Saturday, 13 January 2018


This article was originally published in The Courier on 13th January 2018.

KIRI: Wednesday, Channel 4

HARD SUN: Saturday, BBC One

Miriam is an experienced social worker who one day makes an error of judgement that leads to tragedy.

She arranges an unsupervised visit between foster child Kiri and her birth grandfather. While Miriam is gone, Kiri is apparently abducted by her ex-con father. A few days later, her body is found. The finger of blame points towards Miriam.

This is KIRI, a compelling new drama starring the great Sarah Lancashire. It’s written by Jack Thorne, author of the Yewtree-inspired National Treasure. Kiri is inspired by another explosive issue torn from the headlines, namely the unjust vilification of social workers.

Miriam becomes a convenient scapegoat. The media hounds her. The public turns against her. She’s thrown under the bus by her employers. She drowns herself in booze.

The murdered girl is black. Her adoptive parents are middle-class and white. This complicates matters even further. Within days of Kiri’s disappearance, yer actual John Humphrys is on Radio 4 chairing a debate on the ramifications of children being matched with families from different cultural backgrounds. Right-wing tabloids accuse social services of “ticking their lefty boxes”. It all feels depressingly real.

Thorne is fascinated by the ways in which the media manipulates, exploits and simplifies complex emotional issues. It constructs binary narratives blithely untroubled by shades of grey. It gorges on grief and enflames prejudices it helped to create in the first place.

Though his writing becomes slightly didactic when his passion and sincerity gets the better of him, for the most part he devises plausible scenarios, searching arguments and convincing characters. Miriam, with all her quirks and flaws, is a gift for Lancashire, who’s always at her best when suffering in a pool of anguish and gallows humour.

Thorne succeeds in his goal of humanising social workers. They are, after all, human. They sometimes make mistakes, but they also do a lot of good. You never read about that in the press, of course. Kiri shows what happens when social workers, who devote their professional lives to helping people, end up needing help themselves.

A nuanced polemic and compassionate character study, Kiri is a valuable piece of work.

“Nuance” isn’t in Neil Cross’ vocabulary. The Luther creator deals in heightened pulp fiction powered by graphic violence and a grim world view. He probably wrote Victorian Penny Dreadfuls in a previous life.

His obsessions reached some kind of crazed apogee in HARD SUN, a propulsive sci-fi conspiracy thriller which, like Luther, treads a fine line between entertaining largesse and outright nonsense.  

Blokey Jim Sturgess and the quietly charismatic Agyness Deyn are mismatched London coppers who discover that the Earth will be destroyed by an unspecified solar catastrophe in five years (yes, the Bowie song does appear). The governments of the world want to keep this rotten news under wraps, lest the human race goes bananas.

What’s more, Sturgess appears to be a dodgy copper up to his neck in all sorts of chicanery, while Deyn’s mentally ill son tried to kill her via stabbings and arson. She’s also secretly investigating Sturgess. What a carve up.

In typical Cross fashion, Hard Sun revels in audacious set-pieces and gore. In order to enjoy it you have to set your brain into the appropriate gear. Suspension of disbelief is key.

It is, by its very precarious nature, a show that could go either way, but episode one set things off in agreeably crackerjack style. I’m a sucker for paranoid dramas wreathed in apocalyptic futility, and Hard Sun doesn’t disappoint on that front.

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