We often complain when TV channel controllers get it wrong – cancelling our favourite programmes, or renewing stuff we’re absolutely sick of – so let’s acknowledge something done right: bringing back THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE.
The Bletchley Circle
Monday, ITV, 9pm
Tuesday, Channel 4, 9pm
Today, STV, 7:20pm
Originally a one-off, under-the-radar story last year, a good reception particularly in the US has persuaded ITV to revive it as a potential on-going series, a female companion to Foyle’s War. And quite right too: this old-fashioned whodunit, with four fine actresses at its heart and a restrained commentary on the changing roles for women after the Second World War, is a tight and engaging show which makes the most of its low budget in recreating the drab, rationed world of 1953.
Last time round, bored housewife Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin, currently dealing with another crime 150 years before over on the BBC’s Death Comes To Pemberley), was the driving force in reuniting her former Bletchley Park chums to use their codebreaking and pattern-recognition skills to solve a series of murders. After being almost killed as a result, she’s now reluctant to get involved, so Julie Graham’s capable librarian Jean is the one leading Bohemian Millie (Rachael Stirling) and daffy maths genius Lucy (Sophie Rundle) to clear the name of another former colleague. It’s clear that all the women are craving the intellectual excitement and feeling of doing something important that their war work gave, but the post-1945 retreat to more traditional feminine roles took away.
There’s nothing earth-shatteringly original about The Bletchley Circle – and there must be a limit to how many period crime dramas British TV can take – but it’s carefully made, easy to watch and an interesting primer on a slightly overlooked part of history.
Mind you, we can’t get too nostalgic: 60 years ago, Bletchley Park hero Alan Turing was driven to suicide because of his homosexuality; in 2014, thankfully, young Olympic diver Tom Daley was mostly cheered for the sincerity of his recent ‘coming out’ via a video which has been viewed more than ten million times. He returns with the ineffably daft celebrity dive contest SPLASH! this week, which will no doubt be initially scrutinised to see how he’s coping with the attention as its line-up of D-listers prepare to be filmed in Speedos flopping into a pool.
Meanwhile, another celebrity currently making headlines – Nigella Lawson – is a judge in THE TASTE, Channel 4’s new cooking competition for amateur and professional chefs. It’s a sort of blind-taste test version of The Voice, but without the spinning chairs as they might induce vomiting. The inevitable jokes, no doubt, will be in less good taste as Lawson – recorded, obviously, before her recent troubles – gushes over spoonfuls of tea-smoked duck breast and the like: I presume that anything showing her with a floury face will be quickly re-edited.
But with both The Taste and Splash!, the question will be whether they’re good enough for viewers to get past the off-screen associations and get hooked on the programme itself.