TV blog: Wild Bill

Benjie Goodhart / 06 June 2019

Hollywood’s Rob Lowe stars in this police drama set in Boston, Lincolnshire. Plus the best of the rest of the week on TV.

Wild Bill 1/6, Wednesday 12th June, 9pm, ITV

Let’s start with an apology. I don’t like previewing programmes that are on at the same time. Across a whole week, it should be possible to find shows on at different times. But this week, I tried three other programmes, and none were available to preview. Besides, in this day and age, with catch-up services, web streaming and the ability to record multiple channels at the touch of a button, it shouldn’t present too much of a problem to watch overlapping shows. Unless you’re my mum, who is currently struggling with turning up and down the volume on TV, for whom the concept of using iPlayer is as exotic as you or I attempting space travel.

The other reason I didn’t want to watch this programme was because it stars Rob Lowe. I knew I’d be irritated by him. Not that I dislike him – far from it. I spent much of my youth watching films starring Rob Lowe. I loved him in The Outsiders, St Elmo’s Fire, About Last Night etc. More recently, he’s starred in The West Wing and Parks and Recreation, both brilliant. The problem is, he hasn’t aged. I don’t mean that he has had slightly desperately filled his forehead with botox and his lips with collagen, and had his face tightened so much that when he smiles the skin twitches between his shoulder blades. I mean he hasn’t aged.

Somewhere, in his attic, there is a picture of Rob Lowe looking like a hideous gargoyle of a man. Mind you, that’s not always an indicator of a pact with the devil. In my house, there are plenty of pictures of me looking like a hideous gargoyle, and that’s just the family snaps on the fridge.

So, infuriatingly youthful-looking Rob Lowe is starring in a new series on ITV. But the series may not be quite what you’re thinking. Lowe stars as a police chief, Bill Hixon. Okay, no massive surprises there. He’s running the show in Boston. Fair enough, you may say. But this is Boston, Lincolnshire. He’s moved to Lincolnshire for a fresh start, and taken his 12-year-old daughter Kelsey along for the ride. She’s left the glamour, sunshine and beaches of Miami for, well, the glamour, sunshine and beaches of Lincolnshire. She seems peeved.

Lowe, meanwhile, has been brought in as part of an efficiency drive. Efficiency almost always means “We’re going to fire a lot of people,” and so it is here. Hixon believes in policing by numbers – using computers and algorithms instead of local knowledge and human contact. It might sound ridiculous, but how many police chiefs do you know with qualifications from Yale, UCLA and MIT?

Hixon’s attention to streamlining the local force is interrupted, however, by a gruesome discovery in someone’s fridge. I won’t elaborate, but it’s not the sort of thing you’d happily reach past to grab yesterday’s Bolognese. And so begins Bill Hixon’s first real case.

The show boasts a great supporting cast, including Angela Griffin as a local reporter, Susan Lynch as a bereaved mother, Vicki Pepperdine as a forensic expert, and youngster Aloreia Spencer, who is excellent as Hixon’s daughter. There is also Rachael Stirling, daughter of Diana Rigg, who plays a beautiful local aristocrat who also happens to be a judge. I’m no psychic, but if she’s not sharing an early morning cuppa with Bill by the end of episode three, I’m an inflatable penguin.

The show does a decent job of bedding in for a first episode – managing to establish the characters, explain their situation, and hint at some interesting back stories, whilst at the same time racing along at a decent lick. There’s also a nice line in humour. Hixon’s status as an outsider passing through allows him, and us, to look at ourselves with a fresh eye, and there are some striking observations of 21st century Britain. And, infuriatingly, Lowe is effortlessly charismatic in the lead. Grrrr.

The Restaurant that Makes Mistakes 1/4, Wednesday 12th June, 9pm, Channel 4

In many respects, I’m a very bad Brit. I don’t like beer, or Yorkshire pudding, I have absolutely zero interest in soaps (the TV variety, I do actually bathe) and I will happily strike up conversations on trains (obviously not in the morning, I’m not a psychopath). But in one sense I think I absolutely fit the British archetype, and it is this: You could serve me a plate of warmed up cat litter in a restaurant, washed down with a cup of extra strong bleach, and served with an accompanying punch in the nose, and if a waiter came and asked me if everything was alright, I’d smile and tell them it was magnificent, and make a mental note to double the tip. When people complain in restaurants, something inside me dies. I want to hide under the table, with my fingers in my ears, and sing show tunes.

