ALISON ROWAT’S TV REVIEW
WHAT is it with November? Stuck midway between the end of half-term and the beginning of the Christmas rush, the 11th month seems to drive otherwise nice folk so batty with boredom they take to setting off fireworks that terrorise poor animals. Can I get an “Amen” from all our four-legged friends out there?A woof, miaow or neigh will do. Thank you.
Smarter-than-average bears know evenings are far better spent in front of the television with the likes of The A Word (BBC1). Peter Bowker’s wonderful drama about a boy with autism is back for a second series, and my how Joe has grown. He’s seven now, big enough to climb on to the roof of his school in the Lake District and old enough to announce “I’m autistic” to his mum and dad. Since it is the first time he has said the A word, and he does not know what it means, it looks like others have been quick on the draw with the label gun. It is a reminder to Joe’s parents, as if they could ever forget, that life is never going to be easy for their boy.
Bowker has the lightest of touches when dealing with big issues around disability, such as whether a child is always better off in a mainstream school. Helping him highlight them are a cast so well-knitted that meeting them again is like pulling on the cosiest of woolly jumpers. Hard to pick a favourite besides young Max Vento (Joe) but Christopher Eccleston plays a blinder as the lad’s Foghorn Leghorn of a grandfather. To think it was only a blink of an eye ago that Eccleston was a young Doctor Who. They grow up so fast.
Since we are in kids’ corner, time to mention Motherland (BBC2). If you caught the pilot episode you’ll be as tickled as someone who has just dodged stepping on a Lego brick that a whole series has been commissioned. Written by a team that includes one Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe) and two Linehans (one a writer of Father Ted), the comedy centres on a middle-class slummy mummy, played in excruciatingly accurate fashion by Anna Maxwell Martin, who is forever on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Like all the best comedies, familiarity with the school gate or the children’s birthday party circuit is not required to join in the fun.
Likewise, you do not need to be
into archaeology to dig Detectorists (BBC Four). Starring Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook, who also writes and directs, this most gentle of comedies was slow TV before such a term was coined. Just to watch Lance and Andy wander up and down a field, usually finding nothing more exciting than a scaffolding clamp, is to feel the blood pressure coming down. Further sending the needle into the joy zone is Danebury Metal Detecting Club, to which the two belong, which is looking ever more like a descendant of Walmington-on-Sea’s Home Guard.
In this series, Lance and Andy are going to be up against city slickers who want to dig up their beloved valley to install a solar farm. Whatever happens, rest assured there will not be blood. Some grumbling, a sniff of exasperation, certainly, but no blood. Bliss.
If it is a sense of impending doom that madam and sir are after, may I direct you to Babylon Berlin (Sky Atlantic)? Based on the novels by Volker Kutscher and set in the Weimar era, BB shines the spotlight on police inspector Gereon Rath. Sent to Berlin from sleepy Cologne, Rath’s mission is to retrieve a pornographic film being used to blackmail a prominent figure. If that is not enough Sally Bowlesian naughtiness to be going on with, there are bootleggers, communists, cross-dressing singers and assorted others in the mix. Handsomely shot and reeking of hedonism, the nightclub scenes alone are worth the price of entry.
We pause here to adopt a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice to sing happy birthday to Mr President Trump, elected one year ago this week. Donald Trump: Scotland’s President (BBC1 Scotland) set out to do roughly the same job but without the Marilyn impression. Shame, because presenter Glenn Campbell would have looked great in a diaphanous dress studded with thousands of rhinestones.
Same old boring shirt and trousers it was, then, as Campbell flew first to Lewis in search of recollections about the president’s Scots mother, Mary Anne MacLeod. Then it was off to the US for chats with a former Trump adviser, a Trump biographer and anyone else he could get hold of to make up for the lack of an interview with the man himself.
It was nothing personal. Only Fox News can count on an audience with the president these days. Can’t help thinking Obama would have sat down with Campbell, though, Scots mother or no.
Peter Bowker’s drama The A Word, about a boy with autism and his extended family, boasts a cast so well knitted that meeting them again is like pulling on the cosiest of woolly jumpers