TV blog: Diana and I and Safe House

Benjie Goodhart / 31 August 2017

A preview of a new drama looking at the impact of Princess Diana's death, plus the return of crime drama Safe House.

Diana and I, Monday 4th September, 9pm, BBC Two

August 31st marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, something you may be dimly aware of thanks to the fact that recent TV schedules have been saturated with documentaries about that terrible day and its aftermath. I’ve now watched so much old footage, I was beginning to think of Kensington Palace as home (though I suspect I’d get fairly short shrift if I turned up there with my jammies and my toothbrush). Meanwhile, the adult Princes William and Harry have been on the box so many times of late, there is a suspicion they’re launching a power grab against Ant and Dec.

This, however, is something different. Diana and I is a one-off, feature-length drama, with four separate stories about people whose lives are uniquely affected by the death of Diana, and how they react in the week between her death and her funeral. It is an idea that could very easily have been mawkish and unbearably saccharine, but it is, instead, absolutely charming.

Michael is an ambitious young journalist on honeymoon in Paris with his wife when the phone rings in the middle of the night with the grim news. He finds himself torn between work and his missus. Well, not that torn. Especially when he starts working with an attractive TV journalist (an enjoyably unpleasant turn by Tuppence Middleton). This may end up being the shortest marriage in history – even Zsa Zsa Gabor would be slightly embarrassed.

Meanwhile, Jack is a young man whose single-parent mother died at the same time as Princess Diana. In his grief, he sets up shrines to both his mother and Diana at home, and attempts to build a relationship with his estranged father (played by Neil Morrissey). Several hundred miles to the north, Mary is a Glaswegian florist who cares for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s. She makes a snap decision to go to London with a truck full of flowers and make a few bob from the grieving masses, with the help of her adoring friend Gordy. But Gordy has an agenda of his own.

Finally, Yasmin is married to a cast-iron twit in Bradford, who treats her like dirt and believes himself to be the Alan Sugar of the north, in spite of being in massive debt. Yasmin finally snaps when, whilst watching Diana coverage with her daughter, the debt-collectors arrive and take the telly. I’d snap too. The telly indeed. I’d have given them my daughter. Yasmin and child up sticks to London, to stay with her Uncle Zaheer (the always watchable Roshan Seth).

The performances are universally excellent, and Jeremy Brock’s script is pitch-perfect. It brings to mind the national trauma of two decades ago, but also the solidarity and kindness that were, for a time at least, Diana’s legacy.

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Safe House, Thursday 7th September, 9pm, ITV

The first series of Safe House, a couple of years back, starred Christopher Ecclestone as a retired copper with unresolved issues from past cases, who was now running a safe house for at-risk crime victims in the Lake District with his loyal and long-suffering wife. Series two of Safe House stars Stephen Moyer as a retired copper with unresolved issues from past cases, who is now running a safe house for at-risk crime victims on the Welsh coast with his loyal and long-suffering wife.

So far so predictable. Tom (Moyer) and his wife Sam (Zoe Tapper) are enjoying life in splendid rural seclusion, tending to their chickens, sailing their boat, and canoodling in front of a roaring fire. Meanwhile, John (Ashley Walters) is out celebrating his anniversary with his girlfriend and girlfriend’s daughter. So, basically, everyone is having a lovely time. Which means, for it is written in the big book of dramatic tropes, that everyone is about to be made very, very miserable indeed. And it doesn’t take long, thanks to a rather grizzly crime and links to a case from the past – and you’ll never believe who worked on that case. Actually, um, yes, you will. It was Tom.

So Tom goes off to the big city to find out more, leaving Sam back at the house where… um… hold on just one cotton-pickin’ nanosecond here. That house looks familiar. Turns out I spent several days there 15 years ago. It used to belong to my friend Dolly’s family! Hurrah! I’m basically famous by proxy.

Except… well... I think the house is meant to be spooky. It’s big and secluded, and I imagine we’re going to have rather a lot of shots of people running around it looking scared while a random nutjob chases after them with something large and sharp. But it’s going to be hard to feel the requisite degree of alarm whilst also shouting “That’s the room where we spent six hours de-bearding the mussels and playing ‘would you rather’. That’s the room where we drank tequila and played ‘truth or dare’. That’s the toilet where I… never mind. And that’s the cupboard I hid in when we played hide-and-seek. A bit like she is now, only back then there was one fewer heavily-armed psychopath tootling about the place.”

