We’re well used to TV dramas scheduled for one episode per week, and in these days of box set binging (even if the ‘box’ is often virtual) it’s a nice kind of anticipation.
Last week, however, ITV ran the new drama Trauma for three nights in a row. Tense and intriguing, with several unlikely plot strands, it concerned the stabbing of a teenage boy, whose father showed little concern as to who did it but instead became fixated with the surgeon who operated on the boy, and, allegedly made a mistake in the process.
It became a study in obsession, and in the arrogance and stubbornness of two fathers. Adrian Lester as the former and John Simm as the latter did really well though I think their performances were better than the plot, which reached a climax of intense menace.
By modern standards (or lack of) it was relatively restrained, with the violence downplayed. The surgeon’s school-going daughter was pursuing a same-sex relationship, irrelevant to the plot, and we were assured this was normal. At a church funeral there was a eulogy featuring a dour declaration of atheism, though it was in character for the person delivering it.
On the night that this show launched, BBC also started a new series. Collateral (BBC 2) opened with the shooting of a pizza delivery person, who was Muslim, so issues of racism were raised, though pretty quickly it seemed this was more than a random attack, with suggestions of security force involvement.
Carey Mulligan was somewhat inscrutable as the lead detective, foul mouthed with colleagues, sympathetic with witnesses. Nicola Walker, always watchable, played a lesbian vicar who has a gay bishop – she’s out but he’s in. Mind you, she does object to profanity – I think it’s the first time I’ve heard a fictional character scolding another one for using the holy name in vain. She wondered if she was being hypocritical.
Last Sunday night saw the start of another BBC drama, Hold the Sunset (BBC1) a new sitcom starring John Cleese, his first since Fawlty Towers. It’s a pleasant, mildly amusing comedy, with some sharp scripting and a few weak moments as well (‘man gets stuck in window’!). In this late-life romance story, the humour is gentle and as it is broadcast before the watershed, there’s no adult content. I suspect it might become a slow-burning hit over time, thanks to the likeable characters and the fine acting by Cleese, Alison Steadman, Rosie Cavaliero and Jason Watkins.
Cleese’s Phil is irascible at times but not remotely as much as Basil Fawlty, while his kind neighbour Edith finally agrees to marry him. Plans are upset when her middle aged son splits from his wife and comes home to relive his youth. Awkward!
The funniest show I saw during the week was last Sunday morning’s episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (Channel 4). In this episode Debra’s sister Jennifer announced she was going to become a nun, much to the surprise of the family as she had been a freewheeling hippy in her younger days.
The family was awkward about it and of course the situation was thoroughly milked for comedy, though the vocation was treated respectfully. There were references to ‘the nun thing’ and ‘the nun phase’, and to The Singing Nun with her 60’s hit Dominique. When Jennifer wanted to go to 6.30am Mass, Ray asked “Is God even up then?”
There was a touching moment when Debra finally explained why she was upset – she hadn’t seen much of her sister in recent years, and now she is off on the missions, to Zaire. She declared, tearfully, “I want a sister, not a Sister sister”.
Finally, the children’s series Magical Sites runs weekday mornings on RTÉ2. Various Irish heritage sites are visited by young children, and at times they are visited by characters from the past that explain the historical or religious background.
Last week, on the Tuesday, the children visited the high crosses of Kells and explored the weather-worn artwork.
A young girl from the past drew attention to the engravings that depicted the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den and that of the Baptism of Jesus.
The series, which also includes visits to Glendalough, Monasterboice and some pre-Christian sites is available on the RTÉ Player until March 1.
Pick of the week
BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday, February 25, 8.30 am
Discussion of topical religious and ethical issues.
RTÉ1, Sunday, February 25, 11.00 am
Mass with congregation and choir from St Agnes Parish, Crumlin, Dublin. Celebrant, Fr. Paul Tyrrell. Musical director is Mary Louise O’ Donnell.
EWTN, Monday, February 26, 11 am (also Friday 7 pm)
Fr C. John McCloskey and guest expert Dr Robert Royal explore the life and work of the great French poet and dramatist Paul Claudel.