RORY Kinnear reckons this TV portrayal of Lord Lucan is of a “kind, generous father who lost his way”.
STV, Wednesday, 9pm
Good Ol’ Freda – The Beatles Secretary
More4, Tuesday, 9pm
BBC4, Saturday, 9pm
Well, I must have missed that bit. Of course, Lucan has to be a condensed version of events, but right from the start the man whose name would become a byword for elusiveness was hardly ever glimpsed at home, preferring his gentlemen’s club. Once, he took the family to the seaside, but he got so irritated with his wife suggesting they might stay another day that he slapped her on the face in front of the three children. He simply couldn’t wait to get back to his friends.
And what friends they were. The idle rich, too stupid to realise they were losing their inheritances at John Aspinall’s gambling tables. All they got in return were the eccentric zookeeper’s prehistoric views on how the strong had to survive, especially those with money and class, and bugger the rest.
So far in Jeff Pope’s tale, Kinnear has been his usual excellent self, if fairly inscrutable behind the stick-on aristocratic moustache, although the events of 7 November, 1974, were shown to be pretty clear-cut – Lucan, with murder in mind, killed the nanny. It’s good to see Catherine McCormack again – she’s the long-suffering Veronica who thought she was being whisked off in the Bentley for a romantic weekend; in fact Lucan was trying to have her committed. But, with the concluding part to come, Christopher Eccleston is stealing the show as “Aspers”. What an astonishing performance this is. All actors can do voices but for some reason I didn’t expect Eccleston’s posh-sinister to sound quite as posh and quite as sinister. With a monkey on his shoulder, he pontificated about natural selection, overpopulation and how he’d take his leave of the planet if “250 million surplus biomass” would go too. Stroking a tiger cub, he roared at his adulterous wife: “I’ll cut you orf without a penny!” Lighting candles during the three-day week, he boomed: “How are miners given primacy in this country when the nobility and gentry, families who have ruled for centuries, are hounded and taxed to extinction?”
Lucan was too thick to accept that his wife would be awarded custody of the children, not least because his gambling debts were such that the milkman hadn’t been paid for six months. “But I’m an earl – surely the court will find in my favour?” he whinnied. Only one of the idle rich suggested he should make peace with Veronica, although as he was painting Lucan in ermine robes maybe he couldn’t altogether be called a dissenting voice. Others had turned to Aspinall for help with domestic difficulties so they could remain lords of all they surveyed. “Lucan is engaged in a struggle for the future of his line – the consequences of defeat are unthinkable,” exclaimed Aspers who, the drama suggested, goaded him in the planning of the deadly deed.
Cilla Black didn’t have a monopoly on “Ta-rah” uttered in a Scouse accent. This was how the fan club news signed off in Beatles Monthly, an absolutely unmissable publication when I was seven, and one I made my poor mother run all over town for. The fan club was run by Freda Kelly, who was at the Cavern (second archway, left-hand side) for 180 of their 292 performances, began working for the band at 17, stopped counting the letters when they topped 3,000 a day, dealt with all manner of extreme reactions (fans arriving at her front door from America as stowaways, fans wanting to kill themselves when Paul got married), could have been rich if she hadn’t given away all her memorabilia – and hadn’t told her story until Good Ol’ Freda – the Beatles Secretary.
Tony Barrow, the Fab Four’s press officer, said Kelly possessed Liverpool traits of loyalty and discretion on matters of the heart so this doc was no kiss ’n’ tell. The interviewer tried to ask if she’d gone out with any of the band. “No,” she said, then: “Pass. There are stories but I don’t want anybody’s hair turning curly.” So was there enough in this to justify almost two hours? Oh yes. Ringo’s mum made an excellent egg and chips. Paul’s phone number was Garston 6922. This stuff is still absolutely vital.
And so it’s “Hej hej” to Borgen. Just as The Killing contained more politics than many political dramas, so Borgen, a political drama, has been more about journalism than many which claim to be. Torben – grumpy, weak, heroic – finally put a stop to It’s A Knockout-style news bulletins. And Birgitte refused to play her joker – exposing a rival’s Chappaquiddick-esque past – to forge a new political deal, a coalition, although you can bet it won’t be anything like ours. A landmark show.
Educating Yorkshire At Christmas Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm
Go to the bottom of the class if you missed Educating Yorkshire, a terrific series about the frustrations, comedy, horror and triumphs found in state education. In this catch-up we find out how everyone’s faring at Thornhill Community Academy.
Sports Personality Of The Year BBC1, tonight, 7.40pm
The 60th anniversary of the award sees the great and the good of sport gather in Leeds. The Lions and the Ashes winners (though soon to be losers) compete for the team gong, Chris Froome has had a great year – but, come on, the main prize is Andy’s, isn’t it?
The Great Train Robbery BBC1, Wednesday, 8pm
A super-stylish, Tarantino-esque beginning for this two-parter about the audacious raid, worth £44 million in today’s money. Luke Evans, Martin Compston and Neil Maskell – scarily brilliantly mute in Utopia – are among the gang. Concludes the following night with Jim Broadbent leading the hunt.