Last week I was writing about some new TV dramas and this week I’ll have a look at some reruns and revivals.
Anne With an E (based on the children’s novel Anne of Green Gables) is back on Netflix for a second series and judging by the first few episodes it’s still maintaining the high quality. From the gorgeous autumnal tones and catchy music of the opening credits to the exemplary acting of young Amybeth McNulty from Donegal the show is a real treat.
There’s a warm gentle humanity about most characters – the longings and lost loves of the unmarried brother and sister that adopt orphan Anne are particularly touching. It’s a glorious tribute to a child’s imagination as we journey with Anne’s flights of fancy.
There’s more prayer (and scones!) in this show than in most TV dramas though the show is not at all preachy and any sentimentality is subtly handled. Adult themes like prostitution and childbirth are touched on and so far there’s a hint that one of the schoolboys is having gender identity issues, perhaps a sop to the politically correct requirements of our time, which feels like an imposition on the original and beloved novel.
As I’ve said before, political correctness can be a guard against hurting the vulnerable but if you don’t fancy its excesses you’ll enjoy the 3rd series of W1A, back on RTÉ1, Monday nights. Here such excesses are hilariously skewered as the BBC gleefully sends itself up.
Head of values Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) comes a cropper on a regular basis as he tries to navigate his way through the requirements of diversity, inclusivity and tight budgets. In last Monday night’s episode had had to deal with the fallout of having a cross dresser imposed on Match of the Day – the guest was hopeless as a sports commentator but they struggled to find a way of moving him without appearing to offend against diversity policies. David Tennant provides a deliciously ironic narration but the character Neil (David Westhead) who is dismissive of all the vanity and hipsterism, provides quite an amount of bad language, usually uttered in frustration.
Hidden is nearing the end of its run on BBC4, on Saturday nights. It’s a dark, slow-moving thriller set in Wales, and quite a bit of the dialogue is in Welsh with subtitles. It’s rather disturbing, with a kidnapping serial killer plot but the characters, including the villain whose identity we know from early on, are three dimensional, which is welcome. One of the vulnerable characters self-harms and I thought this was displayed in way too graphic detail, even to the point of irresponsibility. The pace, mood and even the scheduling suggest emulation of Nordic thrillers and so it won’t be to everybody’s taste. In last Saturday night’s penultimate episode the tension was ratcheted up several notches as the sense of imminent violence grew on several levels.
Finally, on Sunday nights on ITV, there’s the return for a third series of Unforgotten. It’s one of the best of the ITV series, with themes of justice, conscience and guilt abounding, but follows what is by now a predictable pattern – a body is found revealing a murder from years past. Gradually we are introduced to those who may have been involved but who have moved on with their lives.
Long buried secrets (sometimes literally so) are revealed and reconstructed lives collapse. I’m always fascinated by the ways they discover the identity of the remains and make the necessary connections. At this stage it might be getting formulaic but the depth of character and the magnetism of Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar in the lead roles maintain interest.
There are adult themes, and again in this story transgender issues feature in one plot strand. It may be slow moving at times, but this is at the service of the character. In last Sunday night’s episode, for example, there was a long and emotional conversation between the Walker character and the twin sister of the murdered girl (Bronagh Waugh).
In another touching scene, a man who seems to be recovering from mental health issues (James Fleet) receives huge support from a friend and gets a positive response from the woman he has proposed to.
Like all good shows, characters show empathy and care for each, and the show’s writer Chris Lang shows that he cares too.
Pick of the week
SONGS OF PRAISE
BBC1, Sunday, July 29, 3.15 pm
Aled Jones is in Haworth, Yorkshire, exploring the Christian upbringing of Emily Bronte, the author of Wuthering Heights, along with other Christians who’ve inspired.
EWTN, Monday, July 30, 11 am
Fr C. John McCloskey explores the life and work of J.R.R. Tolkien, focusing on his fantasy, The Lord of the Rings.
WOMEN OF GRACE
EWTN, Wednesday, August 1, 4.30 pm
Exploring feminine sexuality and its authority in the Catholic Church.