One of Us, Tuesday 23rd August, 9pm, BBC One
This is the BBC’s new four-part drama, and you can tell that they’re happy with it. They’ve been trailing it like mad over the last few weeks. It’s a bit odd, to cut from a jubilant cyclist celebrating a gold medal to looking at seven people standing in a storm-ravaged barn trying to figure out which one of them is a murderer. But I suppose all those trails did their job, because I went into this drama with high hopes.
They weren’t disappointed. This is a cracking series opener.
The first time we meet Adam Eliott and Grace Douglas is on their wedding day. They look radiant with joy, bursting with life (her almost literally, she appears to be about 47 months pregnant). The next time we see them… well… less so. In fact, distinctly less so. Who could have murdered them so brutally? It’ll be intriguing to try and gue… oh, they’ve shown us. It’s some sweaty looking fellow in a hoodie. If this is a whodunit, they’ve made a bit of a booboo.
Except it turns out it’s much more interesting than that. Because Mr Sweaty Hoodie has unfinished business to take care of. He steals a car and heads to Braeston, the Highland village where the families of both Adam and Grace live. Only the road is pretty stormy and… well… things don’t go entirely according to plan.
The story has the usual murder mystery tropes. Everyone seems to have their own dark secrets or mysterious patterns of behaviour. Things are hinted at, fleetingly. People speak and act in ways that don’t really happen in real life. A certain suspension of disbelief is required, particularly for one moment of coincidence that stretches plausibility.
So whether or not you enjoy this will perhaps come down to how much you are prepared to suspend disbelief. If you like to watch your TV drama with puckered lips and a frown on your face, tutting and harrumphing and saying “That would NEVER happen” to anyone trying not to listen to you, then you may find this a bit much. Personally, I loved it. I’m more than happy to forgive the writers – Harry and Jack Williams, who wrote The Missing – the odd bit of poetic licence, because the script is tense and gratifyingly dark. And the cast, including Juliet Stephenson, Julie Graham, John Lynch, Adrian Edmondson and Georgina Campbell, is uniformly wonderful. Enjoy – or don’t. It’s up to you.
Olympic Games, BBC One, Two and Four, constantly (hurrah) but only for two more days (boooo!)
The Olympic Games are a test of strength, resilience, determination, endurance and willpower. But I genuinely believe I have the reserves of energy to make it through to the end of competition. Come Monday morning, when the last medal has been hung around the last proud neck, the last glittering firework has disappeared into the Rio night sky, and the last cheesy joke has been told by the BBC’s John Inverdale or Mark Chapman, I will quietly return to real life, unheralded and unrecognised, but safe in the knowledge that I am the real hero of these games. Let me tell you, it takes serious dedication to sit on the sofa watching sport almost constantly over a 16-day period. All the more so in the face of some strenuous opposition to this feat, as displayed by my wife, whose performance-enhanced, steroid-fuelled huffs and eye-rolling when I insisted on watching handball or weightlifting was in itself something of an achievement.
We are almost over the line – and what an extraordinary games it has been. Yes, there have been problems: unpredictable weather, empty venues, petty crime, green pools, dangerous cycle routes, and of course the single biggest issue to hit Olympic sport in over a century, the length of BBC swimming presenter Helen Skelton’s dress. (It seems a bit odd to be complaining about too much flesh being visible in an event where the competitors are considerably more disrobed than her, but so be it…)
But problems be damned – this has also been a wonderful festival of sport and international fraternity, and all at a time when we really, really could use it. Of course, the astonishing success of Team GB has been heartening, with particular mention to the history-making exploits of Jason Kenny, Laura Trott, Katherine Grainger, Mo Farah, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Adam Peaty, Max Whitlock, Andy Murray, Justin Rose, Jack Laugher and Chris Mears. And even some of those foreign-types have managed the odd modest success – there’s that Phelps chap, who may have won a medal or two over the years, and Simone Biles appears to know her way around the odd bit of apparatus. That Bolt fellow can shift a bit, too… And watching Fiji win their first ever medal, or Puerto Rico claim their first gold, was a joy. Watching the unheralded exponents of minority sports have their moment in the sun is always a pleasure. But so too is seeing what it meant to millionaire sports stars like Murray and Rose, who don’t win a penny for their Olympic exploits, and couldn’t care less. This is sport for the sake of sport.
At its best, sport is a gripping drama about people. So my own favourite moments included seeing the rather lovely TV nature presenter Steve Backshall bursting into tears when fiancée Helen Glover won rowing gold, or watching Laura Trott get more excited about her fiancé’s gold medal than her own. And who could forget the moving spectacle of the runners from New Zealand and the US helping each other over the line, miles behind the other runners, because they had collided earlier in the race, and had stayed to help each other. For me, the single most iconic moment of the games.
And so we have two days left of sport to go. Even from our lofty perch in the medals table, there are still further chances for GB gold, including the men’s 5000m, the modern pentathlon, women’s triathlon, and the men’s 10m platform diving and the women’s +73kg taekwondo. The last day offers little in the way of British medals, but has the promise of a hugely exciting men’s basketball final – how many points will the USA win by? 20?30? 50? And then there will be some baffling symbolism, some very loud music, and 16 trillion sequins, when the games are officially ended in the closing ceremony.
Four years to wait. I’ll allow myself a few days of rest, then it’s back in training, remote in one hand, cake in the other. Thanks, BBC, you’ve done a heck of a job.
The best – and the rest
Saturday 20th August
Spotless, 7:15pm, ITV: A brand new game show where, in order to win, you need to stay clean. No, I haven’t got a clue either. But I can tell you for sure that my kids won’t be winning this anytime soon.
There’s Something About Romcoms, 9pm, Channel 4: Feature length schmaltz-fest wherein Meg Ryan, Hugh Grant, Richard Curtis et al reveal the untold stories behind our favourite romantic comedies. Marmite.
Monday 22nd August
Make My Body Better with Davina McCall, 8pm, Channel 4: Presumably something about not eating deep fried lard on your sofa all day, but existing on pulses and running 20k every hour.
Tuesday 23rd August
Rookies, 9pm, ITV: New documentary series following seven people as they become police officers, serving on the mean streets of, er, Surrey.
Beauty and the Baker, 10pm, Channel 4: A new comedy drama from Israel, in which a massive film star (not in the Depardieu sense of the word) falls in love with a humble baker. Sort of like Notting Hill, then. Except Israeli. And with cakes.
Wednesday 24th August
The Watchman, 9pm, Channel 4: Outstanding one-off drama starring the always wonderful Stephen Graham as a CCTV operator who takes matters into his own hands. Whoops!
Thursday 25th August
Class of ’92: Still Out of Their League, 9pm, BBC One: Follow up to last year’s documentary following the former Manchester United stars’ running of Salford FC. Warm, funny and fascinating.
CCTV: Neighbourhood Watching, 9pm, ITV: A look at the rise in the use of private CCTV, and some of the more, er, interesting footage it has shot.
The Premier League Football Show, 10pm, BBC Two: New weekly football magazine show, presented by Gabby Logan, featuring in-depth interviews with some of the game’s biggest names. Tonight, Jurgen Klopp is interviewed by Gary Lineker (presumably not just in his pants this time).