Too Close 1/3, Monday 12th April, 9pm, ITV
When this programme airs, all being well, I will not be at home. This is very exciting, because it will be my first evening of not being at home since dinosaurs walked the Earth. Well, since October, anyway.
I am going to be in an Air BnB on the Isle of Wight with the wife and kids. The forecast isn’t looking phenomenal, and there probably won’t be much that we can do or see, due to Covid restrictions, so it may well be that we end up staying in the entire time, and watching a lot of telly. Which is exactly how we’ve spent the last 13 months. But it doesn’t matter, because we’ll be watching on a different TV screen. Sitting on a different sofa. Drinking from a different glass. Who would have thought a trip to the Isle of Wight could feel so exotic?
We might find it tricky to watch this drama, mind. I have a ten-year-old daughter who can’t bear to watch anything remotely distressing. She loves Celebrity Bake Off, but leaves the room every time the sad cancer video starts. So the idea of her dealing with an adult psychological thriller about a woman trying to hold on to her sanity after committing a heinous crime might be a touch optimistic. I don’t want to spend my three nights away sitting up with a weeping child.
You could do a lot worse than watch it, though. It is, essentially, a two-hander between two actors who turn in quite remarkable performances. Emily Watson is wonderful in pretty much everything she does, and here she is as impressive as ever, playing forensic psychiatrist Dr Emma Robertson. She has been asked to assess Connie Mortensen, who we have seen commit a particularly upsetting crime in the opening scene. Connie seems deeply troubled, to say the least, and Denise Gough’s performance is satisfyingly unsettling.
Connie isn’t helped by the fact that she looks utterly barking. She is covered in hideous bruising, has a horrible red eye due to a burst blood vessel, and her short, unkempt hair also seems to be falling out – she has large bald patches. As a bald man myself, I find the conflation of baldness and insanity deeply offensive, but there it is.
The good doctor asks Connie about what happened. Much of the story is told in flashback. Connie had befriended a new mum at her kid’s school, and the two had become close. But there is something not quite right about her new friend.
Meanwhile, it seems to be a bit of a case of physician heal thyself for Dr Robertson. She spends quite a lot of time looking miserable, and tanking her way through the booze. She also seems to have a deep anxiety about dealing with people who are psychologically unwell, which is something of a problem if you’re a forensic psychiatrist.
While the performances are fantastic, there is a slight element of the hackneyed about the fact that Connie seems to be intent on getting into Dr Robertson’s head. We’ve seen the old battle of wits between psychiatrist and twisted psychopath many times. And it feels like all Connie has to do is look her psychiatrist in the eyes and, miraculously, she understands every aspect of her life completely, from her complicated marriage and disappointing sex life to her deepest vulnerabilities.
That said, if the idea of an opening episode is to leave you wanting more, this one succeeds in spades. I very much want to know more about the past – what drove Connie to the brink of insanity? – and the future – what is going to happen to both protagonists, and is Dr Robertson actually more troubled than her patient? Luckily, I won’t have to wait too long to find out. The series is being shown on consecutive nights. I’ve just got to keep my daughter out of the room.
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The Queen and Her Cousins with Alexander Armstrong, Thursday 15th April, 9pm, ITV
Another week, another documentary about the Queen. Each one promises to reveal some hitherto undisclosed secret about our monarch, and so every week I preview it, in case this is the one that tells us that she is the first human to be able to breathe underwater, or secretly moonlights as the lead singer of Aerosmith. Instead, the secrets tend to be along the lines of her having a vague fondness for Tupperware, or that she likes milk in her tea.
So here we go again, with the ever-likeable Alexander Armstrong fronting this documentary about the Queen and her cousins. Although, in point of fact, it’s rather more about the cousins than the Queen, on account if her not actually sitting down to have a gossip with Xander about her third cousins over a cup of PG Tips.
That said, it’s actually really rather good fun. This is in no small part down to the presence of the Queen’s third cousin, Princess Olga Romanov, who lives in Provinder House in Kent. Her great great Grandparents were the King and Queen of Denmark, who were also great great grandparents to both the Queen and Prince Philip. The camera shows Princess Olga doing her own dusting, which is presumably to let us know how frightfully poor she is, but she does live in a quite colossal and elegantly furnished manor house. Admittedly one wing is used as a holiday let, but I think if your house has ‘wings’ at all, you can count yourself reasonably well off.
Princess Olga has a photograph of Queen Mary or “Aunt May” as she was known. “She had a kind of upmarket kleptomania,” says Olga. She’d go to someone’s house and, if she liked their chairs, she’d say as much, and they’d be obliged to give them to her. Pretty soon, people started hiding their good stuff when she came to visit.
I like Princess Olga. She is far from your average princess – although I dare say there’s no such thing! She says that little girls are always excited by the prospect of meeting her, only to be rather unimpressed by the reality. “They see me, and they cry,” she says. They are expecting a puffy dress, a tiara and a flawless complexion. They’re probably not expecting a granny in wellies.
