Casualty is the Möbius strip of TV dramas, in that it’s virtually impossible to tell where one bit ends and the next bit begins. Saturday’s instalment was officially episode one of series 32 – though as it arrived a mere three weeks after the end of series 31, I wouldn’t blame you for not noticing. It also explains why Derek Thompson, who plays steadfast staff nurse Charlie Fairhead, was recently named the BBC’s best paid actor. You might think £350k is a lot of money for standing around looking mildly bemused, but Thompson has to do this 44 weeks of the year, rain or shine. He can’t just flounce in and out every once in a blue moon like Cumberbatch.

There wasn’t much call for his bemusement skills this week, mind, as most of the action took place in a Calais refugee camp, where grumpy Dr Dylan (William Beck) helped rescue a boatload of Sudanese migrants who’d sunk off the French coast, and learned a valuable lesson about humanity in the process. I can already feel several Daily Mail leader writers turning puce with fury, but it was really rather sweet, in a slightly earnest, theatre-in-education sort of way. Though it got progressively dafter as it went along, ending with a group of refugees dangling off an airborne shipping container like a low-budget Spider-Man remake.

Back in Holby, meanwhile, steely consultant Dr Connie (Amanda Mealing) accused a patient of wasting her time, and sent her packing. Inevitably, said patient then crashed back in five minutes later on a trolley and was rushed into emergency surgery. Who saw that coming, apart from literally everyone?

I was disappointed by the episode’s lack of ‘oooh, the wiring on that plug looks a bit dodgy’ moments. But this one was really more about broken lives than broken bones.  No doubt the usual suspects will accuse the BBC of playing politics. But let’s not forget that, before it morphed into a weekly soap, Casualty was meant to be political – radical, even – and it’s actually rather good to see it baring its teeth again.

TV extra:


Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?

It’s fair to say the 12 candidates hoping to launch a (literally) stellar career in this rocket-fuelled version of The Apprentice are not your typical reality TV wannabes: think surgeons, RAF pilots and physicists. The tasks are supercharged, too: forget knocking out jeans down the market, this lot had to fly an actual helicopter. It’s good telly, and superstar astronaut Chris Hadfield certainly puts Lord Sugar in the shade – but surely the obvious title was Do You Have the Right Stuff?


Location, Location, Location

‘We’re back, and we know what you’re thinking: have they, or haven’t they?’ Ah, good old Kirstie and Phil: 30 – yes THIRTY – series in, and still flirting outrageously in TV’s most sexually charged property show. Elsewhere, it was business as usual, with much talk of ‘the wow factor’ and occasional waterworks as two couples tried to find a home on the Kent coast without breaking the bank or getting divorced. It’s a bulletproof formula that shows no sign of flagging.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, August 24, 2017

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