It’s TV round-up time again and for the most part this week has given us some great telly.
We begin with the second series of a drama that I loved the first time round so much so that I was trepidatious about its return. That’s primarily because the first series of The Missing had more or less a definitive ending as James Nesbitt’s Tony Hughes accepted that he’d never stop looking for his son Oliver. What I liked about this series of The Missing is that it doesn’t continue Tony’s story and only shares one character with the first series that being Tcheky Karyo’s French detective Julien Baptiste. Baptiste’s arrival into the story comes after a girl arrives in the middle of Eckhausen in Germany and utters the name Sophie Giroux before collapsing and being taken to hospital. Julien is called in as he investigated Sophie’s disappearance however the young girl is eventually identified as Alice Webster who went missing in 2003 after being picked up by a mysterious camper van. Although Alice’s parents Sam and Gemma (David Morrissey and Keeley Hawes) are delighted that she’s returned there are several things that are troubling them most notably that their daughter has seemingly given birth during her time away. Just like the first series of The Missing, the action switches between Alice’s return in 2014 and the present day where Sam and Gemma aren’t as happy as you’d expect them to be. It’s revealed that Sam is having an affair with military police officer Eve (Laura Fraser) whilst the couple’s son Matthew is incredibly distant. The reason for their malaise is revealed towards the end of the episode when Gemma and Matthew go to visit Alice’s grave letting us the audience knowing that she died soon after returning. Even more baffling is the fact that Julien, who is now bald and suffering with a brain tumour, is in Iraq and searching for a young soldier named Daniel Reed. We learn that the reason he’s in Iraq has something to do with the girl who came back and as a final twist Julien tells his new travelling companion that he believes that that girl was not Alice Webster. As you would expect this revelation had its desired effect on your writer and I let out an audible gasp which lasted may be a little longer than it should have done.
It’s fair to say after watching the first episode of The Missing that brothers Jack and Harry Williams have done their job and got me completely intrigued in this new series. What I feel the Williams have done so well is give us another series about a missing child but not made it the same as series one at all. Instead of this being a whodunnit and making us anticipate the return of the missing child, the brothers have instead have had her return in episode one and then question her identity by the end of the instalment. There are so many questions that the brothers pose in this opener that it’s hard to know where to start but the biggest thing that puzzles me is why Julien believes that Alice didn’t return and if it wasn’t her who exactly is in that grave. Equally puzzling is why Julien is in Iraq and what young Daniel Reed has to do with the disappearances of both Alice and Sophie. There’s also the scenes in which we see Gemma Webster going through pictures taken of a rollercoaster which presumably she’s been asked to do by Baptiste. Whilst it would be futile to write an entire list of questions after watching the first episode one thing I do know the answer to is why the brothers decided to bring back Baptiste in the first place. I do feel having a recognisable character was a good way to get the audience immersed into this new story as he almost acts as our proxy, introducing both us and himself to this new set of characters. As Baptiste was presented as a sympathetic character in the first series then we really feel for him when we see him suffering with a tumour and believing that someone is following him when he returns to Iraq. It does help that Karyo is a fantastic actor and I find him absolutely captivating whenever he’s on screen. In fact the cast are universally brilliant but then again when you cast Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey in your drama then you know you’re going to receive fantastic turns. To me Hawes and Morrissey shine most in the present day scenes in which Gemma and Sam are hardly speaking to each other due to what has transpired. Furthermore this series of The Missing seems to have better direction thanks to Ben Chanan who brings a sense of realism to the piece, something that isn’t surprising from the man who brought us Cyberbully and The People Next Door. Generally The Missing is a superb piece of drama which already has me hooked and is a series I know I’m going to be gripped by over the next two months to the extent which I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for this week’s other returning show but then in a way I didn’t expect from the opening episode of The Apprentice seeing that it’s on its twelfth series now. Although I do feel the show did revitalise itself a few years ago by having the prize be an investment from Lord Sugar rather than a job, this year the focus seems to be more on entertainment than ever before. I’m under no illusion that the casting directors behind The Apprentice look for the eighteen best business brains in the country but I’m sure there may have been some better contenders than the ones we received here. As it often is, the opening challenge saw the candidates have to buy a load of stuff before selling it the following day and this time the task revolved around collectables. Lord Sugar’s opening words of wisdom suggested to me that he’d never seen the show before as he told them not just to run around aimlessly and think about what they were selling. The girls team, hilariously called Nebula which is essentially a cloud of hot air, was led by ballsy Michelle who didn’t really seem to be in control of the task from the get-go. This was certainly true of their pricing strategy with the sub-team led by flighty Alana being bombarded by car boot sale regulars who could evidently smell new blood. This led the girls to panic and let a lot of their items go at cut price especially Natalie who sold a pair of £300 vases for only £15 but oddly wasn’t brought into the ultimate firing line. Michelle’s half of the team had an equally catastrophic day; spending far too long obtaining valuations for their items and then ignoring all the advice given to them. Michelle also had to contend with Jessica, one of this year’s ‘characters’ who compared herself to Jim Carrey presumably in his 1990s comedy heyday and not his Eternal Sunshine days however I’m sure she’d like to have some of this wiped from her memory. Given her tendency to partake in stupid gags as well as her deciding to agree to several erratic sales throughout the day I normally would’ve been surprised if Jessica wasn’t at least brought into the final three but again she was saved.
