ALI­SON ROWAT’S RE­VIEW

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - ALI­SON ROWAT

HOW kind of Kit Har­ing­ton to bring his Game of Thrones hand­book when he moved camp to Gun­pow­der (BBC One). If ever a pro­duc­tion had been “throned” it was this drama about the plot to blow up the House of Lords and kill the king.

Ad­mit­tedly, yer 17th cen­tury London was in­deed a grubby, cruel old place, but even so. The pro­duc­tion de­sign­ers had clearly stud­ied the suc­cess of Game of Thrones and thought, “We’ll have some of that.” So the mud was mud­dier, the blood was blood­ier, the tor­ture was more stom­ach-churn­ing, and how about the dragon that car­ried King James off be­tween its talons?

The last did not in fact hap­pen, but I bet some­one on the team was tempted. With drag­ons off the menu, the BBC’s grand of­fer­ing for Satur­day nights had to rely on thes­pian talent and what looked like Ikea’s en­tire stock of can­dles to see it through. Har­ing­ton, play­ing his an­ces­tor, plot leader Robert Catesby, had a head start in the au­then­tic­ity and act­ing front, Mark Gatiss dusted off his vil­lain act once more, and Peter Mul­lan did a Sean Con­nery and played English priest Henry Gar­net as a Scot. Ri­valling Har­ing­ton as the best thing on screen was Shaun Doo­ley as Sir Wil­liam Wade, en­forcer for the king. Fawkes turned up at the end, just in time to res­cue what had been a plod­der of an opener.

Those in search of light re­lief af­ter all that blood and guts could turn to

Your Song (STV), in which five pop acts, in­clud­ing Paloma Faith and Rita Ora, sur­prised fans with im­promptu per­for­mances as a way of thank­ing them for their good deeds. Imag­ine a cross be­tween This is Your Life meets Sur­prise Sur­prise by way of The X Fac­tor. As the end cred­its in­formed us, Your Song was made in as­so­ci­a­tion with Syco En­ter­tain­ment, the Si­mon Cow­ell­founded pro­duc­tion com­pany which also makes The X Fac­tor. Sur­prise, sur­prise.

Your Song was good, clean, family en­ter­tain­ment, which is cer­tainly not some­thing any­one has ever said about the com­edy Man Down (Chan­nel 4). Star­ring 6ft 8in Greg Davies as Dan, a man as tall as he is use­less, the eff­ing and jeff­ing alone would strip the paint from a bat­tle­ship. As se­ries four be­gan, Dan’s preg­nant ex was on her way back to Blighty to have their baby. Could for­mer teacher Dan grow up, get a job and find a

home be­fore she got here? Have a guess. Davies, who co-writes Man Down, has fash­ioned a cre­ation who makes Basil Fawlty on his worst days seem like a Zen mas­ter. Spec­tac­u­larly of­fen­sive but laugh out loud funny in parts, I par­tic­u­larly love the five star old folks’ home where Dan’s mum is spend­ing his in­her­i­tance. I’ve asked for an ap­pli­ca­tion form.

The Coun­try Coun­cil (BBC One) is an ev­ery­day story of folk work­ing for Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil. As nar­ra­tor James Cosmo (tak­ing a break from bank ads) told us, coun­cils are the or­gan­i­sa­tions we love to com­plain about. This doc­u­men­tary, show­ing as it did cheery com­mu­nity nurses, hard­work­ing speech ther­a­pists, and end­lessly pa­tient helpline op­er­a­tors, sug­gested you might want to haud yer wheesht in fu­ture.

The pro­gramme mak­ers had a dif­fi­cult path to tread be­tween show­ing ru­ral life as it is, with not a lot hap­pen­ing, and bor­ing view­ers rigid. At one point, two men stood in a road look­ing at a pot­hole. The scenery was pic­ture post­card fab­u­lous, but it was still two men look­ing at a pot­hole. The tone was re­lent­lessly up­beat as well, with any neg­a­tives, be it lack of cash or staff, filed un­der that much over-used word, “chal­lenges”. Even David, the park­ing war­den on the sharp end of some very Chan­nel 4 lan­guage at times, said he loved his job.

But we did see how the right ser­vices, if folk can get them, can make a real dif­fer­ence to peo­ple’s qual­ity of life and, as one poignant case study showed, their death, too. It was enough to make you pay the coun­cil tax with a song in your heart. Not re­ally, but with less of a scowl at least.

Chee­rio, then, W1A (BBC One). Yes, no, yes. Quite. Ex­actly. I’m not be­ing funny, but this fi­nal se­ries of a BBC mock doc that mocks the BBC has had a whiff of the slightly stale joke about it. On its game, though, as in the Match of the Day story about a cross-dress­ing ex-foot­baller try­ing to be a pun­dit, it was still a blast.

The fi­nale, in which BBC man­age­ment had to find a pro­gramme where Clau­dia Win­kle­man could show her se­ri­ous side or lose her from Strictly, turned out to be a bel­ter, al­most making you wish Ian Fletcher, head of val­ues, and his posse of time-servers and bu­reau­crats could re­turn for an­other se­ries. Yes, no, yes. Quite. Ex­actly. Ac­tu­ally, make that a no: W1A was so ac­cu­rate it was in dan­ger of giv­ing the real BBC ideas. News­night on Ice with Clau­dia Win­kle­man any­one?

Tom Cullen and Kit Har­ing­ton in the BBC drama Gun­pow­der, the de­sign­ers of which had clearly stud­ied the suc­cess of Game of Thrones

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