The Nest 1/5, Sunday 22nd March, 9pm, BBC One
I don’t really understand women. I can sense my wife reading this later and nodding so hard she cricks her neck, but what I really mean is I don’t understand women and giving birth. You basically spend nine months alternately being sick, weeing every five minutes and waddling like an obese duck, before you get to the real clincher: You’ve got to push and actual human out of, well, you know. There. And then, at the end of it, you all meet up and discuss how magical the whole experience was. It’d be like men getting together to talk about how much they miss having a sixteen-hour colonoscopy using a full-sized TV camera.
Emily (Sophie Rundle) and husband Dan (Martin Compston) are having a baby. Well. Sort of. More of that later. They’re discussing baby names over the phone. He suggests Gordon. Can you imagine a baby called Gordon? It doesn’t seem right. Gordon’s surely come into this world as fully formed middle aged men. Who are probably captain of the golf club.
Anyway, Emily’s driving a socking great Range Rover through Glasgow, when she makes altogether too much contact with a considerably smaller body of motion that turns out to be 18-year-old Kaya. Emily tries to take her to hospital, but after a short drive, Kaya gets out of the car and disappears into the night. They’re well-hard in Glasgow. They treat getting hit by a Range Rover the way I do when I tread barefoot on a piece of Lego.
She’s a bit odd, mind you, Kaya. Next we see her getting set up in a flat by her case workers, who are giving her a kettle and a toaster. Whereupon she goes up to the roof and throws them off. The kettle and the toaster, not the case workers. That would be a bit much. Shortly after that, she’s back up on the roof again, only this time she’s sitting on the edge, blasé as you like, ten stories up. I felt sick just watching. (Actually I felt sick when she threw the kettle away, all those wasted cuppas.)
While Kaya lives in a tower block surrounded by shattered kitchenware, Emily and Dan live in what is basically the best house in the world. It’s all glass and sharp edges, and it stretches out over a loch, and looks up to the mountains. If everyone had views like that, I’d be out of a job. It must be lovely to eat out on the terrace on the day every summer that the weather’s good enough. It turns out they’re very wealthy – Dan is a local lad made good.
Anyway, through a rather convoluted and unlikely plot development, Kaya ends up discovering that Dan’s sister, who was acting as a surrogate for Dan and Emily, has lost the baby. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to guess where this is going. Rich but desperate couple. Poor girl with mysterious background. And a womb.
I can see things going badly wrong. Not only is Kaya clearly hiding something, but even if they get to the stage where she pops out a sprog, their beautiful sharp-edged home by a loch is basically a giant baby health hazard, and it’s going to be knee deep in awful, gaudy, noisy toys. And nappies. Basically, there is no happy ending to this one. But it should be a lot of fun finding out what happens along the way, if the first episode of this stylish, dark drama is anything to go by.
Celebrity Murder Mystery, Friday 27th March, 9pm, Channel 5
Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in strange and extraordinary times. To put it mildly. I imagine we’ve all had a very odd week, and one spent thinking more about loo paper than is ordinarily necessary. So I really didn’t expect the oddest thing that happened to me this week to be watching a TV programme. But this is, without a doubt, the most cast-iron bonkers TV programme I’ve encountered since Flockstars. (For those of you who don’t remember, it was celebrity sheep-herding. Really.)
The idea is this. A bunch of celebrities go to a magnificent Tudor mansion in Buckinghamshire, where they dress up in vintage outfits and pretend it’s the 1920s. Apart from the hi-tech wide-angle digital high-definition TV cameras following their every move, obvs. Once there, they are given a character to portray, whom they must inhabit for four days, whilst mingling with the other celebs, and also with non-celebrity actors playing other characters. But the clincher is, people are going to start getting murdered. I think pretend murdered. I’m a bit confused. I definitely don’t want Angela Rippon to actually die for my televisual entertainment.
So far, so flaming weird. But at least there’s one piece of good news: I’d actually heard of all of the celebrities. I can’t remember the last time that happened. There are no vloggers, YouTubers, social influencers or people from TOWIE or Made in Chelsea. Whoop! The voiceover introduces the gang as “a group of murder-loving celebrities.” Eh? Who loves murder? That’s just insane. It’s like saying you enjoy constipation. Or Flockstars.
Anyway, the bloodthirsty six are: Su Pollard, Sheila Ferguson, Rev Richard Coles, Keith Duffy, Angela Rippon, and John Sergeant. Sheila, John and Angela are above stairs characters – as a visiting US songstress, a retired colonel, and Lady Rippon respectively. Meanwhile, poor Su and Keith are relegated to the roles of Lady’s Maid and Valet respectively. And Rev Coles is cast as… a vicar. Genius.
The weekend kicks off with a cocktail party. I’m already disturbed by the lack of authenticity. The valet and the lady’s maid are sipping champagne with the other guests, when everyone knows they should be below stairs helping Mr Carson and Mr Bates polish the silver. Whatever next? Well, next, Keith introduces himself to one of the guests. As ‘Keith’. Good heavens, we don’t want to know your actual first name, man. You’re staff. I bet none of you can remember Mr Carson’s first name. Johnny? Frank? And then Keith calls her “darling”. I think that was imprisonable in the 1920s. And rightly so.
Oooh, right, it’s off to the reading of Baroness Grafton’s will. Some people are given lots of money, some not very much, and after a few minutes of really quite impressive overacting, it becomes clear that the house has become a caldron of resentment and rage. “If anybody starts getting bumped off now, I would not be surprised,” says Sheila. Yes, well, you are on a murder mystery weekend, Sheila. The clue’s in the name.
And then it happens. A volley of gunshots, and one of the guests drops down dead. And the identity of the victim is a genuine surprise. The game is afoot. And I won’t go any further, for fear of giving too much away.
Like I say, this is bonkers. Utterly barking. Bafflingly weird. But it’s also a huge pile of immensely jolly and cheerful nonsense, and we could all definitely do with a bit of that in our lives right now.
The best… and the rest:
Monday 23rd March
Toxic Town: The Corby Poisonings, 9pm, BBC Two: Horizon, the BBC’s science strand, looks at the legal battle brought by locals who claim that toxic waste from the local steelworks caused birth defects in the town’s babies.
Putin: A Russian Spy Story 1/3, 9pm, Channel 4: A thorough documentary series detailing how Vladimir Putin’s background as a KGB agent has influenced his rule and shaped modern Russia.
Inside the Force 1/4, 9pm, Channel 5: Thank goodness! A documentary series following the work of the police. Why did nobody think if this before? This time, the police involved are from a police station in Lincoln.
Tuesday 24th March
Our Girl 1/6, 9pm, BBC One: Michelle Keegan returns in the drama about a female army medic. In the series opener, 2 Section has a new medic, and has shipped out to Afghanistan, leaving Georgie behind.
Wednesday 25th March
Growing Up Gifted 1/2, 9pm, BBC Two: Return of the documentary series that follows gifted children as they navigate their way through education, home, and life. Now the kids are finishing secondary school. So what comes next?
Thursday 26th March
Born to Be Different 1/2, 9pm, Channel 4: Return of another long-term documentary project, this time following the lives of young people born with disabilities. The children are now young adults, and are moving from the family homes and making their own way in life.
Friday 27th March
Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul, 9pm, BBC Two: New series of the show that sees celebrities of varying (or no) faiths walk an old pilgrimage route. Adrian Chiles, Edwina Currie, Fatima Whitbread, Mim Shaikh, Amar Latif, Dom Joly and Pauline McLynn set out on a modern-day 2,200km pilgrimage across Eastern Europe that starts in Vienna and ends in Istanbul.
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