The Accident (Channel 4)
Jack Thorne is very much the man of the hour. Having scooped an Olivier and a Tony Award for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the West End and Broadway phenomenon he co-wrote with JK Rowling, he’s about to dazzle us with his BBC adaptation of another fantasy classic, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
Before that, though, there’s The Accident, the final instalment in his loose trilogy of state-of-the-nation dramas for Channel 4. Like its predecessors National Treasure (which earned him one of his five BAFTAs) and Kiri, The Accident explores the delicate balance between blame culture and the pursuit of justice – specifically, the aftershocks that reverberate through a small Welsh ex-mining town following a fatal industrial disaster.
Sarah Lancashire is reliably brilliant as Polly, a hairdresser whose husband, town council leader Iwan (Mark Lewis Jones, also excellent), has championed the construction of a new factory he hopes will regenerate the local economy. But when the factory collapses on top of a group of trespassing teenagers – including their own daughter – Polly leads the charge of angry parents who suspect the job has been done ‘cheap as chips’. (If you want some idea of where this couple’s respective loyalties lie, one striking sequence showed Polly keeping a vigil over their daughter’s hospital bed while, at home, Iwan sat grieving over a scale model of his beloved factory.)
The shadow of both the Grenfell fire and – given its Welsh Valleys setting – the Aberfan disaster loom large over The Accident. There are also inevitable parallels with HBO’s recent Chernobyl, with Soviet apparatchiks replaced by the corporate suits of Kallbridge Developments, as represented by Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knusden.
Into this already grim scenario, Thorne has also introduced a shocking domestic violence storyline, while future episodes will see neighbour turning on neighbour as recriminations threaten to tear the community apart.
As a result, The Accident is far from an easy watch. But then the best drama rarely is.
Children in Need: Got It Covered (BBC One)
Not many shows can boast guest appearances from both Taylor Swift and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, but that was just one of the many pleasures to be had in this unexpectedly moving film following seven famous actors as they recorded a covers album for Children in Need. The stellar cast also boasted two Time Lords (Jodie Whittaker and David Tennant), the Queen and Princess Margaret (Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter), and Phoebe-Waller Bridge on the ukulele. Yes, really.
Seven Worlds, One Planet (BBC One)
Another year, another David Attenborough blockbuster, this time telling the story of the planet’s great landmasses at “the most critical moment for life on Earth since the continents formed”. Our journey began in Antarctica, where wonders ranged from great whales feasting on an all-you-can-eat buffet of four trillion krill to exotic undersea creatures straight out of Octonauts – all of it at risk from the ticking doomsday clock of climate change. Prestige telly at its finest.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, 31 October, 2019
(c) Waitrose Weekend