Aidan Smith's TV week: Crossfire (BBC1), Bloodlands (BBC1), Colin and Justin's Hotel Hell (Channel 5)

Last month Nicola Walker wielded a mop on TV and I wondered if this was part of some kind of experiment among programme-makers, or a game of dare. The challenge: to plonk the most bankable stars into situations which increase in improbability, to find out if there’s no limit to our willingness to watch.
Keeley Hawes in the BBC thriller CrossfireKeeley Hawes in the BBC thriller Crossfire
Keeley Hawes in the BBC thriller Crossfire

If so, then Walker’s anti-drama, Marriage, which included an interminable sequence in a supermarket concerning the search for, and purchase of, a bottle of revitalising shampoo, has possibly been trumped by Crossfire (BBC1).

Instead of anti-drama, concentrating on the utterly domestic, this is ultra-drama. Instead of Walker’s mop, here’s Keeley Hawes, shotgun cocked and loaded. The actress who in the past has played the Home Secretary and faced up to an interrogation onslaught from Ted Hastings in Line of Duty now gets to shout group-jeopardy dialogue.

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In case you haven’t seen a Bruce Willis movie recently, that’s “Go, go go!”, alternated with “Go, go, go, go!” - and the classic of the genre, “Go, go, go, go, go!”

James Nesbitt and his eyebrows in BloodlandsJames Nesbitt and his eyebrows in Bloodlands
James Nesbitt and his eyebrows in Bloodlands

Scripted by Louise Doughty, Crossfire also trumps, from earlier this year, Jill Halfpenny’s The Holiday in its depiction of two weeks in the sun turning into a disaster. In terms of scale, at least.

Hawes is Jo who at a New Year party with her best friends decides they should all go on holiday together. But they’ve no sooner settled into the Canary Islands resort than it’s under attack with bullets flying and the bodies of guests and staff crashing into the swimming pool.

First reaction: this is exciting. Second reaction, when the gunmen’s cause is revealed: couldn’t they have just put something nasty in the soup, or loosened the hinges on the sun-loungers? Third reaction: remember that American high school massacres are provoked by much less. Fourth reaction: running, running, running - there’s too much of it.

Running out of the hotel, running back into it. Running along its corridors - orangey-yellow, honeycomb-like - and its labyrinths. Running upstairs (“Not that way, idiot!”) and downstairs (“Or that!”). I mean, I get why everyone’s running - self-preservation - but we don’t learn much about the tourists, such as how they become friends, or why?

Colin and Justin's Hotel HellColin and Justin's Hotel Hell
Colin and Justin's Hotel Hell

Why are Jo and Jason (Lee Ingleby) even married? After all, he belittles her in front of the group and she cheats on him. She cheated on him the previous year - “With that knobhead from work,” mutters Jason - and now she’s sexting Chinar (Vikash Bhai) who’s right there in the resort with them.

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But I suppose Crossfire is staying true to the traditions of group-jeopardy thrillerdom here. Alongside “Go, go, go, go, go!” there must always be a pair of - potentially - doomed lovers.

Jo used to be a policewoman and among her husband’s jibes is that she wasn’t very good at running. Well, she’s running here. And Hawes gets to brandish a gun. Maybe all actors yearn to do this at some point.

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If Crossfire is pretty much all running, then Bloodlands (BBC1) is mostly glowering. This Northern Ireland-set detective drama stars James Nesbitt’s eyebrows, with a support cast featuring James Nesbitt.

Colin and Justin's Hotel Hell Channel 5Colin and Justin's Hotel Hell Channel 5
Colin and Justin's Hotel Hell Channel 5

Silent movie ogres used to flaunt similar eyebrows, just after they’d tied damsels to railroad tracks. Similar eyebrows used to perform snake-like undulations on the cartoon characters in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the work of animator Terry Gilliam. But Nesbitt makes his move all by himself.

They’re quite distracting, which is unfortunate, given this is Bloodlands’ second series - “from the team that brought you Line of Duty” - and I can’t really remember much about the first one. At least there’s a recap of the shocking final scene, but that’s Nesbitt in a bad hairpiece to signify he was 20 years younger when he shot those two guys on the island and grabbed the gold.

As DCI Tom Brannick, Nesbitt is the baddest cop there’s been in a long while. Where’s Ted Hastings when we need him? (Answer: over on ITV, crooning in a supper club). While Brannick investigates current crime, the legend of a serial killer nicknamed Goliath lingers over proceedings. We learned the latter’s identity a while ago, although neither Brannick’s sidekick or boss seem to be any the wiser.

Last time out Brannick tried to frame his DCS for murder but this seems to have been forgotten about. The boss is played by Lorcan Cranitch who’s possibly thinking: “This is well weird - and I was in Cracker.” So how long is the detective going to do undetected, free to waggle those eyebrows at freshly-widowed blondes? Surely there can’t be a third series of this nonsense …

A few weeks ago I was lamenting the disappearance of Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, the interior-design gurus who were once as omnipresent on our screens as the china Scottie dogs in tartan tammies which, despite the duo’s influence, continue to sit atop TVs in many Scottish homes. Well, they’re based in Canada now and from there comes a new show.

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Colin and Justin’s Hotel Hell (Channel 5) follows their attempts to renovate a run-down hotel perched on the coast of Nova Scotia where 15,000 Scots emigrated more than 300 years ago. These early settlers must have encountered many hardships, but our pernickety pair face challenges, too. “Remember Caramac bars?” asks Colin as he surveys the rich beige colour-scheme they’ve been left. “I’m thinking more poorly baby’s diaper,” quips Justin, who’s just as unnerved by the room key display at reception (“Straight out of Psycho”). And yet he’s the one driving this; it’s his poorly baby.



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