Hey folks ready for another week of top class TV? Well I’ve got every class covered in some fashion anyway.
As BBC4 have in recent years spoilt us with a bounty of Scandinavian crime dramas we have been able to see the origins of the Kurt Wallander character however back in 2009 we only had Kennneth Branagh’s interpretation as a point of reference. This week Branagh returned for a third run of three specials kicking off with An Event in Autumn in which Kurt Wallander had seemingly found love with new girlfriend Vanja and had moved into a new house with her young son. It seemed that the relationship was fairly steady however she had still retained her small flat and he was still putting his police-work first so when we saw a girl pushed from the top of a ferry we knew it was only a matter of time before Kurt went all distant again. It turned out though that it was the house itself which would be the issue as a bunch of decaying bones lay in the back of the garden under a blackberry bush Wallander attempted to find out who it was that put the bones there and why. His investigations led him to a bunch of travellers who briefly lived in the house, led by Con O’Neill’s suitably long-in-the-tooth patriarch, and various attempts to get information from them led to one of his co-workers being shot at by him after killing his dog. As Wallander attempted to link the ferry murder to the bones in his back garden, because of course the two would have some sort of connection, he spent less time with Vanja often forgetting to have a meal with her or telling her what time he’d be home. Though the case was cracked and their relationship survived we follow them to marriage counselling at the end of this instalment where Kurt admits that he’d previously see the same therapist with his ex-wife which leads me to believe that Vanja won’t last long in his life. It appears as if director Toby Hanes has tried to recreate the dark mood of the Swedish originals and I think he’s succeeded as this was a suitably uncomfortable affair throughout even if I found Peter Harness’ adaptation of Henning Mankell’s source novel to be a little slow in places. Though as always I question why foreign drama must constantly be adapted into the English language if a Brit were to play Wallander then Kenneth Branagh is certainly the man for the job retaining the melancholic persona that the Swedish actors before him perfected. Branagh is able to jump between the more joyous parts of Kurt’s new lifestyle to the old ways that he resorts to by the programme’s end and to me his performance is the main reason for watching this adaptation in the first place. While I’m not a fan of adapting a foreign drama into our language I still enjoyed Wallander for what it was an involving if overlong crime-drama with a superb central performance from Branagah who makes you concentrate on the action from beginning to end.
More crime drama on ITV this week with the return of another two-part Case Sensitive starring Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd as Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse a professional couple who blatantly have amorous feelings for each other. This new instalment is based on Sophie Hannah’s novel The Other Half Lives and involves Eva Birthistle’s Ruth, who Charlie knows from her workout class, being proposed to by her new boyfriend Aidan who in turn tells her that he once hurt a woman. Charlie though gets the wrong end of the stick and thinks that it’s Ruth’s ex-husband Jason who’s being abusive to her so enlists Simon’s help in tracking him down however when the two get to his house they find he’s been murdered with Aiden the obvious prime suspect. Jason and Aiden had a massive row a few days before his death due to the fact that the former feels that latter stole Ruth away from him after she became obsessed when he started tuning her piano, that’s not a euphemism, at the school where all three worked. As the police work on Jason’s murder case Ruth becomes suspicious of Aiden and follows him to London where he is supposed to audition for the London College of Music, like you do, but this form of mild-stalking does lead her directly into the path of the killer. While I felt little interest in the central mystery both Williams and Boyd did a good job to convince me of the sexual chemistry between Charlie and Simon though I thought it was spoilt slightly when they ended up in bed together midway through episode two. This is because I enjoy their casual flirting mixed with the jealousy that each has when they flirt with a member of the opposite sex which is exemplified in the fact that Charlie flies off the hammer every time Simon goes anywhere near the younger DC Amber Williams. It’s a shame that Case Sensitive only appears every so often as a two-part special as I never really feel I get to know Waterhouse or Zailer despite the brilliant performances from the two leads. If the programme does indeed get renewed I’d like a six part series so at least more balance can be placed between the central relationship and the investigation in question as here I felt the latter was pushed to the sidelines. Even though wasn’t really interested in the Ruth/Aiden affair there was enough in Case Sensitive to make it a solid well-paced ITV crime drama even if it wasn’t anything we’ve not seen before.
