The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - ALI­SON ROWAT

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

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