What’s going on with ITV’s schedulers? In the depths of winter, they gave us Vera tramping around rainy Northumberland, and Endeavour walking the overcast streets of Oxford. And now, in the first bloom of spring, they suddenly deliver the vitamin D-starved nation a double of dose of Sunday night sunshine, with the Ionian warmth of The Durrells followed by the tropical swelter of The Good Karma Hospital.
Of the two, the huge success of The Durrells is perhaps the most unexpected. Loosely based on naturalist Gerald Durrell’s memoirs of his childhood in 1930s Corfu, it’s a show where very little of consequence actually happens (the nearest to anything you might call a major incident this week was someone breaking their leg tripping over a dog). But in a TV drama landscape dominated by psychos and serial killers, there’s something rather refreshing about that, and Keeley Hawes is magnificent as Louisa, the widowed matriarch who maintains a very British, stiff-upper-lip chirpiness through all the Durrell brood’s various low-key misadventures. (She’s got a wonderful way with words, too, describing daughter Margo as having ‘a brain like a room full of starlings’.)
Occasional canine-related fracture aside, the family’s most pressing problem is that they are always stony broke – though it has to be said, penury has never looked quite so desirable: if I, Daniel Blake had been set in Corfu instead of Newcastle, it would have been a very different film indeed.
Adapted by Simon (Men Behaving Badly) Nye, The Durrells marches – or rather potters – to its own unhurried, whimsical drum: neither hugely dramatic nor laugh-out-loud funny, it’s basically just very… pleasant. This week’s episode, for example, was a gossamer-light farce revolving around wayward son Leslie dating three women, all of who arrived for afternoon tea at the same time, with not particularly hilarious consequences. Lessons duly learned, everyone sat down at the end for dinner, during which Louisa declared: ‘All that really matters is that we love each other, and we let each other know in whatever way possible.’
Like I said: pleasant.
Famously Unfit for Sport Relief
Weekend’s fitness guru, Prof Greg Whyte, had his work cut out whipping four wheezy celebs into shape for a “Tough Guy” endurance challenge. Tameka Empson was battling a Strictly knee injury, Susannah Constantine could no longer fit into her many frocks, and Miles Jupp was just knackered ‘cos he’s got five kids. But it was Les Dennis, recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes and determined to see his young daughters grow up, who really tugged at the heartstrings.
I’m not a huge fan of what they pompously call ‘The Marvel Cinematic Universe’, but I’ll make an exception for Jessica Jones – the scuzzy, hard-bitten Hell’s Kitchen PI with superpowers but no silly spandex costume. Krysten Ritter is terrific as the ballsy but brittle hero, with a nice line in deadpan humour (‘I put him out of my misery’), though the second season, which has just landed on Netflix , does suffer from the absence of David Tennant’s mindbending supervillain, Kilgrave.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, March 22, 2018
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