In Safe House, Christopher Eccleston plays an irrepressible Butlins redcoat called Bobby Chuckles. Not really: he plays a troubled ex-policeman haunted by a fatal mistake from his past. Why? Because this is an ITV thriller. And he’s Christopher Eccleston.
You see, we’ve got history, Eccles and me. I’m a lifelong devotee of a certain other show he did – I’ve got the action figure to prove it – and, well, the thing is… he left us. Doctor Who fans loved Christopher Eccleston, but Christopher Eccleston did not love Doctor Who. He probably thought it was a bit silly, with all its jelly monsters and what have you, so he quit after one series to do more grown-up, serious stuff, like Accused and The Shadow Line and, um, Thor. And now this, a drama so gloomily intense even Eccles must have been tempted to slip in a few jokes or some impromptu jazz tap.
The premise is simple: When a witness in his protection was killed, career copper Robert quit the force to run a B&B in the Lake District. Except it turns out cooking full Englishes and handing out leaflets for the Cumberland Pencil Museum doesn’t have quite the same thrill as chasing down bad guys, so Robert leaps at an offer from his old boss (Paterson Joseph) to turn the B&B into a police safe house.
His first guests are David and Ali (Jason Merrells and Nicola Stephenson) and their kids, who are being targeted by a violent psychopath, played by Peter Ferdinando as a terrifying mix of Robert De Niro in Cape Feare and Robert Carlyle in Cracker (and we all know how that ended for Eccles).
Drenched throughout with an air of heavy menace, this week’s opener made for gripping, if slightly stressful, viewing. ITV is clearly pleased, talking up its potential as an ongoing series, but it’s difficult to see how you’d do that without it becoming repetitive – like having that last half hour of Skyfall, where James Bond basically runs away and hides, on a permanent loop. Though I suppose they could always shake it up a bit by, say, moving the safe house to Benidorm, or having Robert come back as David Tennant.
Do you think Celebrity Squares might have an overstaffing problem? Poor Michelle Keegan only got to answer one question – a total contribution of 23 words – in the whole of Sunday’s episode of the revived noughts and crosses quiz. And she got that wrong. The last time I saw this show, the guests included Ted Moult, Arthur Mullard and Nerys Hughes. This week, the guests included Gino D’Acampo, Paddy McGuinness and those two women from the Harvey’s Furniture Store sponsorship ads they used to show during Coronation Street. Plus ça change.
Raised by Wolves
Though Caitlin and Caroline Moran’s scripts still feel more like a series of monologues than actual dialogue, it’s impossible not to surrender to this sitcom’s blustery self-confidence. In this week’s finale, unexploded hormone bomb Germaine dragged her Chomsky-reading sister Aretha to a nightclub, even though she’d have preferred to stay in and watch Dan Cruikshank’s Adventures in Architecture. Meanwhile, mum Della (Rebekah Staton) spent the evening eating Scotch eggs in a flatbed lorry with trucker Michael, having confessed: ‘I like a man who can handle a long wheel base.’ More please.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, April 23, 2015
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