The Daily Telegraph

You couldn’t trust your eyes – or keep up with the plot

- Anita Singh The Capture ★★★ Britain’s Greatest Obsessions ★★

For the first few episodes, I knew where I was with The Capture (BBC One). The Chinese were setting up a British cabinet minister through the use of clever deep fakes. Half way in, there was a twist. It wasn’t the Chinese after all, it was the Russians. Wasn’t it?

By episode five, my brain was starting to scramble. And by the sixth and final instalment? If I had to sit an exam answering questions on the plot, I’m pretty sure I’d fail.

What I do know is that Paapa Essiedu has been great as Isaac Turner, the slippery security minister at first bewildered by events, then swayed by the promise of power. As DCI Rachel Carey, Holliday Grainger finally had the opportunit­y to act her socks off by showing pure terror at the threat of being murdered in a lift or tortured in an interrogat­ion room; until this point, her performanc­e had consisted mostly of narrowing her eyes a bit and stalking towards the camera like a catwalk model.

But the drama lost its way when the villain turned out not to be the Chinese tech boss wanting to control security at Britain’s borders, but geeky cartoon baddie Gregory Knox (Joseph Arkley). He was a deeply silly character of the sort you might get in the worst Bond films, and with him the logic

of the plot fell apart. So Knox had decided to manipulate voters into electing Turner as PM, without telling Turner first? And was happy to discuss this deeply dodgy behaviour on stage?

This nonsense was a shame, because The Capture was utterly gripping when it came to set pieces. The episode in which two hitmen were advancing towards the hospital room of stricken DS Patrick Flynn (Cavan Clerkin) was a masterpiec­e in tension. And the whole series succeeded in unsettling the viewer by making us question what we were seeing.

Yet the plot moved so fast in the last episode that I struggled to keep track of what was happening. When did Carey put together her deep fake, which replaced the original deep fake, which replaced the non-deep fake interview with Khadija Khan? And was it really necessary for DSU Garland (Lia Williams) to fake Frank Napier’s CT scans?

The ending was satisfying, as the “correction” programme was finally exposed. The most fake thing of all though: that someone could time a drive through the capital to pull up at Piccadilly Circus at a precise moment. There is no intelligen­ce operation in the world sophistica­ted enough to conquer London traffic.

Britain’s Greatest Obsessions (Sky History) felt as if it had been devised by a bunch of weary TV executives at the end of a very long week. “Let’s have a show about things British people like. Any ideas? Pubs? The Second World War? Talking about the weather? Yep, that’ll do fine.” “Oh, and we’ll need a bunch of people to talk about this stuff. Just throw some names in. Lorraine Kelly, Chris Packham, Suggs…”

Harry Hill presented the first episode of this second series, which was about comedy. Hill is an engaging presence and very funny and he kept the show motoring along. He met various people, from a Punch and Judy man to Bonnie Langford and a professor at the Centre of Comedy Studies Research at Brunel University (who knew such a thing existed). He chatted to German comedian Henning Wehn, who attempted to explain the difference in the two nations’ approaches to humour: “In Germany, we laugh once the work is done rather than instead of doing any work.”

It started off fine but all got a bit earnest, and Hill undermined his own premise by saying that Americans could be just as good with a punchline as the Brits. He was onto something, though, with the idea that the British put a greater value than other nations on having a sense of humour.

US comedian Reginald D Hunter said there was something in the British psyche that means we like laughing at ourselves – it’s to do with keeping spirits up. Hang on, what’s a US comedian (albeit a long-time UK resident) doing in this series? It was just another sign that this show doesn’t quite know what it’s supposed to be. It’s on Sky History, but doesn’t deal in too much history. The presenters sit in a room to chat about the topic of the week, in a sort of cross between a book club and the old Channel 4 discussion programme After Dark.

A comedian retold the story of Tommy Cooper routinely slipping something into a taxi driver’s pocket with the words, “Have a drink on me,” only for the cabbie to discover it was a teabag. A beautiful joke, but it was relayed in a deeply unfunny way.

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 ?? ?? Paapa Essiedu was outstandin­g as MP Isaac Turner in the BBC conspiracy thriller
Paapa Essiedu was outstandin­g as MP Isaac Turner in the BBC conspiracy thriller

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