A partnership we have seen before, but not for a while, is the one between former Apprentice allies Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford who were separated after the latter went off to do her Egyptology PHd. The two have reunited for The Town That Never Retired which is airing as part of the BBC’s ‘When I’m 65′ Season as we follow them to Preston as they oversee a group of pensioners going back to work following the revelation that soon people will be working into their eighties. Five business open up their doors to people who usually had experience in that field such as retired nurse Sheila who was asked to work at the local health centre but had trouble using the computers, didn’t know the new guidelines and due to her carpel tunnel surgery struggled to find a vein to insert a needle into. Though Sheila struggled the three handymen, who were drafted into help complete work on a block of flats, fared much better though they did each hit their own personal stumbling block. Plasterer George looked dejected when he couldn’t use his own tools while electrician Alan almost quit after he struggled to use the drill that was given to him however the pair, along with Ray the plumber, all developed as the week went on even managing to work in wintry condition that Nick likened to that of a Russian Gulag. Co-owner of Preston’s premiere eatery San Marco Carlo was the most sceptical of the business owners who agreed to take on the pensioners however 76 year old Ruth impressed him as a waitress while 73 year old John slugged his guts out working as a kitchen porter. Elsewhere the local chocolate factory welcomed some more mature ladies who struggled to get to grips with the pace of the machinery while Marie struggled to find the property she was about to sell when she got a part-time job at the estate agents. Episode two saw the oldies that stayed on at their jobs, which didn’t include Sheila or the majority of the chocolate factory girls, compete with young job-seekers to maybe get actual jobs at the end of the project. While quite a lot of the kids left work early, didn’t show up the next day or were actually bothered about doing the job right the two that impressed the most were builder Ashley who worked alongside the boys on the building site and Jodie who became Ruth’s colleague at San Marco. The real clash though came at the Estate Agents where Marie was paired with Sam who really berated her for her lack of technical skills however she came across as a lot more interested in the clients than he did with the owner of the business saying that if he had been hiring he would’ve taken Marie on over Sam. At the end of the day the four oldies offered jobs were Roy and George at the building site who both turned down part-time offers as they found it too physically demanding while kitchen porter John also politely declined a job offer for the same reason so Marie the waitress was the only member of The Town That Never Retired to come out of retirement.
The Town That Never Retired on the whole was an interesting endeavour that was poorly handled with the characteristics of those involved being fairly clichéd. All of the pensioners were charming if a little slow and rubbish with technology while the majority of the youngsters gave up too quickly finding the jobs assigned to them far too dull. While I’m aware that some are like this I would’ve liked a greater cross-section of the Preston population however I have to say I did find the majority of the old people endearing. Personally I found that the project was slightly flawed as all of these people have retired from work however had they kept working they wouldn’t have lost the skills they had while in addition would’ve been trained to use the new technology. Nick and Margaret actually visited a doctor who told them that in the future old people will be healthier so for example the workmen maybe wouldn’t have turned down the offer of work. What made The Town That Never Retired so special though was the chemistry that Nick and Margaret still share as they bicker constantly on car journeys around Preston checking up on how their subjects are getting on. One of my highlight of the past two days was the scene in which Margaret struggled to get her protective shoes on at the chocolate factory, Nick went to help her saying how she wasn’t coping with her retort being ‘I’m younger than you.’ This banter was great, I also enjoyed when Nick told Margaret that if she owned a chocolate factory she’d eat all of the profits, so much so that I want to watch more shows hosted by the pair here’s hoping that they can somehow get rid of Rachel on Countdown so this dynamic twosome can return to our screens full-time.
