BIGGEST disappointment of the TV year? That when the BBC asked for all of the second instalment of Harry & Paul to be in Danish, Messrs Enfield and Whitehouse declined. Yes, I know this was one of their jokes, but was the request so improbable, given our obsession with fisherman’s jumpers, dank lighting and haunting three-note piano refrains signalling every plot twist?
Harry and Paul, or Plaul as he became, did give us a taster, from the smorgasbord (the word is actually Swedish but let’s be relaxed, indeed Danish, about such technicalities). The sketch was funny, especially when the subtitles read “The BBC is a uniquely funded public service broadcaster” and Plaul’s gutteral words sounded more like “The BBC is fooked up, huh?” So funny, in fact, that I was worried the comics might have spoiled The Killing III for me. Would I be too eager to spot lapses into self-parody? Would Sarah Lund suddenly seem clodhopping and camp like this was Murder, She Wrote? Not yet, I don’t think. But as we say hello again (“Hej”, pronounced “Hi”) we must also prepare to say goodbye (“Hej hej”). This will be her last ever case, and maybe that’s for the best.
We’re back in very familiar territory. There are the dark, dripping woods to the north of Copenhagen. There’s the missing girl, her parents and their shifting relationship, the half-spelled word, the secret chamber behind some chipboard. Oh, and of course, there’s the big, boxy parliament building and the politicos who – and this phrase is exactly the same in Danish – cannae keep it in the breeks, huh? These are classic Killing motifs, all from the debut season, and after most people seemed to agree that The Killing II wasn’t quite as fantastic as the first one, it’s as if creator Soren Sveistrup has resorted to his original template. Has he painted Lund into a corner? If so, it’s been done brilliantly, but there seems nowhere for her to go now but TV Immortality.
She won’t be heading straight there, unbending in her quest, untroubled by anything save the investigation. After 31 successive episodes of not answering her mother’s calls, the old bat came round to her office and did something it’s almost impossible to do to a Dane: embarrassed her. Now her son is avoiding her, and the act of discovering the lad’s girlfriend is pregnant caused Lund to miss a train, with fatal consequences for a shady prosecutor. The spectacular garroting seemed to challenge Silent Witness, Waking The Dead and all the other homegrown crime sagas which think themselves big and tough and gruesome: beat that, huh?
I know The Killing must end but I don’t want it to. I wish The Hour had never started but find it berserkly hypnotic. How did it go from being the British Mad Men to a silly espionage caper, stopping halfway to frolic in a rustic pile as if Downton Abbey had decreed all TV must do this now? The Hour doesn’t seem to have the nerve to be just about journalism, the BBC and the making of a current affairs programme. Little did it know, I suppose, that Newsnight would be a drama in itself this past while.
We’ve reached 1957 and Peter Capaldi has been drafted in as news editor. First day, he posted this on the staff noticeboard: “No more posh hoose swanking – Ed.” Underneath that: “No more complying with ruddy BBC edict that every minority and type be represented especially since the rule won’t come into force for another 50 years – Ed.” I wish, I wish. He was more concerned that the noticeboard’s spare pins were arranged in a neat pattern. “He fiddles with things,” muttered a colleague. Still, he does have an Air of Mystery. Let’s hope his character develops and that the A of M isn’t clouding the fact that the show doesn’t know what to do with him.
What else? Well, the spy stuff has been replaced by stuff about gangland Soho. The relationship stuff is still pretty soapy. There are still moments when it seems like we’re watching a home-porn retro interiors makeover programme, with some of the acting struggling to outperform the period lampshades and ashtrays. But Dominic West is still pouring drinks like Don Draper, just before going on air and straight afterwards, and Romola Garai is still pouring herself into Joan Harris’s cast-off dresses. So: not all bad.
OK, Crossfire Hurricane, a celebration of the Rolling Stones’ half century scrimped on their later years (the last 30, in fact) but the 1960s footage was terrific. For three years they never managed to finish a show because of all the fighting and fainting in the audience – “and these floods running between the seats,” recalled Bill Wyman. “Girls wet themselves when they get excited.”
The Killing III
BBC4, Saturday, 9pm
BBC2, Wednesday, 9pm
BBC2, Saturday, 10.15pm