Jericho is a Western with an ’eck of twist: it’s set in Yorkshire. Which I suppose, technically, makes it more of a Northern – a sort of Wuthering High Noon, if you will.
It’s the story of hardy frontier folk in a shantytown in the Dales where, instead of the gold rush, there’s the promise of work on a colossal railway viaduct being built by industrialist Charles Blackwood (Daniel Rigby). He promises the railroad will ‘link this fine nation’, but it’s proving to be a bottomless money pit – a 19th century version of HS2, basically.
Penniless widow Annie Quantain (Jessica Raine) arrived in Jericho with her children and, resourceful type that she is, immediately set up a B&B in a shed. The town is full of ruffians and ne’er-do-wells but, being Yorkshire, there are also plenty of honest, salt-of-the-earth types – not least Hans Matheson’s Johnny Jackson, a dark and handsome navvy (I’m quoting from ITV’s press notes there) who looks like a shoo-in for this year’s Ross Poldark. His shirt came off in under 25 minutes.
The railway agent, meanwhile, was played by Richard Ridings, aka Daddy Pig, father of Peppa, so I kept expecting him to fall in a muddy puddle. Instead, he fell foul of the drink and was replaced by The Wire’s Clarke Peters, who blew in from the actual Wild West to show us how it’s done.
On the evidence of the first episode, Jericho is a wildly entertaining mix of Shane, Catherine Cookson and Emmerdale, complete with explosions, slit throats, a troublesome landlord’s daughter and a catfight over a petticoat. There’s romance, too, of course, with Annie and Johnny enjoying an erotic encounter over a washing-up bowl that had echoes of Ghost’s infamous pottery scene, except in this case they were scrubbing their hands after burying a body in a shallow grave. That’s True (northern) Grit.
At times, it feels less like a Western than a posh soap, but Steve (Sherlock) Thompson’s script is as solidly built as a Brunel bridge, the characters are well drawn, and the final reel twist was, as we say in Yorkshire, a right bobby dazzler. I’m hooked.
Birds of a Feather
I know there’s a bit of a 90s revival going on at the moment, but where did the clamour for more Birds of a Feather come from? It’s like bringing back Mr Blobby, or Furbies.
The third series of the resurrected sitcom opened with a joke about ageing sexpot Dorian’s dentures – which is only one step away from a zimmer-frame on the Lazy Gag-o-meter – and concluded with her having sex with Martin Kemp in the back of a runaway hearse. How we laughed, probably.
The Voice is back, with two new coaches. Boy George – who admitted he was ‘more camper van than coach’ – said he was hoping to find ‘an Amy Winehouse, a Dylan or a Bowie’. On the show’s track record so far, he’ll be lucky to find a Steve Brookstein.
Meanwhile, Paloma Faith has taken Rita Ora’s seat, which she took from Kylie Minogue, who took it from Jessie J. Talk about a revolving chair. The contestants included 70s comedian and celebrated ostrich-wrangler Bernie Clifton. I am not making this up.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, January 14, 2016
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