Aidan Smith reviews some of the week’s TV, and gives his picks of the week’s telly
Mayday - BBC1, Sunday-Thursday, 9pm
Broadchurch - STV, Monday, 9pm
The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople - BBC4, Friday, 10pm
THERE was a remarkable moment in recent British television history at about a quarter to ten last Monday night. The most popular terrestrial channel was showing a drama set in a small rural town where something terrible had happened to a child and suddenly the man you’d least suspected was behaving furtively. Meanwhile, the second most popular channel was showing a drama set in a small rural town and – yes, same plot, same twist.
Both Mayday and Broadchurch were made by the same production company. So much for choice. And to think we used to complain when the tellyscape almost entirely consisted of James Burke (groovy specs, though), Sooty, Sweep (loved that psycho-hound), Katie Boyle and the cast of Green Acres. Remember Green Acres? Eva Gabor as a reluctant country bumpkin. If you’ve ever fancied leaving the teeming city behind for a quieter life with fields out the back and bags of community spirit, Mayday and Broadchurch might have forced a drastic rethink.
Mayday began with pretensions of community spirit: annual May Queen parade, the town dressed up. But then the Queen, just 14, went missing and as search parties/vigilante mobs mustered, as fathers lashed out at sons and wives deprived husbands of their sheds, it quickly became apparent that everyone hated each other.
Four men were in the frame for what turned into a murder, including the local looney who talked to trees and a polisman. There was some pleasing Dennis Potter-style creepiness early on, but after five consecutive nights this became a distant memory, lost in the woods of a drama that was too dragged out. It felt like punishment to report back every night and watch the place fester, very slowly.
Mayday dominated the week to the extent I almost forgot what I’d watched before it began. Had Broadchurch really been a vehicle for Bill Tennent, doughnut-loving Coocaddens anchor of fond memory? David Tennant, actually. Det Insp David Tennant, trying to rebuild his career in a nothing-ever-happens place after some unfortunate business on a child murder inquiry when – guess what? He got caught up in another one.
Being on the Beeb, Mayday had acid-tripping artiness, but ITV tends to signpost its crime dramas. The very first shot, in fact, was of a signpost, paint peeling: “Love thy neighbour”. A fitting motto for this toon? Initially, yes, with cheery greetings in Main St and even the local cub reporter addressing a poliswummin as “Aunt Jennie”. This was the fantastic Olivia Colman, passed over for the job given to Tennant and grumpy about it. Obliged to work together, the pair were told by the pathologist after his examination of the victim, an 11-year-old boy: “We don’t get these round here – make sure you find who did it.”
What a contrast with most Dr Deaths on TV, and in particular that slab-of-stone, heart-of-stone, gore-glorying one in Spiral! Broadchurch doesn’t offer much in the way of contrast with other crime dramas and even rounded up the suspects for the coda, in the style of The Killing. In Mayday, the polis were almost an afterthought (the killer was a copper, sheltered by another) but here much will depend on how much we like Tennant and Colman as hoary odd-couple ’tecs. She’s got the local knowledge but is she too close to it all? He’s got the dodgy past but a cool beard in the current Hollywood leading-man style (though it should be said that all beardies exist in the vast shadow of the Kilmarnock footballer James Dayton, whose fantastic backwoodsman look was so prominent during Sportscene’s Scottish Cup coverage).
Mott the Hoople weren’t my favourite band, indeed they weren’t even my favourite glam-rockers, but they were probably the group with whom I most fancied temporary membership. A great name, the greatest glam three-and-a-half minutes (All The Young Dudes) and they didn’t take themselves too seriously with mime interludes. “Serious fun,” confirmed one of their number. And then, when it wasn’t fun anymore, I could have got myself a proper news headline in Sounds (“Smith quits Mott shock”). Then I could have popped up 40 years later on The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople to recall the laughs we had squeezing bass guitarist Overend Watts into his thigh-length silver platform boots with the 8in heels.
“Mott looked like hod carriers in drag – in a nice way,” reckoned Queen’s Roger Taylor, one of the famous fans featured in this nice little tribute doc. “Not so much glam-rockers as mad vaudevillians,” said Leee Black Childers, who captured all those eyeliner experiments on camera. Leee, with three e’s, is a great name but not as great as that of guitarist Luther Grosvenor. So what did Mott do when he joined? Changed his name to Ariel Bender. Another Mott misstep: so near to true pop immortality and yet so far.
TV PICKS OF THE WEEK
PICK OF THE WEEK Comic Relief
BBC1, Friday, 7pm
In Radio Times, Rowan Atkinson in the role of Archbishop of Comedy reflects on Red Nose Day: “People used to say to me: ‘Are you sure that comedy and charity fit together? Isn’t it a bit odd all that sad stuff then all that hilarious stuff going together?’ And you know, I always reply: ‘Absolutely not, Mrs Pendleton.’ ” Well, Atkinson, Richard Curtis and Co are probably on to something because this year’s telethon celebrates 25 years of Comic Relief where famous folk do funny things, daft things and emotion-tugging things to persuade us to give generously. Ricky Gervais brings back David Brent, Mrs Brown joins the comedy elite, Jack Whitehall does MasterChef, Jessie J shaves her head and One Direction perform their CR single. Well, we were never going to get Harry Styles chopping off his hair.
BEST MUSIC Graham Parker: Don’t Ask Questions
BBC4, Friday, 10pm
A record exec recalls Parker out of his depth at a fancy rockbiz lunch. “He looked
like he worked in a shop.” In fact, he was an ex-petrol pump attendant who had some initial success in the late 1970s but was deemed too trad for punk. Now Parker has reformed his band, the Rumour, hoping to build on the testimonies of Bruce Springsteen and other famous fans.
Champions League Football
Sky Sports 2, Wednesday, 7pm
It’s come to this: England’s elite clubs are staring at Champions League oblivion even before the quarter-final stage. Once, places in the last four were considered theirs as of right; now they’re being outsmarted by the Spanish masters and also resurgent Italian teams and German clubs playing with terrific flair, like Bayern Munich, who start here 3-1 up on Arsenal.