In the Dark

Recently I re-watched The Beiderbecke Affair, Alan Plater’s 80s comedy drama about… nothing much, really. Plater was famous for including as little plot in his scripts as he thought he could get away with, and in The Beiderbecke Affair, Trevor Bolam being sent the wrong mail order LPs is about as high-jeopardy as it gets. It is absolutely joyous.

I thought about this, a touch wistfully, while watching the first episode of In The Dark. Adapted from Mark Billingham’s bestselling thriller, it stars MyAnna Buring as Helen Weeks, a pregnant DI who returns to her rain-lashed hometown in rural Derbyshire to investigate the disappearance of two schoolgirls.

No-one asked Helen to do this – she works in Manchester – but she did it anyway, because… well, she’s like that. ‘No stepping on anyone’s toes, understand?’ warned her guv’nor. But Helen did not understand. If Helen sees a toe, she will step on it, because… well, she’s like that. A bit of a maverick. And not only a maverick, but a maverick haunted by a dark secret from her past. Well duh.

It wasn’t not long before a girl’s body was discovered in some woodland. As Helen ducked under the police tape, a SOCO guy in a hairnet emerged from his pop-up mortuary to demonstrate his iron stomach and mordant wit. Such is the grammar of modern TV drama. (Though I’ll admit Helen squatting down by a tree for a wee was new. I certainly don’t remember Lewis ever doing that.) Meanwhile her boyfriend (Ben Batt) warned her she was getting ‘too close to this’. I’d have been disappointed if he hadn’t, frankly.

There’s nothing much wrong with In the Dark. It’s a solid thriller, with a strong cast, led by the excellent Buring. But I do wonder how many times TV execs can keep commissioning variations on the same show, and would like to know if it might be possible to have fewer stories about young women being found dead in the woods, and more about people being sent the wrong records in the post.

TV extra:


Who Do You Think You Are?

When Charles Dance was cast as yet another aristocrat in Downton dry-run Gosford Park, he claimed he ‘should have been downstairs – there’s nothing aristocratic about me at all’. And it’s true: his own mother had entered service as a parlour maid aged just 13. But it was what the actor learned about the father he never knew – and the living relatives he didn’t know he had – that set the tears flowing, reaffirming that, 14 years in, WDYTYA’s winning formula remains as bulletproof as ever.


Joanna Lumley’s India

‘How nice to see you, how good to see you, how lovely to see you,’ said Joanna Lumley to a family in Gujarat, as she continued her tour of her birth country. That’s very Lummers – never using one effusive greeting where three will do. But this was no tourism puff piece: she also showed great tenderness meeting the parents of a young man burned alive simply for being from the ‘wrong’ caste, taking pains to highlight a side of India its government likes to pretend is a thing of the past.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, July 13, 2017

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