Damien Love’s TV highlights plus seven-day programme guide
Tuesday Doctor Foster 9pm, BBC One
LOOK out. This time it’s serious. She’s started listening to PJ Harvey. Blood is practically guaranteed. It’s been two years since we last saw Dr Gemma Foster, the GP in a sunny little town, whose happy life cracked when she began to suspect her husband of having an affair with a girl young enough to be his daughter.
Written by Mike Bartlett, but powered by the magnificent engine of Suranne Jones as Gemma, Doctor Foster’s first crazy series was an infidelity drama that started like a paranoid sci-fi, then became a full-on Jacobean revenger’s tragedy. The Twilight Zone stuff took up the first episodes, as, with her suspicions roused, Gemma started to question the life she thought she was leading, only to see it was a thin delusion. Not only was her marriage a fiction, but everyone around her was in on it. The moment she realised all her friends, workmates and neighbours had known about the affair long before her, but just kept smiling, was a middle class mix of The Truman Show and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. From here, it was into the Titus Andronicus section, as, on her road to vengeance, Gemma went through the accepted stages of grief: anger; depression; sleeping
with an accountant; blackmail; attempted suicide; and convincing everyone she’d murdered her son. Nobody actually chopped anybody’s hands off, but during a climactic dinner party, when Gemma exposed her husband’s various gitty indiscretions, it got so viciously awkward you began to wish they’d all just kill each other and get it over with.
Some series build up a head of steam only to be let down by lacklustre finales. But by the time Dr Foster finished, it barely mattered how it ended – you were just begging for them to stop, because you couldn’t take any more. In a good way. As it happened, it ended with Gemma triumphant: her faithless husband Simon (pristine lousery by Bertie Carvell) exiled with his simpering young partner, almost bankrupt and fully disgraced.
Whether we need another series is a reasonable question, but one that dissolves in a poisonous red mist once the first episode gets rolling. The set up is simple: Simon has returned with his wife and their baby. Not only that: they’re doing sickeningly well, moving into a palatial house with a worrying amount of glass walls. Not only that: Simon has plans.
Where some programmes make you want to binge and others make you want to dress up like the characters, Dr Foster leads the pack in shout-TV. Roughly speaking, you spend half the episode shouting at Simon for being such a slippery wee bastard; one quarter shouting encouragement at Gemma to stick it to him; and the other quarter yelling at her to stop, because she’s being completely mad.
Doctor Foster exists in the stylised realm of those feverish 1940s Hollywood “women’s pictures” that, magnificently, could never decide whether to be romances or murderous films noir. Few performers could convincingly deliver soap dialogue like the line Gemma whispers to Simon when they are alone: “Admit that you still find me attractive, and then I’ll go.” Joan Crawford was one. Suranne Jones is another, and her black-eyed simmer as a woman scorned, abused and on the edge is the whole show. As she glazes over and goes plunging into the plot like a dagger, playing with acid, syringes and cigarettes, the series should come with a disclaimer, the way Captain Scarlet used to: “Suranne Jones is indestructible. You are not. Remember this. Do not try to imitate her.”
Sunday Sep 3 Strike 9pm, BBC One
W HEN it comes to shabby, likeable detectives, I’d prefer it if the BBC shelled out some money and persuaded Trevor Eve to hook up with John Nettles and do an 18-hour long special that sees Eddie Shoestring coming out of retirement and going into a reluctant partnership with Jim Bergerac in a Twin Peaks-style multi-dimensional British folk-surrealist horror mystery investigation that winds up uncovering a Satanic small town coven apparently (but only apparently) headed by Lovejoy… But they won’t buy it. So we get JK Rowling’s Private Investigator instead. Part Three of the story continues in the same watchable, ambling, slightly snoozy, betterthan-watching-Lego-Victoria-on-the-other-side mode, as the vaguely troubled Strike (Tom Burke) moves closer to uncovering the killer of model Lula Landry. But as old secrets come out, Strike and his new will-they-won’t-they colleague Robin (Holliday Grainger) are in peril. A new Strike story begins next week.
