There’s only one show in town this week on Telly Addict, and it’s the one about the big house in Yorkshire with the servants and masters and Labrador. Downton on ITV dominates, but there’s drama, too, from The Fried Chicken Shop on C4, Peaky Blinders on BBC2 and Whitechapel on ITV; plus, a glorious BBC4 history of soundtracks, Sound Of Cinema with Neil Brand, and a bafflingly-scheduled new sitcom on BBC1, Father Figure, which I would have loved as a kid.
I love it when an accidental plan comes together, as it did with this week’s Telly Addict. It begins with Blackout, C4′s “what-if” dramumentary about a massive power cut and the inevitable slide into anarchy and death; we follow with Peaky Blinders, BBC2′s major landmark new drama – you can tell, they’ve commissioned six whole episodes – a period gangster saga set in Birmingham in 1919 when it was very dark; I mark the satisfying denouement of What Remains on BBC1, but avoid spoilers by referring you back to the body discovered in Episode 1 in the dark loft; Bates Motel on Universal, the noirish prequel to Psycho, is also pretty dingy, its neon sign emerging from the darkness; and there my random theme collapses, in time for two stories of the Jews: The Story Of The Jews by Simon Schama on BBC2, and Robert Peston Goes Shopping, a history of British retail, also on BBC2; oh, and a lovely clip from Press Preview on Sky News last week of three professional news people corpsing like schoolchildren.
An educational Telly Addict this week. Well, the schools have gone back, and the nights are drawing in. Paying brief thematic respect to Big School on BBC1, Bad Education on BBC3 and Waterloo Road on BBC1, we give the following documentaries a double-period: Harrow: A Very British School on Sky1, and the far more relevant Educating Yorkshire on C4; then it’s a lip-smacking erotic montage from The Great British Bake Off on BBC2; congrats to this year’s Celebrity Masterchef, on BBC1; a warm on the re-entrance of Jon Stewart to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show; and a doff of the hardhat to the exceptional Rebuilding The World Trade Center on C4. See me.
We must sit on our hands and address the return of The X-Factor to ITV this week on Telly Addict, the Roman Empire of TV formats – even though I only managed to sit through ten minutes of it; on a more progressive note, HBO’s The Newsroom also returns to Sky Atlantic; the houseshare whodunit What Remains proves a welcome addition to Sunday nights on BBC1; Celebrity Masterchef goes synch crazy with the music and the cookery; Ben Miller meets His Hero Tony Hancock in My Hero on BBC2; and Chickens on Sky1 gets a quick mention because I rather like it.
We’ve hit that competitive cookery sweet spot where Celebrity Masterchef is still on BBC1 as The Great British Bake Off begins on BBC2. A mouth-watering week for Telly Addict, then, with an unholy amount of blue tape around its ravaged fingers and thumbs. More blood and guts – for one unfortunate farm animal at any rate – on Under The Dome, Channel 5’s latest import, this time a CBS adaptation of a fat Stephen King novel about a town in Maine that’s … under a dome; the welcome return of Top Boy to C4, proving that the channel can look at the vexed issue of poverty – or at least an underground capitalist economy – without humiliating anyone; and the finale of season one of The Americans on ITV, which ended as it began with a period-appropriate song. No room for Sky1’s promising Chickens or BBC1’s intriguing What Remains this week; will remedy that next week.
Well, don’t expect any clips, as Netflix weren’t able to supply any, but Gawd bless them anyway (love Netflix, hate not having any clips), as without them the only way to see the second act of Breaking Bad’s fifth and final season without being American would involve breaking the law. It dominates this week’s running-late Telly Addict, which also finds time for the C4 documentary Crazy About One Direction; the promising US crime import Low Winter Sun on Fox; an approving nod to the end of series one of Love/Hate on Channel 5; and another unsavoury documentary humiliating people on “welfare”, Benefits Britain 1949, also on C4.
It is with some solemnity on Telly Addict that we reach the end of Friday Night Lights, which Sky Atlantic have very kindly shown from the start on a weekly, box-set basis, over the preceding 76 weeks; Peter Berg and his dedicated team certainly knew how to end the saga of a high-school football team (or two high school football teams), which wasn’t about high school football. Also, a new beginning for BBC1′s That Puppet Game Show (and hopefully a swift end); a return for the excellent, 80s-set The Field Of Blood to BBC2; part three of the temporally fractured Southcliffe on C4; and Jacques Peretti’s revealing The Men Who Made Us Thin on BBC2. Next week: Breaking Bad. Oh yes.
It’s grim up Telly Addict this week. With C4 having made the strategic decision to own August, the historically authentic 19th century austerity reenactment The Mill began last Sunday, and this week it was joined to form a sort of wrist-slitting “theme evening” by Southcliffe, a fictional smalltown rent asunder by tragedy to sit alongside Broadchurch and, less fictionally, Hungerford and Dunblane. With a week having passed since the intrinsically disappointing finale of The Returned, also on C4 and also low on canned laughter, we tot up how many questions remain unanswered in that waterlogged Alpine hamlet; and, for double light relief from all this death and doom, on BBC1: competitive cookery with Celebrity Masterchef series eight, and codger crime-solving with New Tricks series ten (and the first episode of this hugely popular show I’ve ever seen).
Yes, it’s quite a solemn moment on this week’s Telly Addict. The last ever BBC4 “karaoke drama” about depressed comedians, batty writers and drunk actors: Burton & Taylor. But what a curtain call! And what a fine, channel-defining portfolio it completes. (Well, not channel-defining any more, thanks to the Murdoch/Cameron project Delivering Quality First.) Also made by the BBC, Badults on BBC3, but I can’t review that for obvious reasons, so instead we welcome back Phoneshop for its third series to E4; also, something new, an Irish import, from RTÉ1, Love/Hate on Channel Five; Why Don’t You Speak English?, a social-issues doc on C4 that actually had something worthwhile to say; and a glimpse of The Mill on C4, which I’ll review properly next week. I haven’t done the final episode of The Returned, as it’s impossible to discuss at this early stage without spoilers. There are plenty of places to discuss its failings and its glories elsewhere on the Guardian site.
Sorry, got distracted this week on Telly Addict by a gloriously pointless and condescending documentary on BBC1, Britain’s Favourite Supermarket Foods, which ought to have been on CBBC, except it might have been rejected by that channel’s core audience for being too facile (but full marks to presenter Cherry Healey for giving it her all). More meat was to be found on the estate-set drama Run on C4, a four-parter so unrelentingly grim I decided not to watch it over the prescribed four consecutive night, but spread its grimness out over four weeks; Family Tree on BBC2 was an expectedly gentle comic treat; there was more humanity on Route Masters on BBC2; The Americans pulled me back in on ITV; and law-firm fixer procedural Ray Donovan from Showtime made a big impression on Sky Atlantic. But what is Britain’s favourite supermarket food? Find out in part two next week. I expect.