MIDNIGHT MAN STV Thursday, 9pm AMY WINEHOUSE: WHAT REALLY HAPPENED Channel 4 Tuesday, 10pm FLOOD STV Sunday, 8.05pm, Monday, 9pm
LAST week I was moaning about how there weren't enough good dramas about journalists. Not enough good dramas about good journalists or even good dramas about bad journalists. The situation was so dire that I was willing to tolerate a bad drama about a good journalist – the worst-possible combination. Then along comes Midnight Man.
This has all the makings of an excellent drama about a good journalist who went bad (ratting on a source who then committed suicide) and is now trying to redeem himself by unmasking a state-sponsored death squad. What is even more remarkable is that it stars James Nesbitt and I don't usually like him.
Actually, that's not quite true. I respected him on Never Mind The Buzzcocks for not storming off when Simon Amstell teased him relentlessly about his commercials (in themselves, pretty relentless). That seemed like the finest performance of his career and maybe he's drawn on the humiliation for Midnight Man because it requires him to demonstrate the same calmness under pressure, and the same conviction.
Written by David Kane, this is a thumping conspiracy thriller set in the aftermath of Iraq where there are careers to be made – money as well, to say nothing of the political advantage – in promoting an atmosphere of fear and loathing about the terrorist threat. Catherine McCormack is mixed up in it; I've had a soft spot for her ever since she made her debut in Braveheart and survived. Reece Dinsdale as head of anti-terrorism is truly terrifying. But it's Nesbitt's show as Max Raban, a journalist who has been reduced to rummaging through celebrity refuse in the hope that he might win back his old job.
When he returns to his flat with the bin bags, they actually improve its appearance. Subsisting on Pot Noodles, permanently dressed in a grubby mac and hat, he has a phobia of daylight and can only go out at night. So he hangs out around snooker halls and lap-dancing bars to wait for The Big One – the maximum 147 break of scoops, the Albanian-with-the-big-knockers of exclusives.
Raban's wife lives elsewhere, along with his daughter, and when he remembers this he'll pop round with a book for her bedtime, eg something on JFK. According to his former editor, he's the kind of conspiracy theorist "who reckoned Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were inside jobs". The Government was not assassinating people, the ed insisted. Moments later, Raban's missus was shot dead on her doorstep. It's shocking, gripping stuff.
If Max Raban was to go slightly upmarket then he might think that Jacques Peretti would make a classier client for the contents of his rubbish sacks. Peretti profiles tabloid gold for Channel 4: Heather Mills, Michael Barrymore and, last week, Amy Winehouse. The rise and fall of the singer has been the story of recent times: "bigger than Wills or the McCanns or Britney", according to Peretti, who tried to sift through the blood and snot sympathetically.
For Amy Winehouse: What Really Happened, he spoke to Sylvia Young, of the stage school, who remembered a 12-year-old Jewish girl from the London suburbs who was going to be the next Judy Garland. The leader of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra recalled her teenaged aggressiveness and a voice to compare to Billie Holiday – "if Holiday's intonation and tuning had been good".
Others told how she was prodigious in different ways. "I don't think she'll mind me saying this," remarked her old news agency boss, "but she was very into sex." Sex and love – big love. Falling in love deeply, falling out painfully, and then spilling her guts on record. The Crystals' 'He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)' became a template for what Peretti called her "dark songs about mad love for bad boys".
Few had anything good to say about Winehouse's most recent muse, Blake Fielder-Civil, who she married over a burger and chips in Miami. It was claimed he introduced her to heroin; that when she was having her stomach pumped, he left her hospital bedside to buy more drugs. Fielder-Civil's poor dad said: "We ask them, 'Come stop with us.' But they're not interested." Winehouse's tale, too, is shocking, gripping stuff and shows no sign of slipping off the front pages. She's only 24, which is young for what Kurt Cobain's mum called "that stupid club". The celebrity hack-pack, to which she used to belong, camps outside her front door every night. Quite often she serves up cups of tea and Jaffa Cakes.
You knew The Flood was a big deal before the opening scenes of a wet day in Wick because the STV continuity announcer tried to persuade us that "flood" was a three-syllable word. For two nights this disaster-movie-on-telly swamped the schedules. The fl-uh-dd itself caused an appalling loss of life in London before the freak waves turned back on themselves and returned north. As they lapped my living-room door, my wife said: "Well, that's four hours I'm never going to get back."
The special effects were terrific, and I cheered when my least favourite parts of the sweaty metropolis were engulfed by some of the cleanest water some Londoners had ever experienced. But the script was bilge. I felt sorry for Robert Carlyle, who was lumbered with a gorblimey accent, though presumably he wasn't forced to appear in The Fl-uh-dd against his will and without payment. At least he didn't have to utter any of the really awful lines, such as "We're fighting a monster out there!" and "We need to get to high ground!" (not on ITV, you don't) and – worst/best of all – "Why wasn't I told about Arbroath?"
This Declaration of Arbroath came from the Deputy Prime Minister, played by David Suchet, who had to deal with the worst storm in British history on his own while the PM holidayed in Australia. The Queen? Nowhere to be seen. A flood protection plan for Scotland? Not while Westminster is in charge, it would seem. Little wonder that our STV announcer wasn't quite so excitable when he returned after the closing credits with a helpline for anyone worried about such a disaster happening for real.