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TV reviews: Our House and The Witchfinder

03 March 2022

Intriguing new thriller Our House starts on ITV, and on BBC Two new sitcom The Witchfinder offers some much-needed comedy.

Our House, ITV
Our House, ITV

Our House 1/4, Monday 7th March, 9pm, ITV

At the time of writing, I am going away tomorrow night. I’m going to go and see my mum. We will eat curry and drink prosecco and watch the news and one of us will doze off in front of the TV feeling old and exhausted. Sadly, that person will be me.

While I am away, I will worry. Will the kids sleep okay? Will my wife watch the latest episode of This Is Going to Hurt without me? Will the alarm go off in the night? Will anyone remember to feed the dog? What I probably won’t worry about, however, is that I’ll come home to find that the house has been sold, and complete strangers have moved in.

That is the opening premise of what is, so far, a gripping new four-part drama series on ITV (showing over four consecutive nights). Fi Lawson (Tuppence Middleton) comes home after a night away to find a large moving-lorry outside her front door, and a woman she’s never met claiming ownership of the house. All of her stuff has been moved out, to she knows not where.

Now, in some senses, Fi should be quite grateful. Moving house is acutely stressful, but she’s been spared all of the tension in the build-up, and hasn’t even had to do any of the packing or the cleaning ahead of completion. And credit to the movers, who seem to have got her stuff out with remarkable rapidity and thoroughness, without her having to lift a finger. I wouldn’t mind getting their number.

But Fi doesn’t see it that way. She’s understandably confused and a bit miffed at the whole no-longer-having-a-home-or-any-stuff sort of a thing. And then things go from bad to worse. She tries her estranged husband Bram (Martin Compston) – there’s no answer on his phone, and he’s not been at work for days. Then she tries the school, only to discover her kids aren’t in either.

All of this is intercut with flashbacks to the past: Her and Bram first moving into the house; the obligatory shot of them decorating together and larking about; time passing, and them having two sons. All in a very nice house. So far so idyllic.

But, of course, as we all know, idylls don’t last long in Dramaland, and soon things take a turn for the worse. We discover why Fi and Bram started having difficulties, and it seems Bram is hiding more than one or two little secrets. Naughty Bram.

I can’t say too much more without giving away key plot details – but the bit where a giant angry dinosaur stamps on their house is exciting. Okay, that doesn’t actually happen. But, as set ups for dramas go, this is more than a little intriguing. Compston is excellent as the devoted but clearly desperate Bram, and Middleton is fabulous as the baffled and lovelorn Fi.

In the meantime, I’ll go and see my mum as planned. If I come back tomorrow and a new family has moved in, well, good luck to them. They can get the broken light in the hall fixed, and the tiles on the kitchen floor. And they can do something about the bathroom mould, and the French doors that have stopped opening. And if the movers have managed to tidy my son’s bedroom and pack away his ludicrous amounts of Lego, good luck to them. Hopefully some of it will have got lost in the move.

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The Witchfinder 1/6, Tuesday 8th March, 10pm, BBC Two

It’s 1645. The year, I mean – this comedy isn’t set at 4:45pm. “England is on its knees,” portends the voiceover ominously. “A kingdom blighted by civil war, plague, but most of all – witchery.” Heavens – sounds awful. I mean, we’ve had our fill of plague, and war is rearing its ugly head, but at least we don’t have witchcraft. Mind you, we’ve had Donald Trump, so it sort of balances out in the end.

Fortunately, with happy timing in the midst of yet more misery (thanks for having a good crack at making 2022 as bad as the last couple of years, Vlad) we have this absolute delight of a sitcom to cheer us all up a bit.

It’s not really a surprise that it’s so good – it’s written and directed by Neil and Rob Gibbons, twin brothers who have spent the past 13 years working with Steve Coogan on various Alan Partridge projects. For The Witchfinder, they brought with them the superb Tim Key, who plays the hapless Sidekick Simon in Alan Partridge’s more recent works. Here, he stars as the titular witchfinder, Gideon Bannister, a beleaguered and rather hopeless chap who just wants to get a break in life and be able to burn some women at the stake. Is that so much to ask?

Bannister is desperately touting for work in an East Anglian village that believes itself to have been overrun by witches. However, due to his fecklessness, he is given the rather less prestigious job of investigating the death of an aged pig. He is accompanied in this crucial endeavour by his servant, Old Myers, played with brown-toothed relish by Jessica Hynes. In their sights they have an opinionated local woman, Thomasine Gooch, who is portrayed by the effortlessly hilarious Daisy May Cooper of This Country fame.

