This week we return to prison but also step out into the great outdoors before doing our bit for charity.
We start with the new series of Prisoners’ Wives a programme that received a mixed response when it first arrived last year. While some thought this would be just another show in the vein of Footballer’s Wives others really enjoyed it. Despite the mixed praise the programme has returned for a second series which has been shortened from six episodes down to four. Returning for the second series is Francesca (Polly Walker) who is the wife of career criminal Paul (Ian Glen). Francesca’s life is threatened right from the get-go this series as her family’s home is set on fire. Paul implores Francesca to help ship some guns to a rival gang member however this is merely a set-up and Francesca’s companion is soon shot dead. Despite refusing to take Paul’s calls, Francesca eventually relents and agrees to set up a car valeting business as a front to Paul’s criminal dealings. However this may be a bad move as one of Paul’s original officers DCI Fontaine (Nicola Walker) has her eyes on the family once again. Also returning is Harriet (Pippa Haywood) whose son Gavin (Adam Gillen) is now attempting to convert to Islam in order to fit in with his prison buddies. Harriet is also turning to religion but this is mainly so she can cosy up to the prison chaplain. New characters this series include Aisling (Karla Crome) whose father Brendan (Owen Roe) has been in and out of prison most of her life. But Aisling needs her father to keep out of trouble so he can be released on time to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. Finally we meet Kim (Sally Carman) a regular suburban mother whose life is soon turned upside down when her husband Mick (Enzo Cilenti) is falsely accused of child abuse.
The first thing I noticed about this new series of Prisoners’ Wives is that the stories felt tighter and the pace was a lot a quicker. I think this may be due to the fact that this series is only four episodes so doesn’t have to stretch its plots over six instalments like it did last year. It also appears as if writer Julie Geary is more comfortable with her characters this time around especially the returning Francesca and Harriet. The new stories also slot in well especially Aisling’s tale as the drama is yet to explore what it must be like for a daughter to visit her father in prison most of the time. The fact that Aisling also has an inbuilt relationship with Francesca’s family also makes her feel like a character that has been around longer than one episode. Meanwhile Kim and Mick’s story could be seen as a little clichéd but thankfully Geary lets us get to know the characters before the arrest meaning that we care about their struggle. The performances are uniformly great with Polly Walker being the standout in this episode especially in the scene in which she has to ride in a car with a dead body next to her. Sally Carman is also great as the normal housewife forced to cope with the fact that her neighbours will start to believe that her husband is a paedophile. While I can’t say I was gripped from beginning to end I still thought the series got off to a strong start thanks to a great script and four gripping performances. I just hope that Prisoners’ Wives will retain the momentum it has built up in this opening instalment but it certainly seems to have enough plot to sustain another three episodes.
Another new drama airing this week was two-part crime drama Shetland. The programme starred Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez a man who had returned to his native Shetland following the death of his wife. Jimmy likes Sheltand as he sees it as a calm, tranquil place and the ideal location to bring up his stepdaughter Cassie (Erin Armstrong) so he is shocked when an elderly local resident Mima (Sandra Voe) is found dead. He discovers that a lot of Mima’s enemies may have been in her own family which was separated between her brother Joseph (Alexander Morton) and his wealthier cousin Jackie (Lindy Whiteford). However Mima’s death may in fact be linked to an archaeological dig at her property which could’ve raked up old wounds. As Jimmy’s investigation continues he discovers Shetland’s less than savoury history and what secrets she could’ve been hiding over the years. It is unfortunate that Shetland has come off the back of similar dramas Broadchurch and Mayday as a lot of us are now worn out by crime programmes. Indeed Shetland is definitely the less original of the three and feels like other Sunday night crime dramas such as Case Histories or Vera. Douglas Henshall is fine in the lead role however I felt his amiable personality didn’t lend itself well to the damaged character he was meant to portray. In fact I found the island to be the real star of the piece as its dense green landscape and moody skies were the perfect backdrop for a murder story. I also enjoyed learning more about the history of Shetland and thought it was great that this was interlinked into the central mystery. There wasn’t anything particularly bad about Shetland as I found it to be a traditional Sunday night crime drama. But at the same time I think that audiences want a bit more from their crime dramas these days so I’m unsure whether the other books in the Shetland series will be adapted.
