Damien Love’s pick of the week, plus seven-day list­ings

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Contents | Photograph Of The Week -

Watch how you tread, be­cause Ju­lia Davis is back on the prowl and – as far as I was able to tell, watch­ing through my fin­gers from be­hind the sofa – her new se­ries Sal­ly4Ever finds her go­ing the Full Ju­lia Davis. Clearly, this is si­mul­ta­ne­ously a great thing, and ut­terly ter­ri­fy­ing.

After the cring­ing ru­ral trip of Camp­ing and the lush pe­riod ex­cur­sion of Hun­derby, her blackly, beau­ti­fully

twisted take on gothic ro­mance, this seven-part sit­com finds Davis, as writer, di­rec­tor and co-star, mov­ing closer again to the per­ilous ter­ri­tory of her unforgettable (try as you might) Nighty Night. But it’s a ghastly thing of its own.

At the cen­tre of the hot night­mare is Sally (Cather­ine Shep­herd), who works qui­etly in a lowly Lon­don ad­ver­tis­ing agency, and can’t quite work out why her life has ended up the way it has.

Specif­i­cally, she seems mys­ti­fied over how she could ever have wound up liv­ing with David (Alex McQueen), her long-term boyfriend, whose de­sires, hob­bies, tastes, per­sonal habits, per­sonal hy­giene rou­tines and gen­eral ap­proach to ex­is­tence it­self have qui­etly smoth­ered her in a stunned, silent scream of beige sub­ur­ban hor­ror.

One fate­ful day, how­ever, while rid­ing the tube to work, Sally lets her eyes wan­der, only to find them snagged on the dark, know­ing gaze of an in­ter­est­ing-look­ing woman across the aisle: Emma (Davis).

It’s only a quick, pen­e­trat­ing glance, but Sally is al­ready cap­tured, and, after a long and par­tic­u­larly crummy day, topped off by an im­pas­sioned mar­riage pro­posal from David, she es­capes her suf­fo­cat­ing house and heads alone into the night to track Emma down.

The path leads to a club where Emma is at the cen­tre of the mid­night swirl, giv­ing a wild per­for­mance as DJ-artist. Like Alice find­ing a bo­hemian Won­der­land, Sally is as­ton­ished at the life on of­fer, takes a pill, and finds her­self em­bark­ing on an un­ex­pected ad­ven­ture.

She’s never done this kind of thing be­fore, but she kisses Emma, and, just like the song, she likes it. But, as she be­gins an af­fair with the stranger, she doesn’t know quite what lies in store from here.

This, more or less, is the out­line of the plot in Episode One, but, as ever, it’s the dev­as­tat­ing de­tails, cur­dled di­a­logue and gob­s­mack­ing gags Davis crafts that make the thing come to de­vi­ous, de­mented life. To de­tail them would be to spoil things, but suf­fice to say that, as the aw­ful David, Alex McQueen (formerly The Thick Of It’s ma­lign, bis­cuit­munch­ing man­darin fusspot Julius) gives a per­for­mance of heroic pro­por­tions.

After this, ei­ther his phone will be ring­ing off the hook, or, pos­si­bly, he’ll never work again.

It’s amaz­ing stuff, with a tremen­dous cast (a rogues’ gallery in­clud­ing Ju­lian Bar­ratt, Felic­ity Mon­tagu, Steve Oram, Mark Gat­tis, Vicki Pep­per­dine and Joanna Scan­lan).

And it’s all dom­i­nated by an­other mon­strous turn from Davis as a dis­rup­tive char­ac­ter who sug­gests the dae­mon lover from the old folk songs, by way of the Ting Tings.

Com­pared with the lurid life of Sal­ly4Ever, More4’s new thriller im­port Ber­lin Sta­tion is a pal­lid, pre­dictable thing.

For­mer Spooks star Richard Ar­mitage pulls on his spy trousers again as a CIA agent sta­tioned in Ber­lin, hop­ing to un­cover an Ed­ward Snow­den-style whistle­blower in the Agency’s midst.

There’s a good cast, in­clud­ing Rhys Ifans as a jaded spook and the great char­ac­ter ac­tor Richard Jenk­ins as their boss, and it passes the time.

But the plot­ting and pac­ing is very by the num­bers. Not so much Ge­orge Smi­ley as gener­i­cally ropey.

Ber­lin Sta­tion

Sal­ly4Ever on Sky At­lantic has a tremen­dous cast

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