Satisfying conclusion for Dark Money

Satisfying conclusion for Dark Money Isaac Mensah is played by Max Fincham in BBC1’s Dark Money

We’ve had the exposure of child abuse scandals in the Church, in sports, in scouting and there’s been the #MeToo movement. But I still feel there’s a scandal to hear about relating to the abuse of children in the film industry. A few years ago former child actor Corey Feldman made accusations but it didn’t gain much traction.

Now with the BBC1 drama series Dark Money, which finished on Tuesday, that issue is again under the spotlight.

The plot features a child actor from the UK who is abused by a producer while filming in Hollywood. The distraught parents, trying to do their best for the boy but not accessing much in the way of legal advice, are pushed into a huge financial settlement on condition of non-disclosure. Cue months of stress, guilt, broken relationships and the downward spiral of the young boy in a toxic combination of guilt, arrogance and entitlement – all of which he’s too young to cope with.

To add another layer, his older sister, who feels left out and possibly jealous, is asked hugely intrusive questions when trying out for a reality TV show Shacked Up in Ibiza! At least she maintains her dignity.

It’s not relaxing – the topic, the tension and sense of foreboding are maintained to the point of discomfort. The acting is first class, and the minor characters well drawn. There’s infrequent rough language, but on the whole the approach is responsible, sensitive and not all prurient or exploitative.

Melodramatic

The last episode might have turned melodramatic but turned back from that particular precipice, and the ending I found really satisfying.

I have mixed feelings about US sitcom Last Man Standing (5 Star, Tuesday) starring comedian Tim Allen coping with a house full of women – a wife and three daughters.

It can be funny, moving, and annoying too – e.g. I’m uneasy with how much the Allen character likes guns (he runs an outdoor sports store).

The Allen character Mike Baxter is a Republican and in the past has thrown plenty of digs Obama’s way but other characters, including one of the daughters and especially son-in-law Ryan have different views leading to lots of political banter.

At times it seems to promote traditional family values and we often see the family saying grace or attending church.

In last week’s episode, however, some of the adult children casually try a séance as if it’s a harmless joke – complete with Bernie Sanders ‘Keep the Flame Alive’ candles! We are reminded that Ryan runs a pot shop which he has taken over from Mike’s father, with Mike’s reluctant approval – marijuana is legal in Colorado where the show is set, and that’s often seen as a joke too.  So, it’s a rather odd mix of values.

I’ve written previously that I’m not a fan of the approach to religion in US comedy series Young Sheldon (RTÉ 2 and E4). Too often it seems rather dismissive, patronising and maybe even mocking, though sometimes what is being sent up is the poor attempt at religiosity by some of God’s children. Whatever the case, I found last Wednesday’s episode on RTÉ2 rather moving.

The most genuinely religious person, Mary, young Sheldon’s mother, has a crisis of faith after the death of a young girl in a car accident. Pastor Jeff, a rather ambiguous character constantly harried by the awkward questions Sheldon poses in church, says he has doubts too but deals with it by throwing himself into even more intense religious practice.

Mary tries, and there’s a striking scene where she prays in her newly-constructed faith garden. But it doesn’t quite work for her – next she cuts loose with a night of drinking with her mother! Unsurprisingly the experience isn’t enlightening.

In a genuinely touching scene at the end Sheldon, a science-obsessed non-believer, assures her that considering the precision of the universe belief in a creator is quite logical, but more importantly she is moved to tears when he says that of all the people in the world she is exactly the perfect mother for him – ‘what are the odds of that!’

In a related episode on E4 last Friday Mary got upset, fearing she wasn’t a good mother. Her own mother Meemaw puts her right – “you’ve done a fantastic job with those kids” – and reminded her that mothering is “not a job that gets a lot of compliments”.  Nice one.

 

Pick of the Week
SUNDAY SEQUENCE
BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday, July 28, 8.30 am

Topical religious and ethical affairs with Audrey Carville.

QUEST FOR SHAKESPEARE
EWTN, Sunday, July 28, 9 am

Issue of choices and consequences from choices made. Importance of marriage is highlighted.

THE SHED THAT FED A MILLION CHILDREN
EWTN, Tuesday, July 30, 8 am

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow interviews Mary Anne MacFarlane-Barrow on the creation of Mary’s Meals, an initiative that feeds a million children each year.

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