A version of this article was originally published in The Courier on 30th May 2020.
NEXT WEEK’S TV
COMEDIANS: HOME ALONE
Monday, BBC Two, 10pm
I wouldn’t blame you for being utterly sick of the sight of well-meaning celebrities broadcasting from their homes during lockdown, but this new series of fifteen-minute programmes is a cheerful distraction. A compendium of self-isolated sketches from various comedians, episode one features Kerry Godliman (who deserves a ticker tape parade for managing to escape from Ricky Gervais’ dire Derek and After Life with her dignity intact) playing a bored mum who’s getting through this by drinking white wine to excess, and Bob Mortimer as ‘Train Guy’, a beautifully observed parody of an obnoxious businessman conducting Facetime conversations with his colleagues: “We need a Zoom womb to incubate initiatives with potential going-forwardness.” Bob also provides some daft names for cats. Nice.
Wednesday, BBC Two, 9pm
Series four of this frostbitten Canadian crime drama begins with detectives John Cardinal (not, alas, played by a man called John Actor) and Lise Delorme investigating the sudden disappearance of a local politician’s husband. I don’t have much time for sombre police procedurals; it’s a genre sculpted almost entirely from clichés. Cardinal is typical in that it’s well-shot and atmospheric - a show so thickly mired in snow, it makes Fargo look like the Club Tropicana video – and benefits from nicely understated central performances, but we’ve seen it all before. The sonorous score, the sad detectives with boringly complicated private lives, the never-ending trudge from plot point A to plot point Z. You know the snore.
THE OTHER ONE
Friday, BBC One, 9pm
The great Rebecca Front stars in this promising new sitcom about a middle-class widow who gains a bitter lease of life when she discovers that her late husband was a philanderer with a secret working-class family. Co-written by Holly Walsh (check out Dead Boss, an unjustly forgotten sitcom she wrote with Sharon Horgan), The Other One is populated by mildly dysfunctional characters who are gently ribbed but never sneered at. It’s warm, benign, well-observed and contains actual proper jokes. Walsh stirs echoes of Victoria Wood with lines such as this one from Front’s character: “Can you ask Marcus to Sky + Masterchef: The Professionals for me, please?” The banal specificity of that really tickled me. It’s very good, folks. You should watch it.
LAST WEEK’S TV
CITIZENS OF BOOMTOWN: THE STORY OF THE BOOMTOWN RATS
Saturday 23rd May, BBC Two
A mediocre bunch of absolute chancers fronted by an insufferable shabby narcissist, The Boomtown Rats were unique in that they somehow managed to convince The Youth that naff sub-Springsteen pomp had anything whatsoever to do with punk and new wave. This laughably self-regarding documentary was founded on the false premise of Geldof and co being somehow important; a hollow piece of brand management packed with enabling buffoons such as Bono and Sting making absurdly extravagant claims on the band’s behalf. It was undeniably interesting, but only because all pop stories are interesting. Geldof, contrary to his posturing self-image, came across as a charmless opportunist who conveniently organised Live Aid when his moment in the sun was beginning to fade. Still, the piano arrangement on I Don’t Like Mondays is nice, isn’t it? Geldof didn’t write that.
BAKE OFF: THE PROFESSIONALS
Tuesday 26th May, Channel 4
The latest series of this pointless spin-off may as well have launched with a repeat. No one would’ve noticed. The mildly amusing contributions from camp co-host Tom Allen fail to rescue a format which fundamentally misunderstands the Bake Off mothership’s appeal: viewers enjoy watching ordinary people messing about with pastry and cream, it’s no fun at all when everyone involved is tediously skilled.