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

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There has been a spe­cial edi­tion of Doc­tor Who on Christ­mas Day ev­ery year since the show was re­vived back in 2005. This time around, though, per­haps to un­der­line that we’ve moved into a dif­fer­ent era now there’s a fe­male Doc, they de­cided to ditch that tra­di­tion to go with a New Year’s Day spe­cial in­stead. But the big ques­tion for long term fans is this: have they also dis­pensed with the tra­di­tion that dic­tates the fes­tive Doc­tor Who

episode must be, on bal­ance, a bit rub­bish?

Well, I can’t tell you, be­cause the Beeb weren’t up for let­ting me see it in time. There are two pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions for this: (1) The episode is so amaz­ingly bril­liant and spe­cial that they didn’t want any­one giv­ing any­thing away about it be­fore­hand and spoil­ing the fun; or (2) it’s a bit rub­bish, and they’d rather keep hopes alive un­til the last pos­si­ble mo­ment. It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to find out which it is.

What I can tell you for def­i­nite, though, is that, as it re­turns for the first time in three years, Idris Elba’s cod­wal­lop­ing Luther re­mains as amaz­ingly rub­bish as ever.

In this fun new four-part story, show­ing nightly un­til Fri­day, Elba gets his grand mav­er­ick re­fus­ing to play by the rule­book en­trance in early, in­tro­duced step­ping out from his char­ac­ter car in a thrilling close-up while chas­ing a wrong’un through a slick and edgy brood­ing in­dus­trial zone.

Be­fore you can say “Brood­ing! Edgy!” Luther is kid­napped by some bad bas­tards with base­ball bats who beat him up, tie him to a chair and taser him three times – only suc­ceed­ing in mak­ing him slightly ir­ri­tated, as, with nary a bruise, he frees him­self to turn the ta­bles on them, while shout­ing man­fully one sec­ond, and whis­per­ing grav­elly the next.

From here, it’s into the req­ui­site by the num­bers sec­ond hand tor­ture porn se­rial killer plot (“the killer took his eyes and cut his tongue out…”), fea­tur­ing a vil­lain with a cool creepy mask, and added non­sense from Ruth Wil­son, re­turn­ing as Luther’s old neme­sis­squeeze, Alice.

Amid all this, there’s nice work from Wunmi Mosaku as Luther’s more bythe-book new part­ner, Hal­l­i­day.

If, how­ever, you’d pre­fer to watch a drama that gives the im­pres­sion of hav­ing been put to­gether by peo­ple who have ac­tu­ally en­coun­tered a hu­man be­ing, look out for Sky’s new Amer­i­can im­port, Es­cape At Dan­nemora.

Di­rected (un­ex­pect­edly) by co­me­dian Ben Stiller, the se­ries is based on events around a real-life prison break and the fol­low­ing man­hunt that took place in up­state New York in 2015. At the cen­tre of the scheme is Tilly Mitchell (Pa­tri­cia Ar­quette), a civil­ian em­ployee who works in the fa­cil­ity, over­see­ing the tai­lor shop.

Among the con­victs in her or­bit are David Sweat (Paul Dano) and Richard Matt (Beni­cio De Toro). She has a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with both, and, soon, has agreed to help them get out, first by smug­gling in the tools Matt needs for his es­cape plan.

Set against a beat-up, dead of win­ter land­scape, the se­ries un­folds at a near­frozen pace.

At its best, Stiller’s ob­ser­vant, low-key style feels rooted in the 1970s, but, at seven episodes, the se­ries feels roughly twice as long as it needed to be.

How­ever, it’s worth mak­ing the ef­fort for Ar­quette’s in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance. The drama is os­ten­si­bly about the two con­victs try­ing to get free, but it’s her por­trait of a strange, or­di­nary wo­man kick­ing re­sent­fully against the con­fines of her own drab life that be­comes the most mes­meris­ing story.

Es­cape At Dan­nemora on Sky At­lantic

New Year’s Day Doc­tor Who (7pm, BBC One) Luther (9pm, BBC One) Es­cape At Dan­nemora (9pm, Sky At­lantic)

Jodie Whit­taker as Doc­tor Who

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