TV review: Shetland | Prisoners’ Wives | A Very British Wedding

Grave task: Douglas Henshall had his work cut out with just 24 hours to solve a double murder in Shetland. Picture: BBC
Grave task: Douglas Henshall had his work cut out with just 24 hours to solve a double murder in Shetland. Picture: BBC
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NICE work if you can get it. David Tennant’s got two whole months on Broadchurch to remind us how good an actor he is, and maybe an upcoming episode will be entirely devoted to the progress of his trendy beard.

Shetland

BBC1, Sunday and Monday, 9pm

Prisoners’ Wives

BBC1, Thursday, 9pm

A Very British Wedding

BBC2, Wednesday, 8.30pm

But spare a thought for Douglas Henshall in Shetland, a detective like his fellow Scottish thesp, who had to wrap up his double-murder inquiry in a little over 24 hours, battling infrequent ­ferry crossings, the confusion caused by everyone wearing Gore-tex – and the entire ­island being drunk.

OK, not quite, but I don’t think I’ve seen so much booze on TV since the famous pro-celebrity snooker challenge between Big Bill Werbeniuk and Dallas’ Sue-Ellen Ewing, or did I just dream that one up? Consider this: Henshall’s Jimmy Perez having to rouse his (very) young sidekick from a Dutch chocolate-flavoured vodka stupor. A suspect admitting he went lamping while under the influence. The grieving son of the first woman murdered filling a tea-mug with whisky. Another relly’s prompt champagne-quaffing raising suspicion, although the son became a suspect too. Yes, they like to keep it in the family on Shetland. They’re tight and, well, they’re tight.

Sample conversation: “You’re her father… Yes, but you’re her dad.” The tecs decided to hang a map in the incident room, but had trouble fixing the pins because everyone was living on top of one another. “It’s crowded up there,” said the sidekick, although she might also have been referring to her teeth which she’d had put in a brace for her wedding, only for the boyfriend to call it off. She ­decided to keep the brace to avoid ending up with “Scottish teeth”. The young were desperate to escape Shetland. “If God had wanted us to stay in the same place he wouldn’t have invented Trip­Advisor,”­ moaned Jimmy’s teenage daughter. Jimmy, meanwhile, was intent on making Shetland more Shetland, getting back to the days when folk could leave back doors unlocked.

I quite liked this yarn about Norwegians, Nazis, herring ­super-boats and meshed-up, messed-up familial relations. Yes, a heck of a lot had to be packed into two hours, so that a visit to the museum became a history lesson. Yes, some of the acting further down the cast was a bit Garnock Way (I didn’t want to say River City because I’ve never watched it). No, the hoped-for similarities with Nordic Noir didn’t materialise. But the scenery was stunning (Kids? What do they know!) and Henshall was a class act as usual. The best bit? Since I’m reading Noggin the Nog to my ­children, it was when Jimmy’s ­lassie appeared in Up Helly Aa headgear and I was able to shout: “Cow-hatted one!”

Will there be more Shetland? I wouldn’t say no. Prisoners’ Wives is back for a second run. It’s lost a couple of regulars but Kim and Aisling look like they’ll slot in well, after familiarising themselves with jail regulations: “No running, no bombing, no petting.” Woops, wrong sign – I mean: “Embracing is only permitted once at the start and end of your visit.” Prisoners’ Wives is dependable drama, the sort that every TV schedule needs in order to allow the more ambitious stuff to happen elsewhere (well, that should be the plan). Thursday night is an unglamorous slot, but this show, its mobsters and their molls can’t be too proud. This is prison, after all, and the debt to society must be repaid. Hand Prisoners’ Wives Sunday evenings and you might as well give the crims mobile phones.

Paul Miller, the right bad yin, already has one, using it to placate his wife Fran after that unfortunate business with Spandau Ballet. Miller’s turf-war rival was shot through the boot of a car as he correctly identified the band responsible for To Cut A Long Story Short in the drive-time pop quiz. I’ve accused the Spands of many crimes against music (rhyming “diplomat” with “laundromat” among them) but this was pretty shocking. Miller is played by Iain Glen, another of TV’s doughty Scottish players. What a range the man has: he can do posh, he can do scum. But I’m sure he’d agree that for all Prisoners’ Wives might be building into a brand, able to withstand many cast changes, it should hold on to Polly Walker as hard-as-nails Fran and Pippa Haywood as the sweet and innocent ­Pippa. Last week they were comparing footwear, Pippa in her “performance socks” for rambling and Fran with the kind of gold-tasselled heels only ­serious crime can buy.

A Very British Wedding was touching and hilarious. Sikh and east European couples rejecting our traditions of brawling and stupid hats and doing it their way. The nuptials masterminded by Julia, “the best joke planner in Latvia” who deserves her own series, featured even more vodka than Shetland gets through.

PICK OF THE WEEK

The Lady Vanishes

BBC1, Today, 8.30pm

“Can we have another bottle of champagne? And can you bring it quickly?” We’re in the pre-WW2 Balkans where some young poshos with too much money and time on their hands are holidaying raucously. “I’m so bored!” wails one of them, and by the time a local farmer is accosted (“Can’t you speak English? For God’s sake, what’s wrong with you?”) you’re wishing this was The Socialite Vanishes And Takes All Her Idiotic Friends With Her. The Lady Vanishes is, of course, a classic 1938 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, and you’ll start to recall it when this remake settles down and Selina Cadell makes her entrance as spritely governess Miss Froy (played by Margaret Lockwood in the original). Tuppence Middleton (corking name) plays Iris Carr, who searches for the vanished lady. Keeley Hawes also stars.

BEST COMEDY

It’s Kevin

BBC2, Today, 10.30pm

From the moment the sketch-show Big Train ended with Kevin Eldon rising from a coffin for a deranged rendition of Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain I’ve been saying: “Give that man his own series.” Finally, after 11 years, they’ve listened to me. Another song welcomes us to his little entertainment, though he cautions: “It isn’t aimed at gibbons, bats, rhinoceri or stags.”

BEST SPORT

Live Sportscene

BBC1, Today, 2.35pm

The Scottish League Cup

has been derided by Hearts fans because it’s all Edinburgh rivals Hibs have won in recent times, but the Jambos will be keen to salvage a dismal season by lifting the trophy for the first time in half a century, while St Mirren are going for their first ever success in the competition. Live coverage from Hampden with Rob Maclean.

Twitter: @aidansmith07