The Herald on Sunday
Watch out, the sisterhood is about and set on revenge
BLESSED be the fruit, for the new series of The Handmaid’s Tale (Channel 4, Tonight, 9pm) is due for delivery. Hard to believe Margaret Attwood’s stirring vision of a patriarchal dictatorship was published more than 35 years ago and is still going strong courtesy of this acclaimed television adaptation.
And acclaimed it certainly is. The Handmaid’s Tale has won close to 50 awards globally, including Emmys, Golden Globes and Baftas. Its sayings (“Blessed be the fruit”, “Under his eye”) have worked their way into the collective consciousness, while no Halloween party or feminist protest is complete without several “Offreds” clad in the handmaids’ distinctive scarlet cloaks and white whimples.
Not bad either for a novel, and a television show, that is terrifying and gruesome in equal measure. From scenes of mass hangings to torture and mutilation, viewers of The Handmaid’s Tale have been put through the mill and then some.
Yet ask any fan what they love about the drama and you are likely to hear the word “hope”. Life for June (Elisabeth Moss) and the other handmaidens is hellish, but the women have not given up their dreams of reclaiming the freedoms they once had. Rebellion flowers in the most unlikely places and try as the patriarchy and their wives might, the handmaids are not giving up.
The third series ended with our heroine June on the cusp of escape from the hated Gilead, only to return to rescue her daughter, Hannah. Also on the way back are Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, the inaptly named Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), and of course Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), a character that never ceases to amaze and appal.
Series 1-3 are available on All4 for anyone in need of an introduction or catch up.
An eight part series about crime and punishment in the US might seem a long stretch, but Philly DA (BBC4, Tuesday, 10pm, 11pm) comes from the always excellent Storyville stable of documentaries.
This one follows the election and first term of Larry Krasner, a veteran civil rights lawyer who decided to stand for election as Philadelphia’s District Attorney, or chief law enforcement officer.
Imagine if it had been Jeremy Corbyn who became Director of Public Prosecutions instead of Keir Starmer and you begin to have an inkling of the shock that greeted Krasner’s move, far less his eventual landslide victory in 2018. This was a lawyer who had sued the police department 75 times.
As the film points out, Philadelphia incarcerates more people than any other city in America, and the US has the highest prison population in the world per hundred thousand people.
Krasner’s big idea is to use the $42,000 a year it takes to lock a person up and invest it instead in jobs, housing, and other initiatives that will keep people out of jail. A nice idea but an unrealistic and dangerous one say his opponents. Thus Krasner becomes, in the words of one commentator, “A hero to some and a bum to others.”
Philly DA is chock full of suits sitting around conference tables but it is a gripping watch, big city politics brought to life in all its raw, chaotic glory. The viewer gets to know Krasner’s team, many of them young, idealistic and relatively new to the game, but it is the DA himself who comes under most scrutiny. “It is nice to have power instead of outrage,” he says.
But with great power, etc, comes great responsibility and huge scrutiny. Many wish him to fail, and it is not long before the new brooms sweep up a storm.
Diana (STV, Thursday, 9pm) is a new documentary to mark what would have been the princess’s 60th birthday on July 1. Since that dreadful day in 1997 it has seemed at times that Diana has never been far from the news. The recent scandal over Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana for Panorama brought much back that was all too familiar. Can there be much left to say about a life examined so exhaustively?
Director Jemma Chisnall and producer Suzy Gregg believe so, with their film promising new footage and fresh testimony from people who came into contact with the princess back when she was plain Diana Spencer, and those who met her after she became the most famous woman in the world.
Tonight brings the final instalment of Jimmy McGovern’s prison drama starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham (Time, BBC1, Tonight, 9pm). Like many a McGovern work this tense, involving three-parter has made the viewer question their assumptions about crime and punishment and the state of the prison service. It is not just Philadelphia that has a problem with its prisons. You do wonder what Larry Krasner would make of our system.
Philly DA is full of suits sitting around conference tables, but it is a gripping watch, big city politics brought to life in all its raw, chaotic glory