But enough of my delightful reminiscences. Is the drama any good? Well, there is always a degree of jeopardy in reviewing episode one of a crime thriller. Setting everything up is (relatively) straightforward. The real challenge is in maintaining the pace, ratcheting up the tension and, hardest of all, bringing things to a conclusion that is both plausible and satisfactory. But on the basis of a pleasingly sinister and atmospheric opening episode, I’d certainly be tempted to stick with this compelling drama, even if it wasn’t offering me a delightfully nostalgic wander down memory lane.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 2nd September

Venice Biennale: Britain’s New Voices, 7:25pm, BBC Two: A look at some of the emerging young artists on the British scene including photographer Khadija Saye, 24, who died in the Grenfell Tower fire after filming this.

Canonball, 7pm, ITV: New ‘adrenaline-fuelled’ gameshow, hosted by Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, who was a better cricketer than he is a TV gameshow host.

The X Factor, 8pm, ITV: Love it or loathe it, the light entertainment juggernaut is back to ride roughshod over weekends between now and Christmas, and to keep tabloid journalists gainfully employed. Hurrah, he said, without a trace of irony…

Whitney: Can I Be Me, 9pm, BBC Two: Nick Broomfield’s feature-length film on the life, and death, of the infinitely talented and infinitely troubled singer who died at just 48 years old.

The Jonathan Ross Show, 9:30pm, ITV: The former king of chat seems to have fallen below a certain Mr Norton in the A-list pecking order. He will be keen to put this right in his new series.

Monday 4th September

World Cup Qualifier Live, 7:15pm, ITV: England face one of the sterner tests of their qualifying campaign, against a talented Slovakia side who need to be taken seriously if an embarrassing mishap is to be avoided.

White Kid, Brown Kid, 10pm, Channel 4: Documentary following two teenage girls from different worlds trying to become friends in racially segregated Dewsbury. That such divisions exist is depressing, but could this film offer a degree of hope for the future?

Tuesday 5th September

Save Money, Lose Weight, 7:30pm, ITV: 90-minute special looks at the most popular ways people choose to diet, and features a £ for lb leaderboard to see which method offers the best value for money (my inkling is that it might be stopping buying food).

Lisa Riley’s Baggy Body Club, 9pm, ITV: The actress and TV presenter has lost an astonishing 12 stone in 16 months through diet and exercise. This has left her with masses of excess skin, which she is now determined to have removed.

Doctor Foster, 9pm, BBC One: Second series of the excellent drama starring Suranne Jones as the eponymous doctor, whose life has returned to happy normality in the two years since her faithless husband (Bertie Carvel) did the dirty on her. But that’s all in the past. What could possibly go wrong now…?

Wednesday 6th September

Grand Designs, 9pm, Channel 4: You know the score by now. Some wildly ambitious build will go ludicrously over deadline and budget, the glass will be delayed from Antwerp, and the weather will cause problems, but in the end, there will be a super-flashy house that looks like something out of Star Trek.

Back, 1/6, 10pm, Channel 4: New comedy starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Stephen’s (Mitchell) father has died, leaving him to take over the business. But a long-forgotten foster brother Andrew (Webb) returns, and charms his way into the fold. Everyone loves him – except Stephen, who thinks he’s a sociopath. Very funny comedy (but not without risqué elements – you have been warned).

Thursday 7th September

Safe House 1/4, 9pm, ITV: Following on from the first series of the drama, which starred Christopher Ecclestone, this time Stephen Moyer is in charge of a police safe house situated in Anglesey, when a case from his past returns to turn his life upside down.

Friday 8th September

Gogglebox, 9pm, Channel 4: Another chance to watch other people watch TV. Alternatively, move your armchair behind your own TV and watch family members do it instead.

Cold Feet, 9pm, ITV: Following the successful return of the frothy Manchester-based drama last year, we’re back with the gang once again, as Mike Bullen’s warm and tender characters face the next bump in life’s meandering road.

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