So it’s a Happy New Year to one and all as we look back at the first full week of 2015 and see what TV had in store for us.
We didn’t have to wait long for one of the most anticipated dramas of the year as ITV came through on only the fifth day of January by giving us Broadchurch series two. The first series of Broadchurch was a genuine word-of-mouth hit as the nation was gripped by the mystery of just who killed ten-year-old Danny Latimer. The strengths of the first series came from both Chris Chibnall’s writing and the ensemble cast led by a stoic David Tennant and the magnificent Olivia Coleman. I, like most people, was surprised when this second series was announced only because the series one finale promised closure. Indeed, closure wasn’t one of the things that the residents of Broadchurch were afforded as Joe Miller; the man who confessed to Danny’s killing, pleaded not guilty to murder. Whether or not this offers up doubt in to whether or not Joe was covering up for someone else remains to be seen, however I feel that this story really should’ve been wrapped up in series one. What I’m enjoying more is Tennant’s Alec Hardy’s re-investigation of The Sandbrook Murders; the case he’d fumbled prior to his arrival in Broadchurch. This new investigation ushers in the arrival of Claire, the key witness at Sandbrook who Hardy has been trying to keep safe since the case fell through. Claire is the ex-wife of prime suspect Lee, who has just arrived in Broadchurch seemingly with vengeance on his mind. For some reason Hardy feels that Ellie Miller, who is now a traffic cop, would be the ideal person to help him unravel what actually happened at Sandbrook once and for all. However, Ellie is more concerned with Joe’s appeal and the fact that the majority of the townsfolk despise her with a passion.
Broadchurch series two appears to have divided the nation down the middle with half of them believing this to be as great as the first whilst the other half feel that it’s utter tripe. I personally feel that it’s too early to judge and there were some elements of this first episode I enjoyed and others that I wasn’t too fond of. There’s no denying that the acting in Broadchurch is almost uniformly excellent with Tennant and Coleman building on the chemistry they developed in series one. The scenes between Ellie and Alec were definitely episode one’s strongest including one in the toilets at the courthouse where the former tried to cajole the latter into facing her former friends. Furthermore I think Broadchurch is extremely atmospheric as I felt the cinematography was superb as was the editing process. In fact I was one of the only people who didn’t have a problem with the drama’s score and felt it was a bit harsh that people compared it to Jamaica Inn. Where this first episode fell down was in the Joe Miller court case which just appeared to be a way for Chibnall to bring back all the characters from series one. I just felt I had to suspend my disbelief a little too far when Joe pleaded not guilty and later when the courts allowed his new legal team to exhume Danny’s body. The only positive element of this storyline is the introduction of the two new female barristers on the case; Jocelyn and Sharon primarily due to the fact they’re being played by the excellent Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Chris Chibnall is the sort of storyteller that I have faith in and I’m still crossing my fingers that he’ll give us more closure in Broadchurch series two than he did in series one. Ultimately, this was an above average start for a once-excellent drama series that could well tarnish its legacy if this second series is a poor imitation of the first.
Crime drama was also the order of the day on BBC One, however what series four of Death in Paradise offered was a lot lighter than what we offered in Broadchurch. In fact the Caribbean island of Saint-Marie is turning into somewhat of a tropical approximation of Midsomer as nearly every one of its inhabitants is bumped off on a weekly basis. This week it was the turn of a rum distillery owner (James Wilby) who was murdered during a séance; making it impossible for the investigating officers to find a killer due to the fact that the key suspects were all holding hands at the time. Luckily, bumbling Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) is on the case as he juggles his latest investigation alongside his pursuit of his partner-in-crime Camille (Sara Martins). Comic hijinks was provided by Red Dwarf alum Danny John-Jules whose slacker Officer Dwayne found himself paired up with the island’s haughty commissioner (Don Warrington). I’ve always had a soft spot for Death in Paradise as it’s a crime drama that knows its place as a bit of escapism during the UK’s dull winter months. BBC One have been very clever in scheduling Death in Paradise during January; a time I feel that we need uncomplicated crime dramas which can be wrapped up within an hour. Although predictable at times, Death in Paradise is never dull and I feel that this series is already better than the last due to the fact that Marshall appears a lot more comfortable in the role of Goodman. Marshall’s chemistry with the cast has improved although I still don’t believe in the romantic connection his character is supposed to have with Camille. Meanwhile, the Guadalupe locations allow me to ignore the hurricane that is blowing outside my window and instead enjoy the Agatha Christie-esque mystery that is being solved on my TV screen. Formulaic it may be, but Death in Paradise is still an enjoyably light drama which doesn’t take itself too seriously and provides a refreshing change from all of the bleak crime procedurals that populate our TV screens.
