The Scottish Mail on Sunday
‘Brilliant’ Professor T? He gets a D minus from me
Oh God, ITV, what on earth have you landed us with here? That’s what I kept thinking during the hour that followed. Serial rapes, graphically shown, over and over, accompanied by that light-hearted banter in keeping with its Sunday-night time slot? How could the tone of this be right in anyone’s book? It even made me long for McDonald & Dodds and someone accidentally falling to their death from a hot-air balloon. (Or were they pushed?)
The deal is this: Professor Jasper Tempest, played by Ben Miller, teaches forensic criminology at Cambridge and is one of those eccentric oddballs who is also ‘brilliant’, in the manner of Sherlock or Monk or House. He has various OCDs. His pens must be lined up, his shoes must be buffed, his flat is sterile and he wears latex gloves at all times.
A former student, Lisa Donckers (Emma Naomi), then trucks up. She is now a detective and pleads with him to help her with her latest case. (Only you can solve this, Professor, etc, etc; truly, there is nothing new under the sun.) We saw her latest case in the opening minutes when a woman student was dragged into a toilet cubicle by a balaclavawearing man with his hand over her mouth to mute her screams. It even made me long for that McDonald & Dodds episode where the wealthy fella died in the swish rehab place. Suicide? Or murder?
This is rape as lurid plot point with no thought put into it at all and no care taken. Later, we were shown another rape, one that happened before the show’s timeline, and then it’s an attempted rape and, towards the end, all three events again in flashback.
Shows such as Netflix’s Unbelievable or even Broadchurch (season three) have shown the care you could, and should, take, but here rape is purely used as a means to tell a story about this ‘eccentric but brilliant’ man. That scene where he interviews the first woman, the one dragged into the toilet cubicle, to unlock her memories, where it’s just him and her and she has no support or anything? Where she relives her trauma? Ugh. As for the bants, what about Lisa being joshed over her relationship with a fellow detective, while at the crime scene? Ugh.
OK, I’ll stop ranting now. So, elsewhere we had Jasper’s surreal visions, his comedic mother (Frances de la Tour), flashbacks to his own childhood trauma, which amounted to no more than being made to wear a poloneck, and the revelation that he was once involved with Lisa’s boss, Christina (Juliet Aubrey). I hoped he took his gloves off for that, but who can say?
Throughout, I did question just how ‘brilliant’ this ‘brilliant’ professor is. Wasn’t it just basic neurology and then suddenly knowing stuff he couldn’t possibly know? All that said, Miller plays this role nicely, even if the character is hardly multi-layered or Cracker, and Frances de la Tour is always wonderful, whatever, and improves anything she is in.
Maybe this will have legs – there are five more self-contained episodes to go – but one sincerely hopes it’ll stick to, say, investigating a serial bike thief in future. Otherwise, I’m out.
The stunningly gifted Amy Winehouse – described by Tony Bennett as ‘one of the truest jazz singers that ever lived’ – died from alcohol poisoning at only 27, and Reclaiming Amy wanted to reclaim her, it transpired, from Asif Kapadia’s Oscarwinning documentary (Amy, 2015), which implicitly accused those who were closest to her of failing her in various ways.
This documentary was made by her mother Janis ‘to help other families like us’ and to veer away from ‘the caricature’ and ‘to celebrate Amy for the incredible, complex woman she was’. Janis has, until now, been a strangely absent figure, but much was explained when she said that, at the time of Amy’s death, she was struggling with her own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. ‘As her health got worse, mine got worse,’ she said, ‘and I could only watch.’
Janis spoke at length, as did Amy’s father, the ‘limelight-loving’ Mitch, who did not come out well from Kapadia’s film, which led to him, he said, having a ‘nervous breakdown’. As parents they were probably out of their depth but no more, and no less, than you or I would be if our child became super-famous and was introduced to heroin. I would suggest.
There were contributions from Amy’s best friends, who said she did not respond well to entreaties that she needed help – it was like ‘picking up a feral cat’ – but it was Janis who narrated, and Janis who owned this, as a mother who had lost her daughter.
It was Janis, for instance, who identified Amy’s body and screamed ‘Get up, get up!’ because ‘she looked as if she was asleep’. This was personal, and partial, pointing the finger solely at addiction itself, and in that way it was powerfully heartbreaking.
‘I dream about Amy still,’ said her mother at the end. ‘It’s nice.’