The Liverpool-set series was postponed from last week, quite rightly so, as the relentless sadness of the drama would have been too much after the bombing in Manchester, but if you needed a reminder of how it feels to be human McGovern delivers it with both barrels.
Big, burly hard man Sean Bean plays Father Michael – no, wait, he’s fantastic as a tenderhearted character – trying to do his best for his hard-up parishioners. One of whom is Christina (Anna Friel) a skint, out of work, single mother. She lost her job after “borrowing” money from the till, then had a punch up with the manager and can’t claim benefits for 13 weeks.
Father Michael tries to help; he sees Christine can’t afford a fancy dress for her daughter’s first communion and tries to get the children to take it in their school uniforms.
He’s a good man, but has his own demons. Flashbacks to his childhood were utterly heartbreaking; a mother screaming “You dirty, filthy beast, have you got no ****** shame?” at the poor mite for reasons as yet unexplained; young Michael reciting a beautiful poem he’d written, only for his teacher to scream “WHO HELPED YOU?” and give him the tawse across his hand.
No wonder Michael is full of doubt. And now his mother is dying and needs him, as his hopeless brothers won’t share the load of her care.
Sean Bean as Father Michael in Jimmy McGovern’s very human new BBC drama, Broken
Christine has mother issues, too. Hers died unexpectedly, and the big twist in Broken was that she kept her mother’s death a secret for days until she could claim her pension money.
Deeply sad? Yes. Depressing? Yes. But McGovern’s very human dramas, with their beautiful detail, are a necessity in a television schedule full of flash types on reality shows.
Seeing Father Michael tucked up in bed, reflecting while he’s reading the Bible and listening to the Shipping Forecast; and, most powerfully, a long, silent, scene where Christine discovers her dead mother and caresses her face, were rare moments of stillness on the box and illustrate that McGovern isn’t afraid to show that into each life a little rain must fall. Even if in some cases, in his work, it’s a hurricane.
The use of music in Broken was exceptional, too. I was welling up at the use of Nina Simone’s version of Randy Newman’s bleak but beautiful I Think It’s Going To Rain Today at the beginning of the drama and was floored when Simone sang I Get Along Without You Very Well to accompany shots of Christine’s loneliness.
Broken is visceral viewing but, ultimately, it’s about the basic human values of love, duty and faith. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, which hopefully includes more of Line Of Duty’s Adrian Dunbar as Father Michael’s confidante Father Peter.
Grayson Perry said he was pleased the two vases ended up so similar
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If you’re not religious, the nation’s number one secular confessor is Grayson Perry. Everyone wants to spill all to the artist, who introduced his Divided Britain (C4, Tuesday) show in rather cooler vestments than Father Michael’s – a Little Bo Peep frock and bonnet.
He left the frocks at home to visit Lincolnshire’s Boston and London’s Hackney (the places in Britain which most strongly voted for Leave and Remain) to talk to Brexit remainers and leavers, and make a pair of giant vases reflecting their views in his studio. “The ‘leave’ pot is… maybe as much as 4 per cent larger,” he said with his fabulously dirty laugh.
It’s getting quite repetitious to say how great Perry is at interviewing the Great British Public, but he gets under the skin of his interviewees brilliantly and non judgmentally. He even got a young Lithuanian man in Boston to admit that he’d have voted for Brexit. And for anyone who thought that remainer Perry would give the leavers a hard time, I, a fellow remainer, came away not liking the Hackney yummy yoga mummies much. As for the Sober Daytime Rave in the borough, I still can’t wipe the sneer from my face.
Brexit: Results of how the UK voted Mon, March 20, 2017
Much of the North East of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union including Sunderland, Gateshead, Darlington, Durham, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside, and Northumberland
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GREAT YARMOUTH: The town of Great Yarmouth on the East Coast of England voted by 72% to leave the European Union.
Like Broken, it’s the details Perry and his production team show that make his programmes very human, such as the Leavers in a genteel Boston club choosing Ferrero Rocher chocolates; and the cracked heels in Jesus sandals of a Remain protester.
And the pots at the end? Almost identical, funnily enough. “We dislike no one as much as those that are nearly the same as us,” Perry concluded, cosily, but conceded that the argument would rumble on.
Even the power of Perry and his pots couldn’t cover up the cracks in the Brexit divide but it was an enjoyable journey. More, next, on how Perry actually makes those pots and those fantastic glazes. You can feel me straining to make a joke about ancient Crackerjack presenters, can’t you?
Now, who’s the shoo-in presenter of a documentary about Muhammad Ali? That’s right, comedian Frank Skinner who was inspired by Ali’s comic gifts as much as his sporting abilities, and the programme was all the better for not having an earnest, sporty, angle.
Frank Skinner On Muhammad Ali dug up some genuinely surprising facts
Frank Skinner On Muhammad Ali (BBC1, Thursday) did the usual biographical thing, with access to Ali’s family, but also dug up some genuinely surprising facts. I didn’t know that after he was banned from boxing due to his opposition to the Vietnam War he starred in a Black Power musical called Buck White, and that Ali became good friends with a British bareknuckle fighter called Paddy Monaghan who had started a pro-Ali campaign.
It was fun to see Skinner and Paddy’s son Tyrone recreate the Ali v Joe Frazier Fight Of The Century outside the Monaghan house on a council estate that Ali visited a dozen times.
A good interviewer, that Skinner chap. If we can get him on a potter’s wheel and in a frock, maybe Grayson Perry has a rival.
David Stephenson will be back next week.