SUNDAYS, BBC1 and iPLAYER
MONDAYS, BBC1 and iPLAYER
This week, I had anticipated devoting most of this page to the BBC’s new adaptation of Great Expectations. But having watched it, I decided against.
Not to say that it isn’t spectacular and lavish; but just because this is Dickens for the TikTok generation, over-stylised and viewed through a series of modern filters which, while no doubt intended to make the characters and story feel more contemporary and relevant, end up reducing the whole thing to a series of clichés.
As superficial entertainment it has its merits – for example, Olivia Colman makes for a marvellously hammy Miss Havisham; but it’s just too look-at-me-aren’t-I-the-rebel? (the opium, the swearing, the spanking). It reminded me of that one person at a party who always takes things that little bit too far. Unnecessary, rather irritating – and ultimately rather tedious.
This week, UK writer Sarah Vine (pictured) takes a look at an adaptation of Great Expectations – on BBC1 and iPlayer
Far more stimulating, both intellectually and from a dramatic point of view, was the BBC’s new cop series set in Northern Ireland, Blue Lights. If you want shocking, this is a far more arresting proposition than the sight of a bare-bottomed Mr Pumblechook getting a spanking.
If you’re missing Happy Valley, then Blue Lights is for you
Written by the same duo who won critical acclaim for their work on the dramatisation of the Salisbury poisonings, Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, it is an unflinching and at times brutal portrayal of life as a member of law enforcement in post-Troubles Belfast, a place where the threat of sectarian violence has morphed into gang warfare. The action follows three rookie cops, each assigned to an older, wiser and more cynical mentor, as they navigate the dangers of this complex political and social landscape.
Blue Lights is an unflinching and at times brutal portrayal of life as a member of law enforcement in post-Troubles Belfast
Olivia Colman makes for a marvellously hammy Miss Havisham, Sarah says, in the BBC’s new adaptation of Great Expectations
This is a world with no excuses and not much hope, teeming with criminals and thugs, where violence is the first course of action when resolving any sort of dispute, however minor.
The gangs are intelligent, ruthless, well-organised and well-versed in the law, and skilled at exploiting loopholes. The uniforms are alternately demoralised and terrified, hamstrung by bureaucracy and overshadowed by the presence of MI5.
The sense of menace is palpable, as is the way each situation carries the potential for lethal escalation. It’s basically war.
The cast are superb: Siân Brooke as Grace Ellis, a single mother and former social worker in her forties, starting out anew; Katherine Devlin as Annie, fragile on the outside, tough within; Nathan Braniff as fresh-faced Tommy. Richard Dormer is great as the grizzled but charismatic mentor and Martin McCann plays his more wary counterpart. John Lynch is stupendously sinister as a gang leader.
I honestly found it gripping but also heartbreaking in terms of the wider context of life in Northern Ireland. If you’re missing Happy Valley, then this is one for you.
GRYLLS IS NO MATCH FOR UKRAINE’S GREAT SURVIVOR
BEAR GRYLLS MEETS PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY
Bear Grylls travelled to Kyiv to meet possibly the greatest survival expert of our times, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy
The scale of the Russian destruction is truly shocking
I know I’m probably in a minority of one here, but I find Bear Grylls a little overbearing, especially now he’s grown a moustache. But for once even his ego couldn’t overshadow the situation, as he travelled to Kyiv to meet possibly the greatest survival expert of our times, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
There was a slight sense of manufactured drama at the start, with tense music and a lot of talk about the difficulties of getting into what is, after all, a war zone. But once they were across the border, the sheer devastation spoke for itself.
The scale of the Russian destruction is truly shocking. Whole apartment blocks flattened, burnt-out tanks, a country in ruins where almost everyone has lost someone, sometimes everything.
And yet the Ukrainian people fight on, both on the front but also in their hearts and in their homes. Victory here depends not just on the bravery of those in active combat, but also on the courage of ordinary citizens, their determination to carry on with everyday life as much as they possibly can, in defiance of the invaders.
Zelenskyy is small and smiley and gravel voiced. He’s aged years since that first phone footage of him on the day of the invasion, his cabinet standing defiantly behind him.
Surrounded by soldiers bristling with weapons he talks about his wife – ‘my best friend’ – about missing his nine-year-old son, and how the war is inevitably affecting his generation. ‘You see the wet eyes of your son and you see that he’s a child,’ he says, with that simple depth of emotion that seems to come so easily to him.
Marriage is a dog fight
The Dog Academy (Thursdays, Channel 4) is just as much about rehabilitating humans as their canine companions. Pictured: pooch Mya in the Dog Academy back garden
Ostensibly a show about problem dogs, The Dog Academy (Thursdays, Channel 4) is just as much about rehabilitating humans as their canine companions.
In the case of Bear, for example, a deceptively fluffy tyrant, his owners Paul and Louise were as much in need of a marriage counsellor as they were an animal behaviourist.
Although humans, of course, are much harder to train…