YOU wait ages for a half-decent programme on Sky Living and three come along at once.
Drama Matters - Sky Living, Tuesday, Thursday, 9pm
The Blacklist - Sky Living, Friday, 9pm
The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek - BBC2, Sunday, 7.30pm
Drama Matters is a new season billed as being “made by women, for women”, and the first of them was up against Barcelona in the Champions League, which might have been expected to keep its male audience to a barely detectable level. But during a lull in the game – actually a period of sustained passing brilliance but you can have too much of a good thing – I switched over to The Psychopath Next Door and stayed with it. Guys, I watched Anna Friel totter about in a spray-on dress and vertiginous red heels so you didn’t have to.
She tottered and yowled like a dog and flashed at kids and glugged red wine and arranged for one of her neighbours to have her legs broken – by the waiter she shagged in his kitchen, minutes after meeting him. Yes, Eve Wright was quite a part for Friel: a psychiatrist in need of a shrink herself, leaving at least one disgruntled and disturbed patient behind her, moving to the kind of antiseptic estate beloved of TV (Desperate Housewives and, recently, The Guilty) and causing mayhem with her conniving, her curves and her creepiness.
It was a lot to pack in to 50-odd minutes because all of the Drama Matters films are, for the moment, one-offs. I’m no expert, but The Psychopath Next Door seemed to capture how women behave around each other, what they talk about. This was down to the likes of Eva Birthistle and Claire Keelan, mainstays of the all-girl jogging club and also the gossipy wine nights set against feature-wall backdrops. Almost inevitably, though, some bits felt rushed. When Friel’s femme fatale arranged for her ex-patient to undergo ECT it was quite a shock (more so for the unfortunate woman, of course). Would I like to see a whole series of The Psychopath Next Door? Well, not at the expense of a full outing for Lawless, shown two nights later.
In this one, Suranne Jones was Lila Pettitt, an ambitious lawyer newly appointed Britain’s youngest female judge. “Box-ticking and equal ops,” sneered male colleagues, to which she replied: “Whether you like it or not, I’m going to be sitting there on my fanny with my tits out in front of me, dispensing justice.” She began confidently, and didn’t seem fazed when her workload was increased when a male judge called off sick. It was explained that “food poisoning” probably meant “Tarquin’s school speech-day or an earlier flight to Val d’Isère”. There were people looking out for her, willing her to succeed. The support cast included Lindsay Duncan, Paul Higgins and Jonathan Cake. The latter was a QC who had a hand in her getting the job. He then tried to stick a hand up her skirt and, when the advances were repelled, he turned up in her court to destroy the victim of an alleged sexual assault. If anything, the last ten minutes were more rushed than those in The Psychopath Next Door, the ending more unsatisfactory. But I reckon Lawless has more series potential, maybe even as a rival to Silk.
The new American crime thriller The Blacklist had another woman starting out in a job: FBI agent Elizabeth Keen. She actually slept in, and anticipated her first day being quiet enough to allow her to attend an adoption meeting. By the end of it, her husband was on a life-support machine, a box under the floorboards told her he wasn’t who he said he was, and her life had become inextricably linked with that of Bureau-man-turned-supercriminal Raymond Reddington.
As the series unfolds, he’ll be willing to supply info on some right bad yins – the blacklist – but will only speak to Keen. She’s played by Megan Boone, who has the standard-issue long auburn hair, vest-top, tough pout and troubled backstory.
There were exciting moments in the opener and also schlocky ones – no bad thing – but the real reason I’ll probably keep watching is James Spader. There are obvious comparisons with The Silence Of The Lambs and Hannibal Lecter, but Spader has always had slithery, chilling qualities all of his own.
The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek is a new sketch show, hot from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It’s not the much-missed Burnistoun – gonnae come back, Jolly Boy John, gonnae? – but I liked the desperate seagulls who hold up chip shops, the dance auditions where the director’s every utterance is interpreted, the soldiers trapped under heavy fire who request the Sonic Ground Weapon (James Blunt simpering “You’re bew-tee-fewl…”) and the wartime codebreakers stumped by the female mind: “There’s no logic to it, no reason, sir – it’s as if they’re cleverer than us.”
Breathless Thursday, STV, 9pm
“Jack Davenport stars in the British Mad Men,” states the Radio Times. Not again. The Hour was supposed to be the British Mad Men and that’s been cancelled. This one is a medical drama, it’s perkily optimistic 1961 and Davenport (left) is a handsome gynaecologist.
Tubular Bells: The Mike Oldfield Story Friday, BBC4, 9pm
An all-instrumental album with just one song – how was that going to fly? TB sold 16 million copies. “It just feels like yesterday,” says Oldfield, relaxing in 16 million copies’ worth of comfort. Funnily enough, I was just playing it yesterday. All together now: “Grand piano ... glockenspiel ... ”
Homeland Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm
Back for a third season, Carrie (Claire Danes) is up before a Senate hearing. “I’m asking,” demands the stern-faced man, “just how cosy the CIA got with a traitor who went on to kill 219 Americans.” Now there’s a question and a half.