Aidan Smith on TV: Anthony is a daring drama the likes of which I’ve never seen

There’s a very good chance Black Lives Matter will have inspired TV to seek out stories reflecting the struggle, and the dramas will appear on our screens eventually.

Anthony Walker (TOHEEB JIMOH), Katherine (JULIA BROWN)

On the face of it, Anthony (BBC1) fits the bill but, great as he is, Jimmy McGovern probably cannot write that fast. Anthony Walker, a bright, compassionate 18-year-old, was murdered by racists in a Merseyside park in 2005. The creator of Hillsborough, The Street and Accused knows his mother, Gee, and was using her as a sounding-board for his work when, a good bit before the campaign began, she asked him to write about her son.

Turning the tale round quickly in the style of those ripped-from-the-headlines, social-issue Warner Bros movies in the golden age of Hollywood would have been remarkable enough, but McGovern has done something even more stunning: he’s imagined the life the law student could have lived had he not walked a friend to the bus-stop on that fateful night.

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In murder trials, prosecution witnesses will speak to the potential and ambition of the victim; McGovern gives Anthony seven more years and spins a heart-rending tale of what might have been, unfolding in reverse. Aged 25, Anthony is acclaimed at an awards night. At 24 he rescues an old school-friend sleeping rough. At 23 he becomes a father.

At 22 he gets married, having proposed to his girlfriend the year before on the game show Pointless. At 20 he tells his future wife of his dream to live in America and fight for civil rights (with her reminding him there’s plenty needing done on that score here).

All the time we’re getting closer to 18, the park and the climbing axe. Gee sitting in an empty church after the birth of her grand-daughter and whispering “Thank you” again and again is all the sadder for never happening. She’s played with serene dignity by Rakie Ayola and Toheeb Jimoh is terrific as Anthony. The ending is almost unwatchable but this is daring drama the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

Boris Johnson turns up in Anne: the Princess Royal at 70 (ITV) with a childhood memory: “She was in charge of Save the Children when I was a kid. I thought: ‘Who is this person who wants to save me and all other children?’” The PM is beyond saving now but Anne is still going strong. The hardest-working member of the House of Windsor, patron of 300 charities, who fulfills 500 engagements every year. Sebastian Coe, recalling their time together on the London Olympics bid, reckoned that before some of their afternoon meetings she’d already opened five new hospitals.

At one of these sessions, after sitting through a tedious speech and not realising her mic was on, she confided to the entire room: “I think this person is probably the stupidest in all of world sport.” She didn’t flinch but then she’s regarded as being very like her father and not one to suffer fools.

Ah, said second husband Sir Tim Laurence, she’s got the Queen’s sense of humour and sense of duty. As with Anthony, the timeliness of this doc is an accident. ITV couldn’t have known the revelations from the Sussexes’ book would coincide with it. Meghan featured only fleetingly, in a carriage during the Trooping of the Colour. Anne made no direct mention of her, saying only that the young Royals are subjected to great scrutiny.

There was no social media in her early years - “I wouldn’t go anywhere near Twitter if you paid me.” But in the 1960s she was an object of fascination, not least for being a groovy dresser, the first Royal to don a mini-skirt and - can I say this, Ma’am? - an extremely fit lass.

What else do we learn? That she doesn’t touch alcohol. That her grandchildren rejected her home-schooling (it involved pressing flowers). That supporting Scotland at rugby - not actually one of her charitable acts - is a great passion, though as Sir Tim put it: “You may have noticed they don’t always win.” That when she goes sailing on the west coast of Scotland with hubby, her children leave them both to it. “You wouldn’t get into a boat with them, would you?” laughed daughter Zara. “They’re both admirals.”

There’s a lot of dangerous weather around on TV and it fits with these apocalyptic times. Into the Night, Snowpiercer and now The Last Wave, BBC4’s French thriller about a sinister cloud. Le nouvelle ordinaire, I suppose, and like the other two this one’s daft but intriguing as a group of surfers are strangely affected by the pall, returning from being swept off by it with different-coloured eyes and superhuman powers. Of course The Last Wave is French. Surfing is described in the style of an old Cointreau ad: “Animalistic, sensual, sexee” …


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