The brilliant cast doesn’t stop there. Vincent Franklin, of The Thick of It, plays local magistrate Mr Topcliffe, and Daniel Rigsby, star of the hugely underrated comedy Flowers, is a rival witchfinder, Hebble. And we are promised Reece Shearsmith, he of League of Gentlemen and Inside No. 9, in later episodes.

There is much to enjoy here – provided you don’t mind a bit of fruity language – and the end of the episode suggests that the series will go on to be something of an odd-couple road movie, albeit it’s not a movie, and there are no roads. And Cooper and Key are outstanding as the two leads.

The show actually began shooting back in March 2020, but had to stop filming after a single day, thanks to… well, you know what it was thanks to. The whole production was shut down for over a year. But all good things come to those who wait, and this series is very definitely a good thing.

It’s easy to feel a little bit fed up with life at the moment. If we’re not being locked away by Covid, we’re being battered by biblical storms, or living under the threat of a European war. I would recommend this sparkling series as just the antidote to all the misery. It’s fresh, funny, beautifully performed, and at the very least, you can go to bed thanking your stars that we have modern dentistry, aren’t all reliant on dead pigs for our income, and are unlikely to be burned at the stake anytime soon. All of that’s unlikely to happen until at least 2023.

The best… and the rest:

Saturday 5th March

Secrets of the Royal Gardens, 7:30pm, Channel 5: Kate Williams looks at the grounds of some of the nation’s most celebrated palaces, and tells the story of their beautiful and occasionally grisly history.

Last of the Summer Wine: 30 Years of Laughs, 8:30pm, Channel 5: A celebration of the classic comedy that ran from 1973 to 2010, with contributions from cast members, their surviving relatives, and celebrity fans. Expect to see Compo rolling downhill in a bathtub.

The National Comedy Awards for Stand Up to Cancer, 9pm, Channel 4: Tom Allen presents a brand new comedy awards show, with the winners voted for by the general public.

Killing Eve 1/8, 9:15pm, BBC One: Hurrah, just what the world needs now: Proof that Russian spies are the most terrifying, sociopathic, lethal operatives on Earth! The spy comedy-drama returns for its final series with Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh.

Sunday 6th March

The Ipcress File 1/6, 9pm, ITV: Joe Cole stars as the iconic Harry Palmer in ITV’s excellent adaptation of the Len Deighton novel. Harry is released from a military prison into the hands of spymaster Dalby (the always-watchable Tom Hollander) in order to track down a scientist who has gone missing. Just the time for a Cold War drama… hmmm…

Monday 7th March

Katie Price: What Harvey Did Next, 9pm, BBC One: Documentary following the celebrity and her 19-year-old son Harvey as he embarks on a life of greater independence, starting his first term at a specialist college.

The Real Peaky Blinders 1/2, 9pm, BBC Two: Historian Carl Chinn explores real life stories of the early 20th Century Birmingham criminal gangs that inspired the BBC drama.

Tuesday 8th March

The Martin Lewis Money Show Live, 8pm, ITV: This evening’s live special concentrates on the rising cost of living, and how to mitigate against it.

Wednesday 9th March

Mary Berry’s Fantastic Feasts, 8pm, BBC One: The Queen of Cuisine comes to the aid of three novice cooks hoping to prepare a lavish feast for one very deserving lady.

Interior Design masters 1/8, 9pm, BBC One: Alan Carr returns with a new series of the show that sees ten aspiring designers competing for their big break.

Michael Mosley: Who Made Britain Fat 1/2, 9pm, Channel 4: In this revealing two-part documentary, Mosley investigates the steep rise in obesity levels in the UK, and what can be done about it.

Soham: The Murder of Holly and Jessica 1/3, 9pm, Channel 5: Few crimes have appalled the nation in the way the shocking abduction and murder of Jessica Wells and Holly Chapman did in August 2002. This three-part documentary series reveals what happened in Soham 20 years ago.

Thursday 10th March

Crufts 2022, 8pm, Channel 4: Thank heavens for dogs in these troubling times. Clare Balding presents coverage from the first day of the world’s premier dog show, including dancing doggies and a sport called flyball.

Louise Minchin: The Truth About Stalking, 8pm, ITV: The likeable Minchin, herself a victim of stalking, looks at this appalling, terrifying crime, and whether enough is being done to stop it.

Friday 11th March

Grantchester 1/6, 9pm, ITV: Series seven of the 50s-based detective drama. Tom Brittney plays Rev Will davenport, who has a habit of accidentally getting involved in murder investigations. Robson Green plays DI Geordie Keating, his policeman foil.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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