A version of this article was originally published in The Dundee Courier on 27th February 2016.
The Night Manager: Sunday, BBC One
Storyville: The Black Panthers: Sunday, BBC Four
Like a bar of luxury soap sliding inexorably down a bidet bowl, The Night Manager is a slick and slow affair.
Adapted and updated from John La Carre's 1993 novel of the same name, it's an inertly glossy thriller starring Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier on a covert mission to destroy billionaire arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie fulfilling his Bond villain fantasies).
When we first met Pine, a charming cove, English “to the core”, he was working as the night manager at a luxury Cairo hotel while the Arab Spring raged outside. As dutifully dedicated to the welfare of his guests as he is to Queen and country, he found himself acting as gallant protector to the glamorous mistress of the hotel's corrupt owner.
Presumably on account of his approachable cheekbones – even allowing for standard spy thriller intrigue, character motivation is sketchy - she chose to show him some documents containing conspicuous evidence of an arms deal involving Roper.
Shortly after sharing this explosive information with the British embassy, he found himself in bed with the woman, despite there being no chemistry between them whatsoever. Lonely nights in Cairo, I suppose. Seeing as she spoke entirely in flirtatious riddles consumed with fatalistic portent, it was hardly surprising when she wound up dead.
The action, and I use that word advisedly, then span forward four years to find Pine working in a remote Alpine hotel, where his inexplicably grief-stricken flashbacks were rudely interrupted by the arrival of Roper.
Laurie appears to be enjoying himself playing “the worst man in the world”, but by the time he and his amusingly unpleasant henchman (Tom Hollander) turned up, it was too late. Even the presence of the perpetually pregnant Olivia Colman as a cardigan-clad spy with an indeterminate northern accent can't inject any life into such a soulless confection.
A good thriller poses intriguing questions which keep us watching in the hope of surprising, satisfactory answers. Yet despite the theoretically high stakes on offer, I see no reason why we should care about the players, let alone the outcome, of this dreary game of cat and mouse.
A gripping and propulsive feature-length documentary, Storyville: The Black Panthers strove to reclaim the oft-misunderstood story of the African-American revolutionary party who boldly took on the establishment in the late '60s and '70s.
Set against a tense backdrop of police brutality and racism, it traced the rise and fall of a militant black movement borne of righteous frustration. Despite their gun-toting image – an edgily symbolic pose, at least initially - their fundamental goal was the dismantlement of a system that actively suppressed equal rights in housing, healthcare and education for, not only African-Americans, but any victim of poverty.
One of their most successful initiatives was a free breakfast programme for children. No wonder they were branded as terrorists by the FBI; for a while at least they were a galvanising force to be reckoned with.
But as soon as they became a respectable folk hero force within the black community, the government made damn sure that their civil liberties went out the window. Victims of incessant raids, arrests and, in one horrifying instance, cold-blooded assassination, their radical socialist manifesto didn't stand a chance in Nixon's America.
When their steadfast vow to defend themselves by any means necessary was put to the test, the body count rose, the party started to split, and the revolution was put on indefinite hold.
Despite the sizzling funk vibrancy of his stylistic approach, director Stanley Nelson refrained from romanticising the Panthers disproportionately. The rock 'n' soul power of their media-savvy image – dark glasses, berets, afros and leather jackets – remains ineffably cool, but that's hardly the most important facet of their legacy.
Nelson focused instead on insightful contributions from several former Panthers, who related their story with a fluctuating mix of pride, humour, anger and sadness. He also gained access to FBI documents laying bare their insidious campaign to divide and destroy a party already riven with contradictions.
The result was a sympathetic yet unsentimental study of a political awakening destroyed by ideological differences, personal demons and the insurmountable might of The Man (an enemy embodied by the wizened toddler scowl of crackpot FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover).
The film's underlying sense of tragedy and wasted potential was compounded by an unspoken yet powerfully tacit, sobering truth: the struggles at its core are still relevant today.
The radicalism of the Panthers is dead, possibly forever, even though we live in a world where the odds are more stacked against The People than ever before. Fight the power, pay the consequences.