Monday 4 Diana And I 9pm, BBC Two
D O you fancy a fairly sentimental featurelength drama about how the lives of the little wee regular ordinary tiny people were profoundly touched and moved and changed and empowered by the death of Princess Diana 20 years ago? Well, hang on to your hankies, as Mrs Brown writer Jeremy Brock treads the grapes of the tragedy for this sensitive barrel of thoughtful fiction. Among the little wee regular ordinary tiny people are Mary McDonald (Tamsin Grieg, with a debatable Scottish accent), a hard-up Glasgow florist, who decides to cash in on the grief fiesta by loading a van with flowers and driving to London to flog them to the mourner-tourists, accompanied by her loyal friend Gordon (Your Actual John Gordon Sinclair). Elsewhere, a young journalist in Paris finds the story derailing his honeymoon; an unhappy wife walks out on her husband to make a pilgrimage to join the London crowds; and, when his adored single mother dies the same night as Diana, a shy 19-year-old turns to his young neighbour for support.
Wednesday 6 Back 10pm, Channel 4
PEEP Show fans will welcome this new sitcom, which reunites David Mitchell and Robert Webb, and was created by Simon Blackwell, who wrote several episodes of the old vehicle. Assuming the usual positions, Mitchell plays Stephen, a spiky, uptight, underachieving dweeb, whose father – the landlord of their village pub, and something of a local legend – has just died. Trying to work out how he feels about grieving, and finally hoping to take his place in the spotlight by taking over the pub, he finds his plans upset by the arrival of the unsettlingly blank and confident Andrew (Webb). Introducing himself as his brother, Andrew claims Stephen’s family fostered him for a few months in the 1980s. And, to the horror of Stephen, who spent his childhood resenting the foster kids he was forced to share with, he is indeed welcomed by the rest of his family like a prodigal son. The music and pacing sometimes underline the gags with too much boom-boom, but the cuckoo-in-the-nest story is nicely awkward, acidic, and angsty.
Thursday Tin Star 9pm, Sky Atlantic
HE’S only just wrapped up Twin Peaks, but Tim Roth is back already – and getting to speak with his own accent – as the lead in this new 10-part thriller. He plays Jim, a cop from London relocated with his family to Little Big Bear, a tiny, sunny town out in the Canadian Rockies. Installed as new police chief, he’s still settling in, trying to get used to a pace of life that leaves the police with nothing to do but stick up signs warning tourists to stay away from the bears in the woods. But, as we know from the bloody flash-forward that opens things, trouble is brewing. It might be something to do with the sinister big oil company that’s coming to town, represented by PR woman Elizabeth Bradshaw (Christina Hendricks). And it might be something to do with buried demons we begin to glimpse lurking in Jim, a recovering alcoholic. It’s a little by-the-numbers, but satisfyingly mounted. The scenery is breathtaking, but the real natural wonder here is Roth, whose low-key, all-details performance is really worth tuning in for alone.
Friday 8 Cold Feet 9pm, STV
HOT on the heels of last year’s wellreceived reboot, writer Mike Bullen brings the old gang out of mothballs again for another if-it-ain’t-broke-whyfix-it series. Adam (James Nesbitt) has settled into a relationship with landlady/neighbour Tina (Leanne Best) and is more than ready to move on from the taking it slow stage she seems to prefer. But will his efforts to push things along have the desired effect? Elsewhere, Karen (Hermione Norris) is making a long-cherished dream become a reality as she launches her own publishing house, while juggling the demands of teenage twins. Looking on at her success makes Jenny (Fay Ripley) think hard about what she wants from life, while Pete (John Thomson) tries to make the best of his job as a chauffeur. Meanwhile, following his fall from grace, the similarly dissatisfied David (Robert Bathurst) is starting over, with a job selling life insurance to pensioners, and considering how a man of his age can get back into the dating game.
Saturday 9 Strictly Come Dancing 7.05pm, BBC One
FURTHER proof that the world is spinning faster and time is speeding up as a result but nobody will believe me: the Strictly launch show is here already, with the celebs meeting their partners, and getting set to take us all the way through Hallowe’en to the very doorstep of Christmas. It feels like I only just took my Rudolf mobile down a couple of weeks ago. They’ll be advertising summer holidays soon at this rate. It’s all change this year, as Len Goodman has selflessly thrown his formidable energies into dredging the cold depths of the 21st century light entertainment Mariana Trench that is Len Goodman’s Partners In Rhyme (5.45pm BBC One), meaning a new head judge has been controversially parachuted in, some chancer called Shirley Ballas. The rest of the team from recent series remain in place, however, to wag their paddles at this year’s mightily interesting line up. All the smart money is on a Calman-Coles-Conley final, of course. But there might be some upsets along the way.