This week also ushered in the return of Masterchef a programme that is unbelievably popular even if I can’t quite work out why. Indeed somewhere along the way it has become a prime time show on BBC1 and this week were treated to a mammoth two and a half hours of the cooking programme. I don’t think there’s anybody in the country who doesn’t know the Masterchef format by now but this week we started off with the heats. To me these are the most tedious part of the whole Masterchef experience as we watched ten eliminations in the course of two nights. Indeed there are only a certain number of times you can see someone cook a joint of lamb with the obligatory celeriac mash before you start to go slightly insane. Out of the home chefs that were taken through to the quarter finals my two picks for the semi-finals were quirky Ingrid and confident Emily whose African cuisine initially impressed the judges. However by the end of Wednesday night they’d both been eliminated while Emily appeared to have had a mini-breakdown after under-cooking her lamb. The majority of the Masterchef audience don’t tune in for the cooking though but for the commentary and chemistry of Gregg Wallace and John Torode. Indeed it is their facial expressions that are one of my highlights of the show however I didn’t really by Wallace’s shoulder-to-cry on routine when he tried to comfort Emily. Speaking of Wallace he is now incredibly trim after losing a lot of weight but my fear is that he’ll start to balloon once again after tucking into one too many puddings. I personally don’t have a problem with Masterchef but it now seems like a bit of a tired format that really shouldn’t be given a primetime slot on BBC1.
The problem with most impressionist shows is that the performers must look like who they are mimicking as well as sounding like them. It appears as if Channel 4′s new sitcom The Mimic has found a way around that by having a lead character who impersonates celebrities in order to escape his mundane life. The sitcom stars Terry Mynott, previously seen on impressionist show Very Important People, as maintenance worker Martin. Martin’s life is incredibly empty as he spends his days painting over graffiti and his evenings are spent with his only friend Jean (Jo Hartley). To escape this monotony Martin often impersonates celebrities from Terry Wogan to Owen Wilson to Al Pacino. In addition to impersonating celebrities this opening episode also sees him impersonating his boss as revenge for not giving him a promotion. Martin’s life may also be turned upside down after he finds out how he might have a son from a previous relationship. The Mimic is an interesting show which appears to be a vehicle for Mynott’s impressions rather than anything else. Though it is entertaining seeing him acting out a conversation between Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones I feel that these segments would be better in a sketch show rather than a sitcom. Mynott’s impressions are also a mixed bag and I felt in particular his Gok Wan and Vince Vaughn voices were very dodgy indeed. The more interesting parts of The Mimic were when Martin impersonated other characters and I hope that this is a theme that is continued as it adds a dark edge to this otherwise traditional sitcom. While The Mimic does have an interesting premise I have to say I wasn’t completely blown away. I feel that part of the reason for this is that the script is fairly flimsy and it almost seems as this is just another Terry Mynott sketch show held together by a wafer-thin plot.
Finally it would be rude of me not to talk a little bit about Comic Relief which this year ushered in the 25th anniversary of Red Nose Day. The biggest talking points of this year’s ceremony had to be the return of two classic comic characters in The Office’s David Brent and The Vicar of Dibley. Fans of The Office were in for a treat as Ricky Gervais not only bought back some of the old magic but also performed an inspirational reggae song ‘Equality Street’. The Vicar of Dibley sketch meanwhile felt a little flat as it was all based around the appointment of women bishops and Jim Trott’s famous catchphrase. More successful sketches saw Simon Cowell get married to himself and David Walliams inform all of his previous lovers that he had VD. It was also good to see the cast of my favourite recent sitcom Fresh Meat travel around the country and I thought Will Ferrell got into the spirit of the event as Ron Burgurndy. My favourite sketch though was the latest Smithy sketch involving James Corden as he berated the current state of Comic Relief. Indeed most of what he said rung true as Red Nose Day is no longer a one day event as we are forced to tolerate Let’s Dance and the Bake-Off. My main problem was that there was no classic moment or sketch and even Jessie J shaving her head felt a little bit forgettable. Ultimately though this was about the charity and I was glad that they raised a record amount of money I just don’t think there was the need for two Mrs Brown sketches to get to that point.
Next Time: The Syndicate, In the Flesh and Youngers
Originally Published on The CustardTV.com