Also giving young people a chance to earn their way this week was Thelma Madine the Scouse dress-maker who found fame through Channel 4′s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings franchise and now wants to give something back to the travelling community who help her make her fortune. In Thelma’s Gypsy Girls, Madine wants to recruit ten traveller girls to work in her newly built factory and after a six month period wants to take at least two on as full time trainees. Thelma’s main reasons for wanting to take these girls on is to give them an opportunity in life as most traveller girls leave school at eleven in order to look after the family a tradition that continues after they’re married. This first episode saw Thelma go on a recruitment drive and introduced us to some of her potential trainees including sixteen year old Roseanne who thought that Lady Gaga was pedalling the devil’s music and Shannon who wanted to take Thelma up on her offer but feared that it would clash with the community service that she had to partake in on a Tuesday. Then there was Margaret who Thelma described as a rebel and who I’m sure will cause much trouble, and get plenty of camera time, in the factory as the weeks go on. Though we did learn who the final ten girls were this opener was also to introduce Thelma as the star of the show whose market stall business grew into a profitable shop after she was first asked to create a wedding dress for a traveller. Her life has been one of incident with her first husband leaving her almost penniless she started to claim benefits to look after her two daughters however she failed to sign off when her business took off meaning that she was jailed for benefit fraud. Now Thelma worries about money once again as the building of the factory and the work scheme will cost her most of the money she has saved up which makes her nervous about her venture as does the fact that she don’t think her foreign staff will deal very well with their new intolerant colleagues. Personally I enjoyed Thelma’s Gypsy Girls as it wasn’t as patronising as the majority of the Big Fat Gypsy franchise we got sensible introductions of some of the girls as well as a very interesting biographical account of Thelma herself. My worry is that future weeks will see the factory descend into chaos as the girls revert back to our stereotype of the gypsy in order to make this another one for the fans of the original Gypsy documentaries to laugh at. Overall I found Madine a really lovely lady with a big heart and while I worry about future episodes I’ll still tune in to see if any of these girls will commit to working on a full-time basis.
Finally this week we stay on Channel 4 to meet somebody else who is trying to set up their own enterprise in order to help others as Burnley-based minibus tycoon Dave Fishwick tries to open his own bank. Bank of Dave follows Fishwick on his journey as he is told time and time again that he won’t be able to call himself a bank unless he reads through the proper FSA guidelines something that he just plain refuses to do. Everyone he meets from the banking industry tells him he has no chance although they do like his spirit though trips up to lawyers in Manchester do crush this spirit briefly. What makes Bank of Dave so great is that Fishwick is such an interesting character he’s obviously incredibly smart though his humble upbringings have meant that he’s also incredibly down-to-Earth as he arrives at his local radio station eating a banana. There are also plenty of scenes of Dave in his car singing along to the radio including one where he theorises that all lawyers should listen to You Can’t Hurry Love before they go into work in the morning and later he initiates his new staff member by making him sing along to Elvis in his back seat. Eventually Dave’s bank is ready to open only he can’t call it a bank as he’s got no approval from the FSA instead it is dubbed ‘Burnley Savings and Loan’ however the sign reads Bank on Dave. As his ‘bank’ gets going Dave goes to businesses in the local community who want loans these include Keith and Christine Turner’s cafe where he is treated to fish pie and later he goes to Burnley’s aqua centre where the owner wants money so he can do the shop up and buy some dwarf sharks. As with Madine, at the end of episode one Fishwick is suffering as the loans he’s paying are coming from his own back pocket and he desperately needs a licence in order to start taking money in as well as giving it out. My only problem with Bank of Dave is that it is only two episodes long because personally I really wanted to spend more time with the energetic Fishwick who really struck me as something of a one-off to the extent that he seemed like a character created by Peter Kay. Overall I do hope the little man in Dave beats the crooked bankers at their own game and his Burnley-based institution becomes the first of many community banks however we’ll all have to tune in next week to find out how he does.
And you’ll also have to come back next week for reviews of The Newsroom, Britain’s Secret Treasure and Bug