Not that there is anything wrong with complaining. It is, in point of fact, the right thing to do. Without a bit of feedback (delivered politely, of course) how do establishments know there is a problem? We should all complain. All of us, wherever we go, whatever the establishment. Well, almost whatever. Because, frankly, you’d have to be a bit of a wally to complain at the restaurant featured in this new four-part series from Channel 4: It’s staffed entirely by people with dementia.

The restaurant is the brainchild of entrepreneur and restaurateur Josh Eggerton, who was inspired by a pop-up restaurant run on a similar basis that opened for three days in 2017 in Tokyo. This time, the experiment is scheduled to last five weeks, and is intended to make us look again at how we treat those with dementia. At the moment, eighty percent of those diagnosed with dementia before their retirement age lose their jobs. This, in turn, has an impact on their morale, their self-esteem, and their relationships with others.

But Josh believes this need not be the case. He’s determined to show that his group of 14 volunteers is able to run a pop-up restaurant in Bristol and, in so doing, change the unthinking and outdated ways that we perceive dementia. It’s a hard enough diagnosis to take, without then having to put up with society declaring you not fit for purpose and putting you out to pasture straightaway.

This fact is illustrated perfectly in a deeply moving sequence early on in the first episode. Avril, 63, a renowned gynaecological surgeon and obstetrician, was diagnosed with dementia in 2015. She is asked when she last felt proud of something she’d done. She thinks for a moment. And for a moment more. And then she breaks down in tears.

As with the BBC’s excellent series My Dementia Choir, one of the really shocking things here is the age of the participants. They’re in their 50s and 60s, in the very prime of life. And to meet characters like Joy, Jacqui, Peter, and Roger, you’d say they have an awful lot of life left in them. They certainly don’t look ready for the scrap heap.

After several sessions of training with Josh and his dementia-trained chef Matt, it’s time to open the doors for a trial meal. The trial involves just two diners – Josh and David Baddiel, who is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, and whose father has the disease. The meal is a qualified success, but the entire staff seem absolutely exhausted by the end of it. Which might be indicative of a bit of a problem, because next time they open, the crowd is considerable larger – including family, friends, and a few distinctly familiar faces…

The best… and the rest

Saturday 8th June

Trooping the Colour, 10:30am, BBC One: Huw Edwards presents coverage of the Queen’s official birthday. It’s a familiar scene – who amongst us would ever have a birthday that didn’t feature massed regiments of soldiers marching in formation?

The Voice Kids, 8pm, ITV: Hurrah! Another singing competition – what a relief! This one is the junior version of The Voice. If you don’t know what that is, well done!

Killing Eve 1/8, 9:15pm, BBC One: The return of the brilliantly dark and deliciously funny story of assassin Villanelle, adapted from the books by TV genius Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Series one saw astonishing, award-winning performances from Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh. One can only hope for more of the same.

Sunday 9th June

Great Canal Journeys: Asian Odyssey 1/2, 8pm, Channel 4: Prunella and Tim are back on the waterways once more, and all is right with the world. This glorious series sees our intrepid duo heading to Asia, to dip their toe in the exotic waters of the Orient. Perfect.

The Handmaid’s Tale 1/13, 9pm, Channel 4: Talk about a gear change, Channel 4!!! Don’t doze off in front of Great Canal Journeys, because you might just wake up in the midst of the dystopian horror of Gilead, as this outstanding-but-bleak drama starts its third series, starring the luminous Elisabeth Moss. (NB She’s not literally luminous, you understand…)

Monday 10th June

War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita 1/3, 9pm, BBC One: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani explore the increasingly urgent issue of plastic waste, where it comes from, and how we might tackle the problem.

Long Lost Family, 9pm, ITV: Series 9 (!!!) of the weepie real life show that sees Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell unite families that fate has split apart decades before.

Thursday 13th June

Who Should get to Stay in the UK? 9pm, BBC Two: An important, hot-potato programme looking at the 700,000 non-EU citizens applying to live in the UK. I mean, presumably not all of them will be featured, or we’ll be watching nothing else for a decade. But this is a debate that needs to take place.

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