Also back for a fourth series was Channel 4′s factual entertainment show The Undateables which focused on three more singletons who wanted nothing more than to find love. Fans of the show know by now that all of the participants have barriers in their way of meeting people; usually a mental or physical impairment of some kind. What I did like about this first episode was that it introduced us to its subjects by focusing on their strengths rather than their disabilities. For example adrenaline addict Daniella, who was born with a genetic condition known as Apert Syndrome, was seen riding round in a Quad Bike in her opening scene. Similarly the programme focused on autistic Alex’s love of all things car-related and stammerer Matthew was introduced with everything on show as he acted as a life model for an art class. Matthew was the most interesting of this week’s characters primarily as he had a rather specific requirement on how broad his date’s shoulders should be. Matthew taking a tape measure out on his first date with Jessica, however she took it all in good humour and the two were revealed to be in a relationship at the end of the episode. Alex had similar success with his dating agency match Eloise, as we saw them enjoy a second date in the park following a rather interesting day at Brand’s Hatch. But, of the three, I think Daniella overcame the biggest obstacle that being her own self-confidence, as she believed that no man would want to go out with her based on her physical condition. Thankfully her date with the dashing Guy was a success and made her believe in herself, which I think was the point all along. Although the title is still awful and it feels a bit rushed at times, The Undateables is a wonderfully uplifting programme and one whose first episode provided three feel good tales.
We now move on to a programme which has described itself as a sitcom, although there was a lot more sit than com in BBC Three’s latest offering; Crims. Before Crims aired on Thursday, several people had been tweeting about how good it was so my expectations were high. Imagine my disappointment then that this sitcom, set in a young offender’s institute, was both clichéd and unfunny. Crims’ story focuses on mild-mannered Luke (Elis James) who finds himself locked up at Sunnybank View after unwittingly acting as the getaway driver for his girlfriend’s dim-witted brother Jason (Kadiff Kirwan). I found it very hard to believe that Luke would be convicted alongside Jason and from then on things just got worse. Nothing had been done to make the characters any different from those seen in previous prison comedies as we had the snitch, the inmate who could smuggle anything into the institution and of course Sunnybank’s tough man Marcel (Theo Barklem-Biggs). The jokes, if you can call them that, were repetitive at best, as Jason kept getting Luke into scrapes that meant he was always being beaten up or embarrassed in front of the guards. I personally feel that the most annoying element of Crims was the character of Jason and in particular Kirwin’s awful performance. Although Jason is meant to be a bit annoying, his manner is so irritating that you fail to believe that this sort of person actually exists. At times I found myself winding the programme along just so I didn’t have to watch another excruciating scene featuring one of the worst comedy characters in recent memory. The presence of Ricky Champ, from the brilliant Him and Her, as the heard guard just reminded me how good BBC Three sitcoms can be. Whilst not as painful as Some Girls, Crims was still a hard show to sit through and I wonder why the usually reliable BBC Three took a punt on this rather annoying sitcom.
I would have to say that more laughs were provided courtesy of the return of Celebrity Big Brother on Channel Five thanks to the strong cast that the producers were able to assemble. National treasures such as Keith Chegwin and Ken ‘Reg Holdsworth’ Morley joined recognisable American faces Alexander O’Neal and Perez Hilton as well famous faces Patsy Kensit and Nadia Sawahla. However, the first episode centred round former Apprentice candidate and general irritant Katie Hopkins; who was introduced as the villain in Big Brother’s twisted fairytale. Katie was called upon to pass judgement on her fellow housemates on opening night and actually provided some fairly humorous observations. Katie was then asked to hold her supposed acid tongue and be nicer than usual to the two housemates that she’d selected for eviction. However, when this curse of nicety was lifted, I didn’t see much of a change in Katie other than the odd barbed comment here or there. In fact Katie blended into the background to an extent due to the bizarre behaviour from the genuinely eccentric Ken and later the off kilter remarks from Baywatch child star Jeremy Jackson. Other than requisite glamour model types Cami-Li and Chloe Goodman, all of the other housemates in this series of Celebrity Big Brother have something to offer even if a couple appear to be a little unhinged. At the moment my favourites are definitely Cheggers as well as Ru Paul’s best mate Michelle Visage who is just utterly fabulous in her role as den mother. Whether this series will be as legendary as last January’s CBB remains to be seen but for now at least this run has already provided it’s fair share of memorable moments.
Next Time: The Voice UK, Stars in their Eyes and Cyber Bully