Casualty (BBC1, Saturday)
It’s clearly a much better drama than we thought. Of course, you can’t deny the ratings. But after winning a National Television Award, it was surely worth a second look. Is it more than simply “an accident waiting to happen”?
In the first eight minutes, in one involving scene, a paramedic bent over to tie his shoelaces. Was he about to topple into a hospital trolley? Bump his head on a revolving door? I braced myself. Then a young woman was released from what appeared to be a secure unit and was returned to work. In a kitchen… This did look promising. Within moments she was reaching for a large bladed knife. That’s the spirit. Forget the paramedic shoe storyline, you will need him shortly.
She was then joined by a colleague/carer who did her partronising best to reassure her that everything was wonderful in her world. It clearly wasn’t. But in a spectacular volte face she eschewed the cleaver for a gleaming wok and whacked the other woman over the head. A true woky horror show. Award-winning all the way.
As it was for Call The Midwife (BBC1, Sunday) which won the NTA for the best period drama, and deservedly so. Returning for a new series, it was like easing your feet into a nice pair of slippers lightly warmed by the fire.
It started with the box in the corner. It always does. Judy Parfitt’s wonderful Sister Monica Joan was watching the Test Card, something most of us miss desperately and which often compares favourably with Casualty.
Not only that, but she was dancing to the Test Card soundtrack (soon to be released on vinyl), a jazz-infused ditty, which had her shuffling around Nonnatus House without a care in the world. But as always, someone was about to spoil Sister Monica’s other-worldly bliss which typically involves Bible rapping, or randomly uttering verses from the Old Testament in a desperate attempt to find meaning. For the devout, a sermon.
Her reverie, however, was interrupted by Dame Harriet Walter’s strident Sister Ursula, the new boss woman who was set on throwing her wimple around in an aggressive manner. “You’re gyrating in front of the TV,” she told her abruptly. Thank goodness she wasn’t watching the Magic Roundabout or she would have been sent to the then Priory to dry out.
Sister Ursula is not a pleasant character, which marks quite a departure for Harriet Walter, certainly if you’re a fan of early 1990S drama and The Men’s Room, in which she was much more generous with her favours.
Perhaps the nurses in Nonnatus House would like a DVD of the “mini-series”, starring Walter, Bill Nighy and Amanda Redman. It would give them much to titter about in their quarters.
Walter’s tyrant continued on her sour way, creating Biscuitgate among the expectant mothers, and general friction in the nunnery. Will this woman stop at nothing? She outlawed what she called “eating for two,” before declaring, “It should be about careful nutrition not self-indulgence.”
If only Sister Ursula had been around during the Edwardian era. She would have been a cult leader. We were transported there in the excellent series Further Back In Time For Dinner (BBC2, Tuesday), in which the amount of conspicuous consumption would have driven the cast of Sugar Free Farm to the sick bucket.
Even the list of what a middle-class family order from their suppliers was volumous: “three pecks of spuds, and 24 loaves of bread” in one week. How much is “three pecks”? Ask Peter Piper. He knows. A lot, basically, which was rather the point of the first episode in which the family hired a maid, Debbie, who kindly did everything in the home, cooked and cleaned and behaved in a generally obsequious manner in return for a pittance. How much is pittance? Less than a peck.
We can hardly wait for these times to return. Servitude, which generally involved all the family sitting around doing nothing but listen to their rampant indigestion, was done away with much too soon. The middle classes – including Theresa May’s beloved Jams – might stop complaining about their lot.
One evening Debbie, uncomplainingly, cooked eight courses for eight people, including turtle soup boiled from a calf’s head. Waste not; want not. It was all served by Levitt, the butler, who has apparently served Royalty and was bowing so much he practically fell over his scraping. This was backed up the following morning by lamb chops for breakfast. Thank goodness cholesterol wasn’t invented until 1916.
Fortitude (Sky Atlantic, Thursday) has returned for a second series. The first one ended with a cacophony of plot. Wasps were bursting from human flesh in the Icelandic fictional town as a virus from a mammoth threatened the end of cod fishing as we know it.
The best TV for 2017
Fri, December 9, 2016
Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Homeland, The Voice UK and more. Here's the best TV coming your way in 2017.
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The Best TV to watch out for in 2017 including Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Homeland & The Voice UK
The first three minutes of the bonkers new season was like The Walking Dead done for CBeebies. We flashed back to 1942 to see a man in a tent apparently doing his best not to cannibalise a baby. He was shot three times but walked off into a snowstorm none the worse. He’ll be back, I expect.
When we returned to modern times, mayor Sofie Grabol (The Killing) continued to almost run a town occupied by, shall we say, challenging folk. One enterprising chap took an axe to the local supermarket, while another literally lost his head on the road into town. How careless.