And so Bodyguard ended as it began – with a lengthy, nerve-shredding sequence in which DS David Budd had to help diffuse a human bomb. The only difference was, this time he was the bomb.
Our troubled hero’s stand-off with the police, his thumb trembling over the dead man’s switch, lasted a full 36 minutes (yes, I counted). That’s even longer than one of writer Jed Mercurio’s legendary Line of Duty interrogation scenes. By the end, I was physically drained. I think I may actually have stopped breathing at one point. Did Mercurio not get the memo that Sunday night dramas are supposed to ease us gently into the working week with nice stories about rural vets and Maggie Smith in a fetching hat?
The 75-minute finale encapsulated everything that was great – and everything that wasn’t – about Bodyguard. It was taut, and absurdly gripping, and more than a little bit ludicrous. One minute I was punching the air in triumph, the next I was screaming at the telly in frustration.
It would be a stretch to call it Mercurio’s best work. That accolade probably still belongs to Bodies, or the first two series of Line of Duty, which managed to be gripping without sacrificing plausibility. But 11 million people (myself included) couldn’t take their eyes off the most watched drama in a decade. And to create such a genuine piece of water cooler TV, being hotly discussed everywhere from work canteens to the Today programme, is no mean feat in today’s fractured viewing landscape. (Though I do think it’s a shame ITV’s fantastic Vanity Fair had to become collateral damage.)
Some have suggested Richard Madden was perfect casting as the stiff, emotionally repressed Budd, which sounds like a backhanded compliment if ever I heard one. Personally, I thought he was terrific, and Keeley Hawes is never less than magnificent (though, again, she may struggle ever to top Line of Duty’s incredible Lindsay Denton).
For all its flaws, then, it’s been an absolute blast (some weeks more literally than others). And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go for a long lie down.
Oh dear. With the once demure Royal Ascot dogged by accusations of boozy bad behaviour, it’s fair to say the organisers won’t welcome this latest addition to TV’s stable of ‘constructed reality’ shows. With the cameras clearly not allowed through the front gates, let alone into the Royal Enclosure, this week viewers had to make do with watching Berkshire’s well-heeled, well-oiled party animals quaffing champagne and shouting insults at each in a pub car park by an Esso garage. Classy.
Made in Britain
This new peek behind Britain’s factory gates – detailing how they make everything from watches to Wagon Wheels – reminded me of the films they used to show you at school whenever they wheeled out the telly-in-a-cupboard. Except those didn’t have Jimmy Nail shouting at you over the constant din of blaring music. This week’s highlight was a visit to the Dr Martens factory in Woollaston, where skiving is positively encouraged. (The word actually means ‘to pair or split leather’. Who knew?)
Published in Waitrose Weekend, September 27, 2018
(c) Waitrose Weekend