Damien Love’s pick of the week

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Nab­haan Rizwan in In­former – even bet­ter than Body­guard

It’s been a few weeks since it ended, but I’m still a lit­tle baf­fled over why Body­guard be­came quite such a phe­nom­e­non. I en­joyed Jed Mer­cu­rio’s thriller, but I didn’t en­joy it any­where near as much as a lot of peo­ple, or find my­self able to take it any­where near as se­ri­ously.

It might sound coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but much of the rea­son for this was the show’s ut­ter lack of a sense of hu­mour. Not ev­ery drama has to verge on com­edy

to suc­ceed, of course, but a core of wry hu­mour runs through all the great­est dra­matic writ­ing, from Shake­speare to Sa­muel Beckett to The So­pra­nos.

One of the best se­ries on TV at the mo­ment, Black Earth Ris­ing, deals in se­ri­ous, pro­foundly hor­rific stuff, but a sharp, odd, ab­surd, gal­lows tone flick­ers con­stantly, like a can­dle in the dark.

The In­former, a six-part se­ries writ­ten by Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshir­vani, il­lus­trates the point per­fectly. A thriller that deals in the same topi­cal, po­ten­tially con­tro­ver­sial sub­ject mat­ter as Body­guard – a counter-ter­ror­ism po­lice unit, and the grey ar­eas they en­ter and du­bi­ous tac­tics they em­ploy – it’s a se­ri­ous and con­sid­ered piece of work.

Yet the di­a­logue is writ­ten and per­formed with a deft­ness and light­ness of touch that makes the whole thing come alive and breathe.

Char­ac­ters are al­most con­stantly crack­ing gags about their sit­u­a­tion, but they don’t come across as jok­ers; they come across as real hu­man be­ings. As a re­sult, the dan­gers around them feel real, too. Com­pared with this, the stern-jawed Body­guard feels like a Gerry An­der­son pro­duc­tion.

We’re in a de­cent spell of Bri­tish TV drama, but The In­former’s first episode stands out as one of the strong­est of the year, and in­tro­duces an ac­tor we will surely see a lot of in years to come, Nab­haan Rizwan, who plays Raza, the re­luc­tant in­former of the ti­tle.

We meet him on his home patch, east Lon­don, a smart young guy go­ing about his day: work­ing; flat-hunt­ing; pick­ing up his kid brother from school; get­ting ready for a night out.

These early min­utes flow ef­fort­lessly, yet have more tex­ture and pointed at­ti­tude than many en­tire se­ries, touch­ing on ev­ery­thing from the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of the city, to unconscious racism, to the way Raza can­nily uses stereo­typ­ing as a tool. (Amid a wel­ter of great de­tails is the way he cus­tomises his brother’s school blazer as a suit jacket for his night out.)

Un­for­tu­nately for Raza, his club­bing ends in po­lice cells, ar­rested for pos­ses­sion.

Here, by un­for­tu­nate co­in­ci­dence, he falls un­der the gaze of Gabe (the mag­nif­i­cent Paddy Con­si­dine, on quite tremen­dous form), a counter-ter­ror cop look­ing to “re­cruit” – ie, co­erce

– a new Bri­tish-Pak­istani in­former to help track ru­mours of an Is­lamist cell pos­si­bly plot­ting a bomb­ing. Mean­while, we catch glimpses of Gabe’s own ex­pe­ri­ences un­der­cover among a right wing group, and the ef­fect it has had on him.

Con­stantly wrong-foot­ing, al­ways be­liev­able, packed with in­ci­dent, hard­edged and writ­ten for a rea­son, it’s a fan­tas­tic open­ing.

If you flip to BBC Four straight af­ter The In­former, an­other no­table, en­tirely dif­fer­ent kind of se­ries be­gins, There She Goes, with David Ten­nant and Jes­sica Hynes as Si­mon and Emily, whose nine-year-old daugh­ter Rosie (Mi­ley Locke) has a se­vere learn­ing dis­abil­ity.

The script flashes back and forth across a decade, from the present, to when the cou­ple first grew con­cerned about how their baby was de­vel­op­ing. Based on com­edy writer Shaun Pye’s own ex­pe­ri­ences, it’s sit­com on top, but can­did and some­times al­most painfully ten­der be­neath the skin.

In­former Tues­day, 9pm, BBC One There She Goes Tues­day, 10pm, BBC Four

Mi­ley Locke in There She Goes

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