Screen and sound re­views

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - PETER CRAW­LEY

You’d be for­given for learn­ing the ti­tle of and seeks grisly re­tal­i­a­tion, Alex is drawn the BBC’s big bud­get, glo­be­trot­ting deeper and deeper into a mo­ral morass in an new crime drama and get­ting the ef­fort to pro­tect his fam­ily. wrong idea com­pletely. McMafia The brood­ing thrill of the se­ries is the brisk (Jan1st and 2nd; Sun­days at 9pm from 7th way it con­nects dots be­tween Rus­sia, In­dia, the January) is not, as you might as­sume, a de­tailed Ara­bian Penin­sula, East­ern Europe, Lon­don pic­ture of or­gan­ised crime in Scot­land. Nor is it and be­yond – not to rack up the ex­otic des­ti­na­tions a sting­ing takedown of mass-mar­ket rack­e­teer­ing. but to con­vey the in­vis­i­ble flows of cap­i­tal It is, in­stead, a thor­oughly grip­ping fam­ily and a busy nexus of crime. Sat­is­fy­ingly, it pays tragedy set against the global ex­pan­sion of as much at­ten­tion to the bonds be­tween or­gan­ised crime, both of which owe their char­ac­ters, such as the al­co­holic pa­tri­arch cir­cum­stances to the fall of the Soviet Union. Dmitri (Alexey Sere­bryakov), the warm but The Rus­sia House might have made a bet­ter dis­so­lute un­cle, Boris (David Den­cik), and, most ti­tle, but sadly it was taken. of all, the sub­tly stranded fig­ure of Alex.

Here is an­other sump­tu­ously made drama Nor­ton, who has proven him­self an ac­tor of based on a book, swoop­ing from black-tie sub­stance in War and Peace and Happy Val­ley, func­tions and high fi­nance, to the lairs of drug uses his good looks as a kind of dis­guise: run­ners and hu­man traf­fick­ers. But un­like The “Al­ways that smile,” his un­cle mocks, as though

Night Man­ager, say, this eight-part se­ries is the charm of an “English gen­tle­man” made him com­plex in char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion and con­text, un­read­able. adapted from Misha Glenny’s ac­claimed work Per­haps it does. Distrusted in Lon­don, of non-fic­tion by screen­writer Hos­sein Amini alien­ated from Rus­sia, and con­tend­ing with a and di­rec­tor James Watkins. That gives the world of frauds, Alex may not even know show a bullish ad­van­tage; weav­ing a com­pelling him­self. “By de­cep­tion we will do war,” says the nar­ra­tive from vivid tex­tures, out­pac­ing its de­pend­ably shady David Straithairn, adopt­ing ri­vals in am­bi­tion and de­tail. Mos­sad’s motto, play­ing a Rus­sian-Is­raeli

“God, what does it take to cor­rupt you?” busi­ness­man with whom Alex forms a com­pro­mis­ing James Nor­ton’s Alex is asked, dur­ing a flir­ta­tious al­liance. That is also how McMafia does en­counter in an Is­raeli plea­sure den, but busi­ness, and here it makes for an ex­cit­ing, that is also the ques­tion of the show. The son of nervy and en­cour­ag­ingly hu­man pic­ture of an ex­iled Rus­sian oli­garch, raised in Eng­land, ev­ery­body trapped in its web. Alex is a hedge fund man­ager, keen to distance him­self from his un­cle’s on­go­ing con­nec­tions to dodgy in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tives. When a Rus­sian ri­val sur­vives an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt,

Flight­sofFancy Grandpa’s Great Es­cape

(BBC One, Monday, 6.55pm), an adap­ta­tion of one of David Wal­liams’s highly suc­cess­ful chil­dren’s books, is an elab­o­rate kind of me­mory game.

It is the story of a boy (Kit Con­nor) and his grandfather, un­likely best friends, where the older man is fre­quently lost in his mem­o­ries as a sec­ond World War spit­fire pi­lot. The boy, Jack, in­dulges these fan­tasies in a spirit of make-be­lieve: “Roger that, Wing Com­man­der!”

But set in a new-ro­man­tic, comic-book sat­u­rated idea of the 1980s, the show is also lost in mem­o­ries – those of the boy. That makes for a dou­ble-brack­eted nos­tal­gia, giv­ing us Jack’s rec­ol­lec­tions of his grandfather’s rec­ol­lec­tions: the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion seen through the eyes of Gen­er­a­tion X.

The fan­tasy of Wal­liams and Kevin Ce­cil’s tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion is to have them meet half­way. Grandpa (the great Tom Courte­nay) is dis­cov­ered sit­ting on a church roof, sil­hou­et­ted by a pa­per moon, still gun­ning down Jerry in his mind. Per­suaded by a spivvy vicar (nicely over­played by Jennifer Saun­ders) into the shady Twi­light Tow­ers nurs­ing home, Grandpa may as well be in Colditz and so Jack as­sists in a dar­ing es­cape. “Why not let him have one fi­nal flight?” sug­gests the kindly shop­keeper Raj (Har­ish Pa­tel), with a child’s an­swer to a grown-up’s dilemma, and you get the sense that Wal­liams also prefers to lift things off the run­way of reality.

