TV reviewer James Waller-Davies casts his eye over the latest offerings on television...
I have to start with a small cheat this week and mention a film, albeit a documentary film.
Asif Kapadia’s mesmerising Senna (ITV4) was shown again this week.
This award-winning film gave us the close-up and personalised journey from go-carting protégé to three-time world championship winner.
Kapadia’s research in bringing together so many insider sources took us inside Formula 1 in a detail the televised tour doesn’t allow. It also brought us as close to Ayrton Senna as it is possible to get through a screen.
And then to see him die in that fatalistic race in the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. Watching something like Titanic and knowing the end is one thing - but watching the actual person who is going to die is another thing all together. Harrowing, but hypnotic.
Harrowing and awful in a different way was Panorama - Behind Closed Doors: Elderly Care Exposed (BBC1). This was another powerful piece of investigative journalism showing the lack of humanity and care for our aging population in some care homes.
The Levinson enquiry exposed the worst excesses of the press in using borderline surveillance techniques, but we should remember there is a time and place for secret snooping and exposing inhumanity has to be one of them. Most of society’s cruelty goes on behind closed doors and is hidden with lies.
It’s not Panorama’s job to come up with the solutions to the issue of elderly care, but if this sort of exposé makes a few rotten apples change their behaviour then it will always have a role. This won’t, unfortunately, be the last programme of this kind.
Rev. (BBC2) concluded this week. It has been a tour-de-force and almost impossible to fault at all. The last two episodes presented comedy, in its true Classic sense, at its emotion-renting best.
Last week’s Easter sequence showing poor, troubled Adam carrying the cross through the city was both moving and poignant. Nothing else over the weekend presented the Easter message and journey as well. Liam Nielson showing up for a brief cameo as God was unforgettable.
The production of Rev. is unusually sophisticated for a sitcom, but that’s because it is far more than just a sitcom. It is bittersweet, pulling at all the emotions and not just going for the easy laugh.
True comedy should show the everyday human flaws in all of us. Nowhere was this better done than in the prayer montage. In a style reminiscent of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, we were taken into the private prayers of each of the main characters. It was tragi-comedy at its finest and we’re lucky to have a BBC in this country that continues to take chances and invest in the quirky and the unusual.
It’s surprising to think that with our new found love for moody, Scandinavian crime dramas and a new willingness to read subtitles that the closest country with a foreign language has not thrown its hat into the ring before. Hinterland (BBC4), or Y Gwyll in Welsh, is the BBC’s first drama filmed in both English and Welsh.
This detective drama takes place in and around Aberystwyth and the hills behind. The scenery is stunning and the production is just sufficiently stylised to make it visually interesting, without being clichéd, but if I never see another close-up of barbed wire fence with caught sheep’s wool blowing in the wind, it will be too soon.
The story was incredibly dark, centring on former abuses at a children’s home, an issue that has been all too much to the fore in Welsh news in recent years. A storyline with the disappearance of a child was also very brave given its proximity to Machynlleth where April Jones was abducted.
Elsewhere in crime drama world, it was the week of the furrowed brows. John Simm has a lot to be worried about in the police corruption drama Prey (ITV) and pulling that pen out of his shoulder must have really hurt.
Back in Fargo (Channel 4), episode two saw Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard having even more woes after killing his wife. Being stalked by the most annoying policewoman in town is starting to give him a tic. The arrival of two more hit-men is unlikely to help anyone. But it’s nice to know that being a mute and having to rely on signing is no barrier to being a psychopath. There is no block to equal opportunities for those with a disability in Fargo.