In today’s world, people have kids and settle down so late in life that by the time they’ve become restless and are searching for meaning and adventure, they’re not actually that far off retirement age.
The personal crisis in Apple Tree Yard (Sunday BBC2) affects a couple with a grown-up daughter, who is expecting her own baby, and a house sufficiently far from town that they’re wondering if it’s worth commuting every day. Do people at that point in their lives decide to rock the boat or even jump right out of it without a life jacket?
Is it only men who get the 30-year itch? Amanda Coe’s adaptation of Louise Doughty’s novel started on interesting ground, with geneticist Yvonne Carmichael in handcuffs, facing trial for some unexplained crime. We then flashed back to where it all went wrong, specifically, her justifying her work to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
Both Apple Tree Yard and Call the Midwife proved a welcome slot on the weekend's TV entertainment
Afterwards, the wolfishly good-looking Mark Costley (Ben Chaplin) sidled up, said he had enjoyed her talk and asked if she had ever seen the chapel under the crypt. In Westminster terms, this must be the equivalent of, ‘Do you want to see my etchings?’ because high-flying scientist and respectably married mother-of-two Yvonne (Emily Watson) went down there with this chap, and in a sense never came back.
With a grown-up family, a husband plainly doing his own philandering and a great deal of rather oily pressure from Costley, Yvonne was swiftly pulled into a torrid affair, involving alfresco couplings, secret mobile phones and an almost psychotic obsession with CCTV cameras.
After what seemed an improbably long time, Yvonne realised her lover’s vagueness about his job and general shiftiness probably meant he was a spy of some sort.
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The Best TV to watch out for in 2017 including Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Homeland & The Voice UK
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Apple Tree Yard followed the unforgiving mid-life crisis affair of Emily Watson's character
We know from the beginning that it’s all going to end very badly for Yvonne and regardless of the pretentious voiceover and the faint whiff of Fifty Shades, watching it all happen is very addictive. Women’s midlife crises don’t get much attention, dramatically speaking, and when they do it tends to be of the gentle, restless sort. This is ugly, sleazy, passionate and dangerous – and why shouldn’t it be?
A new season of Call The Midwife (Sunday, BBC1) also kicked off with a firm reminder of the show’s credentials. Back at Nonnatus House, those folk who had not gone off to Africa for the Christmas special were chafing under the rule of Sister Ursula (Harriet Walter) and counting the days until she went away. As the African team returned, though, a phone call brought dire news.
Call the Midwife once again proved itself to be a good show
Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) was demoted, Sister Ursula was in charge. This meant the new television was out, frugal lunches were in and things like compassion and understanding were replaced with the rule book. Tensions inside the house were mirrored in the main story of Trudy (Pearl Appleby), a young mother trying to escape a violent husband.
The script made no bones about it, everything was stacked against abused women in that era, from the attitude of the police and social services to the feelings of their own families. This was seriously gritty in its depictions of domestic violence and hard-heartedness.
Lucy Speed did a splendid turn as Trudy’s Mum Zelda – brassy blonde, tough as a dray horse and thankfully, like dray horses, a dying breed.