Olga is asked if the title of royalty still confers a sense of mystique and magic. “Yes and no,” comes the pithy reply. “It all depends on how many times they tell you about their problems on television which, I’m afraid, I’m not very keen on.” I can’t imagine who or what she is referring to.
Also fairly atypical is Lord Ivar Mountbatten. The great great great grandson of Queen Victoria, and the grandson of Louis Mountbatten, he’s the first ever royal ever to marry someone of the same sex. Although I’m not sure he can genuinely call himself a royal, can he? Where does the title of ‘royalty’ end? We’re all related somehow. Does that make me royal?
Ivar grew up in Essex. But if you’re thinking of images of housing estates on the end of the Central Line, or a dilapidated terraced house in Southend, think again. Moynes is a rambling 400-acre Elizabethan Estate. Ivar grew up with twelve staff, looking after a family of four. Now, of course, he has downgraded, and has to slum it in a ten-bedroom house called Bridwell Park, where he and his husband run a wedding venue and café.
Ironically, the cousin who is closest to the royal family, Victoria Pryor, is the most normal of all. She is the Queen’s first cousin once removed, and her goddaughter. Her mother, Margaret Rhodes, was like another sister to the monarch. Victoria runs a deli in a quiet Norfolk village, and seems to go about her life with relatively few airs and graces. Not bad, for a woman who was once given a set of Twister by the Head of State.
Finally, there is a slightly bizarre segment of the programme where we meet Kathy Cormack, from Surrey, who believes she is of royal descent, to find out if she is related to the Queen. It feels like it belongs in a different programme, and I doubt, whatever the research shows, that we are likely to end up with Queen Kathy anytime soon. Nevertheless, this is a cheerfully upbeat look at some delightfully eccentric aristos, helmed with charm and wit by the not exactly un-posh Armstrong, so fill your boots.
The best… and the rest
Saturday 10th April
I Can See Your Voice, 7:20pm, BBC One: ITV and BBC One go head-to-head with bizarre new entertainment shows tonight. Both involve guessing stuff about people based on their appearance, and both are presented by likeable fellas from Bolton. The Beeb’s effort sees Paddy McGuinness challenging a celebrity panel (including Jimmy Carr and Amanda Holden) to work out whether people are good singers based on how they look.
Game of Talents, 7:30pm, ITV: Ten minutes later, we have ITV’s effort, as Vernon Kay challenges a celebrity panel to work out the secret talents of eight mystery performers, based on their appearances and a few intriguing clues.
Edward VII: The Playboy Prince Who Changed Britain, 9pm, Channel 5: Feature-length documentary about the king who ruled from 1901-1910. His reign may not have been long, but its impact was lasting, across fields including culture, technology and the arts.
Sunday 11th April
The British Academy Film Awards 2021, 7pm, BBC One: The Celtic duo of Dermot O’Leary and Edith Bowman present the awards from the Royal Albert Hall. Imagine, an awards show hosted by neither Stephen Fry nor Graham Norton. It’s unthinkable!
Climate Change: Ade of the Frontline 1/3, 8pm, BBC Two: Ade Adepitan scours the globe looking for solutions to some extremely urgent environmental problems. This opening episode takes him from the Solomon Islands to Australia, where he comes face to face with a terrifying bush fire.
Monday 12th April
Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World 1/3, 9pm, BBC One: Documentary series following the climate activist as she tries to persuade world leaders to rise to the challenge of tackling the issue of climate change.
Tuesday 13th April
All that Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewellery Star 1/6, 8pm, BBC Two: Katherine Ryan presents Bake Off, but with jewellery. I think you can figure out the rest.
Stacey Dooley: Back on the Psych Ward, 9pm, BBC Two: The presenter returns to Springfield Hospital to meet patients in crisis , battling mental health issues during the pandemic.
Our Yorkshire Farm, 9pm, Channel 5: More of the agricultural life on 5, with the fourth series following the (large) Owen family going about their business, which tonight involves a new sheepdog puppy. Woo hoo!
Naked Attraction, 10pm, Channel 4: Return of the series that everyone should watch for five minutes, and then never, ever switch on again.
Wednesday 14th April
Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty 1/3, 9pm, BBC Two: The execrable title makes no secret of the intention to cash in on the popular drama series, but this documentary looking at the prevalence of police corruption in the 1970s, and how it led to the founding of the first Anti-Corruption force, tells a riveting tale.
Here Come the Gypsies, 9pm, Channel 5: The production company that brought you Big Fat Gypsy Weddings returns with a new series about this marginalised community. Tonight’s series opener involves everything from horse trading to bare knuckle boxing.
Thursday 15th April
Escape to the farm with Kate Humble 1/8, 8pm, Channel 5: The broadcaster’s obsession with all things agricultural continues unabated, with another series from Kate Humble’s Monmouthshire farm.
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