In the Dark, Tuesday 11th July, 9pm, BBC One
Ooh. Here’s an idea. A drama – get this – about (you’re not going to believe it) – a police detective – wait for it – investigating a murder. I KNOW!!! Why did nobody think of this before? And let’s just throw into the mix a supporting cast of misfits and weirdoes, and a confused and complicated personal life for the detective. Who’s a bit of a maverick. Doesn’t do things by the book, in spite of pressure from upstairs. Kerching! Baftas ahoy!
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If TV drama really did reflect real life, there would be nobody left to watch it. We’d all have been executed in a particularly gruesome manner by a photogenic and terrifyingly insane serial killer (I suppose that’s a tautology – I’m not sure how many sane serial killers there are out there…).
Still, if we’re deluged with police dramas, we might as well sort out the wheat from the chaff. On the basis of the first episode, I’m bound to say, this one looks rather wheaty. I liked it.
Myanna Buring plays DI Helen Weeks, who has remanded into the custody of her womb a foetus. (I’m trying to be clever: She’s pregnant). She returns to her loathed hometown of Polesford, Derbyshire, to tell her father the good news – and also because two girls have gone missing there. And the chief suspect is the husband of her childhood best friend (Emma Fryer). It’s so nice when things work out like that, and you can combine a trip home to see family with the opportunity to catch up with an estranged best friend with a weird shared history and a husband who may be a homicidal maniac. Saves on petrol money, too.
It’s not difficult to see why Weeks isn’t keen on Polesford. Everyone there plops neatly somewhere on the scale between weirdly antisocial and utterly barking mad. Also, it does nothing but rain, and nobody seems to do anything apart from go to the pub and walk their dogs.
The problem with attempting to preview a police drama is that you only ever really know whether or not it’s any good when you get to the final episode. It might ratchet up the tension, introduce you to an intriguing cast of characters, and set you up for a magnificent finale, only to utterly fail to deliver in the final analysis. I can’t, in all honesty, promise you that this will be a rewarding drama. But the first episode is good, and it boasts a fine pedigree, adapted from Mark Billingham’s books by Bafta-winning writer Danny Brocklehurst, and with a support cast including Ben Batt, Ashley Walters and the indescribably brilliant Matt King.
Granddad, Dementia and Me, Tuesday 11th July, 10:45pm, BBC One
Dementia has now overtaken heart disease and cancer as the most common cause of death in this country. In spite of this, television has been peculiarly slow to reflect the development. There have been countless, generally admirable and shatteringly moving, documentaries about cancer sufferers, and we’re constantly being advised on health programmes about the risks of heart disease, and how to avoid it. But dementia is something of an ignored epidemic in the media (apart from the Daily Express, which talks about little else…)
I get why. Cancer has the devastating ability to strike anyone, at any age. Heart disease is, to a large extent, a preventable disease. Dementia isn’t, as far as we know, preventable. It’s not very telegenic. It’s messy, and ugly, and squalid, and miserable, and slow, and agonising. It’s not an easy subject for a documentary.
Which is why 20-something Dominic Sivyer’s film is such a remarkable achievement. He’s made a documentary that seems to utterly capture the helpless despair and frustrated confusion of the sufferer, and the anxiety, concern and anger of the sufferer’s family. That the family is his own, and the sufferer his adored and beloved granddad (a father figure in the absence of the real thing) simply brings another level of poignancy to proceedings.
Tom Sivyer was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2014. The film begins with Tom, at home in Kent, being looked after by his one of his daughters, and by Dominic. Tom’s wife, Pam, is in Cyprus, on an indefinite holiday, desperate for a break from her husband’s behaviour, which oscillates between rage and obsessive neediness.
The rest of the film is a deeply moving look at a family trying to cope with an impossible situation, and a proud and intelligent man trying to cling on to his identity. He is sectioned, twice (over half of all those sectioned in the UK have dementia). He is put in a home. He is passed around from pillar to post, staying first with his wife, then one daughter, then another, then in a little annex in his daughter’s garden.
Anyone would find this a powerful film to watch. Perhaps I found it more so because my father died of Alzheimer’s in January. My dad and Tom Sivyer (who, I should stress, is still very much alive) were from very different worlds, and had different illnesses, that affected them in different ways. And yet the agonies are almost exactly the same. The guilt, the anger, the feeling of impotence, the dread of visiting, the weeping in lonely car parks after visiting. It will be achingly familiar to anyone who has watched a loved one succumb to this condition.
Make no mistake – this is a heart-rending, gut-wrenching film that doesn’t pull any punches. But it’s a remarkable film, about a remarkable family, and it’s about love every bit as much as it is about pain. And the ending… well, it’s almost certainly not what you’re expecting.
The best… and the rest
Sunday 9th July
Secrets of China’s Forbidden City, Channel 4, 8pm: The world’s largest palace, home to China’s emperors for over 600 years, is, as you can imagine, a place with a few stories to tell. So Channel 4 sends in a film crew to find out more.
Epidemic: When Britain Fought AIDS, Channel 4, 10pm: Part of the 50 Shades of Gay Season, this documentary tells the story of how a group of celebrities, activists, doctors and politicians got together to fight the scourge of AIDS and, in so doing, changed the nation forever.
Monday 10th July
How to retire at 40, Channel 4, 8:30pm: Anna Richardson meets those who have done just that, including a family who only spend money two days a week. It’s not exactly alchemy, then. Retire at 40, and eat raw lentils and sawdust for the next 40 years…
Catching a Killer: The Wind in the Willows Murder, 9pm, Channel 4: An antiquarian book dealer is found dead in the doorway of his Oxford shop, and his £50k edition of the Wind in the Willows is missing. Could the two be linked?
Tuesday 11th July
Phil Spencer: Find Me a Home, Channel 4, 9pm: Instead of looking for a luxury home for a chartered accountant from Surrey, our hero is trying to find suitable dwellings for two homeless families.
Thursday 13th July
Eat, Shop, Save 1/4, ITV, 7:30pm: Ranvir Singh challenges families to an eight-week challenge to eat better, get fitter and save money on their weekly shop. In my case, they could just make a four-part series with someone shouting at me “Stop buying Häagen Dazs.”
James Martin’s French Adventure 1/10, ITV, 8:30pm: The chef embarks on a culinary tour of France (like they know anything about food!) including some of the places he worked as a young chef.
Horizon: Dippy and the Whale, 9pm, BBC Two: The giant diplodocus skeleton in the hall of ther Natural History Museum has been replaced by one of a Blue Whale. This documentary tells the whys, whens and hows.
Friday 14th July
World Para Athletics Championships London 2017, Channel 4, 7:30pm: Live coverage of the evening session on day one of the Paralympic World Championships from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
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