From Darkness

Last week, I went to a talk by the celebrated television writer Russell T Davies in which he explained why, in his experience, it’s easy to write dark stuff – the howling misery of tortured souls, and what have you – but that joy is a very tricky thing to pull off on screen.

From Darkness, as the title might suggest, doesn’t go a bundle on the joy thing. It started with the remains of two murdered prostitutes being dug up on a Manchester building site, and gradually got less cheery from there. DCI John Hind (Johnny Harris) was convinced the best way to solve this cold case was to drive all the way to Scotland’s Western Isles to try to persuade his former WPC Claire Church (Anne-Marie Duff) to help him with his inquiries.

Claire is crippled by guilt because, the night she was supposed to meet one of the murdered girls, she was actually in bed with her boss. Tsk. Now she’s trying to move on – we know this because there are lots of scenes of her running (away from herself, the past, etc) and swimming in the North Atlantic (to cleanse herself of former sins, no doubt). It is all very Symbolic.

Writer Katie Baxendale has a habit of sheepishly pointing out the flaws in her own script: ‘Look at you – a fat, embittered, heavy-drinking, middle-aged male detective,’ goaded Claire. ‘Do you know how much of a cliché that is?’ We do Claire, we do. ‘We’re in the midst of a major murder investigation and you’ve been away for two days,’ chided John’s ‘super’. Now you mention it, that is quite silly.

Frankly, From Darkness is all a bit portentous and overwrought, with lots of slow motion and washes of that Broadchurch-style piano. At times, I found my attention wandering to how uncomfortable the buttons on Claire’s pillows looked, and the distressing lack of punctuation in the Lets Eat Café.

But then, in the dying moments, Baxendale pulled out a showstopping twist that suggested Claire herself is the serial killer’s target. This, added to the fact that Anne-Marie Duff is incapable of being less than fabulous, means I’ll almost certainly be back for more of this nonsense next week.

 

 TV extra:

 

The Kennedys

Another week, another 70s childhood memoir. Comedian Emma Kennedy’s takes the form of a sitcom, making it hard to know where the autobiography ends and the standard comedy plotting begins. It certainly doesn’t stint on the 70s cultural tourism: the first episode featured jokes about Blue Nun, cheese-and-pineapple on sticks, David Cassidy and Woolworths. It also spiralled into a full-on Robin Askwith-style farce, with a wife upending a lasagne on her cheating husband’s head while the Other Woman climbed through the bathroom window. But maybe that’s just what Kennedy’s childhood was like.

 

Baking Good, Baking Bad

Anyone tuning in hoping to see Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood judging contestants’ meth cooking skills will be disappointed to discover this is just a standard baking show, with the twist being they make some stuff that’s good for you and some stuff that… well, isn’t. Presenter ‘Harry’ Eastwood (there’s got to be a Dirty Harry joke in there somewhere) is a jolly hockey sticks type of gel in the Kirstie Allsopp mode, who has a slightly hysterical laugh and says the word ‘naughty’ at least 300 times per show. Too much sugar, probably.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 8, 2015

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