Last month, the BBC’s head of drama admitted he’d like to see fewer rain-lashed corpses and more uplifting, inspirational stories, echoing a sentiment expressed more than once in this column of late. I can only assume, then, that he was in the loo when they signed off on Rellik – the very first line of which talked of ‘seven bodies discovered across the city, their faces badly burned by acid’.
Enter DCI Gabriel Markham (Richard Dormer) – an enigmatic, unrelenting, charismatic copper (I’m quoting from the publicity blurb here) who bears the physical and mental scars of a previous run-in with the acid killer.
When we first met this avenging angel, he was skulking around at night, hiding his disfigured features beneath a hood while buying booze to numb the pain, before nipping off to the graveyard in a torrential downpour to claw at the wet mud with his bare hands. And we were still only three minutes in. Feeling suitably uplifted yet?
Then the rain started falling upwards, and everything suddenly slipped into reverse, signalling that, like Christopher Nolan’s Memento, this is a mystery story that unspools backwards. (Rellik – geddit?) And so it was that, five hours into the past, we were present to witness a man being ripped apart by bullets in full view of a children’s birthday party. Inspirational stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.
When he’s not drinking, mourning his ruined visage or having sex with his DI (Jodie Balfour) in the back of a car (because of course he’s cheating on his wife, too), our damaged ‘hero’ is prone to delivering brooding, lyrical homilies about the evil that men do, in a manner that suggests writers Jack and Harry Williams are big fans of Matthew McConaughey in True Detective.
Having had huge success with The Missing, the Williams brothers are clearly hot property (this went head-to-head with their new ITV thriller, Liar). But it’s worth noting they were also responsible for last year’s heroically awful One of Us, and after an hour of this clichéd, overcooked nonsense, I found myself desperately wishing I could rewind time myself.
Ben Elton’s love of the traditional studio sitcom – espoused in his recent BBC Ronnie Barker Lecture – shines through Upstart Crow, which casts David Mitchell’s William Shakespeare as a frustrated social climber in the vein of Basil Fawlty or, indeed, Edmund Blackadder. This week’s second series curtain-raiser reworked Othello as a bawdy farce – though with pointed barbs about the historical treatment of women and minorities, Elton proved he still has time for a ‘little bit of politics’ among the codpiece and willy jokes.
The Other One
This one-off ‘narrative comedy’ from Holly Walsh played like an edgier Birds of a Feather, with Ellie White’s uptight insurance exec discovering she had a half-sister in the form of Lauren Socha, a slovenly Deliveroo rider who proudly claimed to have ‘completed Tinder’. Mismatched siblings and class conflict are well-worn sitcom territory, but White and Socha were terrific and, really, it’s hard to argue with anything that gives us the fabulous pairing of Rebecca Front and Siobhan Finneran as rival grieving widows.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, September 14, 2017
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