That’s sweet and un­der­stand­able. It’s much more re­as­sur­ing to wage bat­tle against a com­i­cally vil­lain­ous nurs­ing home staff, led by a tyran­ni­cal Saun­ders in an Alpine Hat, than to deal with Grandpa’s men­tal and phys­i­cal

Set in a new-ro­man­tic, comic-book sat­u­rated idea of the 1980s, the show is also lost in mem­o­ries – those of the boy. That makes for a dou­ble-brack­eted nos­tal­gia, giv­ing us Jack’s rec­ol­lec­tions of his grandfather’s rec­ol­lec­tions

de­cline. Di­rec­tor El­liot Her­garty cor­re­sponds with the weight­less­ness of a Hanna-Bar­bera car­toon, all skid­ding stops, scat­tered mar­bles and sud­den man­nequin dis­guises.

But Courteney, as Grandpa, in­jects the fri­vol­ity of the ca­per with some­thing sub­tly and painfully real. He can lift Wal­liams’ jokes with a light touch and snap to at­ten­tion when or­dered, but al­lows a soft hes­i­tancy to his voice, a dart of un­cer­tainty in his eyes. Like his adventure, the show is de­ter­minedly es­capist, pre­fer­ring its mem­o­ries com­fort­ing and warm. But Courteney doesn’t for­get about reality, or the wars within.

House proud

Some time ago a Dan­ish TV com­pany hit upon an in­ter­est­ing idea: that if you can hang a con­test around ev­ery­thing from singing to bak­ing, there’s no rea­son you can’t get com­pet­i­tive about liv­ing spa­ces.

Home of the Year quickly be­came an in­ter­na­tional fran­chise, but it al­ways held a par­tic­u­lar at­trac­tion for Ire­land, where judg­ing your neigh­bours by the con­tents of their kitchens, liv­ing rooms and bath­room cab­i­nets has been a proud na­tional pas­time.

To in­tro­duce celebrity into this mix, how­ever, clearly up­sets the bal­ance. Celebri­ties, by def­i­ni­tion, re­quire an un­nat­u­ral de­gree of ap­pro­ba­tion, and pro­grammes that re­quire the par­tic­i­pa­tion of celebri­ties tend to give it to them. This cre­ates the strange sen­sa­tion on

Celebrity Home of the Year (RTÉ One, Tues, 9.35pm) that the three judges are con­sid­er­ably more wor­ried about how they come across than the houses. Pro­pel­ling their thoughts with touch­ingly self-con­scious hand ges­tures they re­peat the same su­perla­tives so fre­quently the words be­come rad­i­cally de­val­ued.

“I love the nat­u­ral light,” says de­signer Deirdre Whe­lan of writer Melissa Hill’s ren­o­vated bun­ga­low. “I ab­so­lutely love it,” says the per­ma­nently en­thu­si­as­tic ar­chi­tect Pa­trick Bradley of the cor­nic­ing in David Nor­ris’s re­stored Ge­or­gian home. “I love the idea of ‘Love’,” says Hugh Wal­lace, stand­ing in the liv­ing room of 2fm pre­sen­ter Eoghan McDer­mott, in a mo­ment of sur­re­al­ism only slightly mit­i­gated by hav­ing the word spelled out be­fore him as a table or­na­ment.

The ruse of anonymity and un­prej­u­diced cri­tique is blown apart early and of­ten. Au­thor Melissa Hill pos­sesses a li­brary-worth of her own fic­tion, dis­played face front like an Ea­son’s shelf. Se­na­tor David Nor­ris ad­mits that his charm­ingly clut­tered walls boast 17 painted por­traits of him. And rugby player Mike Ross gamely con­cedes that if the in­nu­mer­able im­ages of his prow­ess on the rugby pitch don’t give him away, “They’ll think I’m the world’s big­gest stalker.”

Given the scale of in­tim­i­da­tion, you have to ad­mire Whe­lan’s temer­ity in find­ing Hill’s din­ing table “a bit mean”, dis­miss­ing Ross’s bulky cof­fee table, or crit­i­ciz­ing McDer­mott for not even hav­ing one. Such table talk is hard to counter. But oth­er­wise there is so much ac­cord that the cold smiles be­tween Bradley and Wal­lace over a dis­agree­ment about the best lo­ca­tion for Ross’s bed­room feel al­most vi­o­lent.

De­spite some lip ser­vice paid to per­son­al­ity, cre­ativ­ity and orig­i­nal­ity, it’s hard not to take this all as an ob­se­quious ad­mi­ra­tion of wealth. The win­ner, to no­body’s sur­prise, is David Nor­ris’s five-floor home. Its owner has the wit to ac­knowl­edge the dis­crep­ancy be­tween this slav­ish act of prop­erty fetishism and the cur­rent hous­ing cri­sis by do­nat­ing half of his win­nings to Fo­cus Ire­land. “His home is just an ex­ten­sion of his per­son­al­ity,” fawns one of the judges. Nor­ris, clearly aware of those less for­tu­nate, is lucky to have one.

Alek­sey Sere­bryakov, James Nor­ton, Mariya Shuk­shina, Yu­val Scharf and Faye Marsay in McMafia; David Nor­ris in re­pose at home in Celebrity Home of the Year; Tom Courte­nay and Kit Con­nor in Grandpa’s Great Es­cape. PHO­TO­GRAPHS:: BBC, RTE

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