I’m guessing Jessica’s progression in the competition was due to the fact that this seems to be the year of the characters rather than the year of the proper business brains. In fact the only real business acumen I say in this first task belonged to Sofian; a bit of a wheeler dealer salesman who did the reverse of Natalie and sold a low-value item for a high price. In fact it seemed that Sofian saved the day partly because PM Paul didn’t have a good day offloading the high value items whilst the rest of the car boot sales team were hiding in the background. Thanks to Sofian, the boys comfortably won the task whilst Michelle, Alana and low seller Natalie found themselves in front of the famous firing finger. Whilst Michelle’s firing was inevitable I was surprised that this wasn’t a double elimination purely because I felt that Sugar would want to streamline the eighteen candidates as soon as possible. In my opinion a starting line-up of eighteen just feels like too much and I would’ve been happier with say about fourteen as there was far too many ‘quiet ones’ to identify. Aside from Jessica, this year’s other big character looks to be Karthik; a technology salesman who is full of soundbites and think he’s the bees’ knees. The majority of the other candidates are either presented as idiots or background players and with the possible exception of Sofian everyone else came across poorly. Whilst I’m not saying that the business brains have to emerge immediately most times you can at least see three or four contenders in week one. Judging from this opener alone it does feel as if the producers have realised that people love The Apprentice most when everybody is being an idiot but that’s not the case for me. Even Lord Sugar appears to be on autopilot this year reiterating gags that feel very tired whilst Karren and Claude just both look exhausted too. Maybe this series of The Apprentice will be a slow-burner or, just like the majority of today’s reality show formats, the programme needs to be rested for a year and come back rejuvenated in 2018. But judging from the fact that The Apprentice still pulls in the ratings I can’t see this happening which is a shame as in my opinion it’s a programme that does feel that needs another fresh coat of paint.
Those who come to the site on a regular basis know I’m a massive of fan of Louis Theroux and especially his two most recent documentaries that have seen him return to the UK. Although he’s already tackled alcoholism and brain damage, the documentary he produced this week was arguably his most personal yet. In Savile; Theroux tackles the topic of how so many people including himself had no idea about the fact that Jimmy Savile was a paedophile and how he pulled the wool over so many people’s eyes all the time he was alive. The documentary almost had three storylines one of which saw Theroux interview a handful of Savile’s victims, one in which he talks about those who were closest to Savile professionally and one where he looks back at footage of himself with Savile so he can ask some difficult questions closer to home. Savile and Theroux had an odd sort of friendship after participating in a documentary together in 2000, the latter had then continued to film the former with the intention of making another programme down the road. Looking back at these clips it’s hard not to see there was something wrong with Savile especially considering there is actual footage of him being overly intimate with younger women. This story sort of climaxes when Louis meets one of Savile’s victims who asks him if he felt like he’d been mentally groomed by a man who pulled the wool over so many people’s eyes. It was clear from the outset that Louis was going to struggle to make this documentary and I felt at times if it was almost a little too busy even given the fact that the BBC had given him another fifteen minutes to play with. I feel there was so much ground to cover that the subject of Savile could’ve done with a two-part programme but then I’m guessing there would’ve been those complaining that it would be promoting the man too much. My favourite parts of the documentary were those in which Louis interviewed Savile’s former PA who still hadn’t come to terms with the allegations and believed her boss to be innocent. It made me think if there were people like that who’d worked with other entertainers who’ve recently been arrested for similar crimes who still can’t cope with the fact that they’ve been working with these monsters for years. Whilst I would’ve liked it to have felt either more organised or be a little longer; Theroux’s Savile documentary is a programme that needed to be made and I’m glad it has been. It exposes how somebody like Savile can get away with abusing girls for so long and why a lot of people found it hard to suspect him.
I don’t know if its just coincidence but it does seem a little too convenient that this documentary came out at the same time that Channel 4 was airing the last episode of National Treasure. As I’ve discussed before, National Treasure focuses on Robbie Coltrane’s fictional entertainer Paul Finchley who at several points has actually felt like he’s being compared to Savile. The final episode of Jack Thorne’s excellent drama saw Finchley in the dock charged with both raping one of his biggest fans and with sexual abusing his daughter’s babysitter. Although a lot of it played out as we’d expect, with both of Paul’s alleged victims being accused of seeking publicity by coming forward, the way these scenes were written and directed were just fabulous. A great example of this is when Marc Munden’s camera focuses on Paul’s face whilst the women in the dock are being questioned. Similarly Thorne’s writing has been superb throughout and the scene in which Paul’s wife Marie (Julie Walters) confronts him just before he is about to testify was brilliantly played out. At the end of the day Thorne was quick to point out that this was a drama about Paul’s relationships with his wife and daughter rather than simply about a man accused of sexual abuse. As the drama has been clever up to this point I felt that Thorne would leave us with a sense of ambiguity however we were shown through flashback that Paul was guilty of both crimes that he’d been accused of. So it left an even more bitter taste in the mouth when he was found innocent by the jury but it seems not by his family who both seemingly had believed the women that had come forward. The final scenes, set at a party to celebrate the court’s verdict, saw Paul almost lose his mind as he scrambled around the house trying to find Marie who had seemingly left him. I really liked the way that Thorne ended the drama with Paul being freed but losing the one person that meant the most to him although at the same time he redeemed himself in the public’s eye. I applaud everyone for participating in such a brave drama with special marks going to Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters as Paul and Marie who I both feel are the frontrunners for next year’s BAFTAs. Also worth a mention is Cristobal Tapia de Veer who provided a haunting soundtrack to National Treasure which felt like it was more suited for a sci-fi drama than something as realistic as this series. Overall National Treasure was hard to watch at times but ultimately it was a rewarding experience and once again highlights that Channel 4 are the nation’s bravest broadcasters as I can’t see any of the other channels tackling something like this.
Next Time: Ordinary Lies, Him and Married at First Sight