy as it all takes place in a massive stately home which I initially thought was the country home of host Sandii Todsvig. Actually it’s at Burnley Mansion which has been turned into an antiques cave for the purpose of the series. As Todsvig isn’t an Antiques guru they had to get someone who knew their pots and woodwork so Eric Knowles was roped in. Knowles is incredibly knowledgeable antiques man but doesn’t seem to be as powerful TV presence since he lsot his moustache. Each week Sandii and Eric invite four amateur antiques experts into their manor and whittle them down to just two over a series of rounds. First is a simple chance to put five items in order of age from oldest to newst. Next the contestants must identify various strange looking antiques based on Knowles’ cryptic clues so for example ‘Tom Would Love This’ is a mousetrap. Then the antiquers are quizzed on their specialist subject, yes each of them has a special love whether it be old clocks or 16th century chamber pots, okay I made the last one up. Finally a head to head to crown the winner of the heat and the crowning of the first semi-final and the chance to be called Antiques Master. Although interesting, there’s nothing much to really like about Antiques Master, there’s no really cheering on contestants or playing along at home unless you yourself are an antiques fan. There is also a very annoying voice-over lady who keeps reminding us of the score every single minutes which detracts from the flow of the show. There’s also the point that I’m not exactly sure what the contestants win which devalues the contest a little bit. It’s odd that this has been given a primetime BBC2 slot as it feels like it would fit in a lot better during the day. One thing I do like though is Sandii’s gentle humour and her banter with Eric Knowles, if I didn’t know any better I thought there’s a little bit of sexual tension between them.
Next Time: The World Cup Highlights, Shooting Stars and The Fairy Jobmother