It’s been a rollercoaster year for TV’s default drama position, the crime thriller. We’ve had the good (Line of Duty, Happy Valley, Unforgotten), the bad (River, From Darkness) and the downright ludicrous (yes, One of Us, we’re looking at you). And now we have Paranoid, which is just… well, a bit odd, actually.
I’ll be honest, I almost jumped ship five minutes in after a shockingly brutal scene in which a young mother was repeatedly stabbed in a playground full of toddlers. As attention-grabbing openings go, it was cheap, sensationalist and way, way too much.
Things didn’t look much more promising when we met the officers of Woodmere CID, where narky detective Nina (Game of Thrones’ Indira Varma) was needling junior colleague Alec (Dino Fetscher) with the most excruciating cop-shop bantz imaginable (‘He had pomegranate with his chicken last week, I bet it was organic!’).
As per, all the coppers turned out to have complicated, entangled lives to distract them from the job in hand. So Nina – whose biological clock is even louder than her mouth – is distraught after being dumped by her boyfriend, and snogs Alec. Alec has some shady history with the psychiatrist (Michael Maloney) who’s been treating the prime suspect. And their colleague Bobby (Robert Glenister) is a nervous wreck who seeks solace in the mad-eyed weirdo (Lesley Sharpe, completing an almost inappropriately classy cast) who’s their best witness. (Good job they cast the right Glenister brother, incidentally – it’s hard to imagine Gene Hunt trembling like a leaf and joining the Quakers.)
But writer Bill Gallagher – better known for lacier fare like Lark Rise to Candleford – does swerve the plot in a more original direction when a mysterious ‘ghost detective’ starts going around questioning witnesses and keeping the cops under surveillance. And after that misjudged first scene, it actually proves less hysterically overwrought than many of its contemporaries.
In fact, there’s a strangely fractured, unfocused quality to Paranoid that I’m not sure is intentional, but which at least sets it slightly apart in an overcrowded field. It’s the sort of thing that might be rediscovered as an off-kilter cult classic in years to come. Or it might just be nonsense. It’s too early to say.
Morgana Robinson’s The Agency
A mockumentary set in a celebrity talent agency, this sporadically funny new comedy finds Morgana Robinson applying her gift for slightly sadistic mimicry to a roll call of victims including Adele, Fearne Cotton, Mel and Sue and Danny Dyer. Her Gregg Wallace (a shouty egg, basically) is perfect, and there was – oh go on then – such fun to be had with Miranda Hart trying to do Pinter. But Robinson’s take on Natalie Cassidy (‘from EastEnders and the Health Lottery’) as a downtrodden Cinderella felt uncomfortably cruel.
For a show set 3 million years in the future, Red Dwarf is a curiously old-fashioned sort of sitcom. Back for its 11th series in 26 years, the characters may have thickened about the waist (even those that are robots and holograms, strangely) but the jokes remain stuck in a bit of a time warp. (Sample gag: ‘Kryten couldn’t be any more fried if he was a Mars Bar living in Scotland.’) But I guess any show that’s sold **that** many t-shirts must be doing something right.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, September 29, 2016
(c) Waitrose Weekend