Aidan Smith's TV week: Holding (ITV), Pieces of Her (Netflix), Snow Angels (C4), Kath and Koji (ITV)
So let me get this right: Graham Norton, the gossipy chat-show host, has written a crime novel and now it’s been turned into a prime-time whodunnit.
But my initial cynicism - the book industry wets itself over celeb authors and Norton will know the right people for a transfer to telly - evaporates early in the opening instalment of Holding (ITV) when the top cop’s ringtone blares.
Hang on, I know this: Da-na-na, da-na-na … it’s the theme from The Sweeney. This is ironic for Sgt PJ Collins (Conleth Hill), less top and more of a police force of one in a small town in West Cork, is nothing like Regan and Carter who would thump first and ask questions later. For instance, when PJ stumbles across two women fighting in the sea, one is about to drown the other. Rather than intervene, though, he runs back to his car.
There are lots of nice little touches like the ringtone and a Father Ted-ish element to the assembly of boozers, nutters, shaggers and curtain-twitchers. It’s said of someone: “The fella was so cute he could meet himself round the corner.” And, obviously not to be trusted: “He could not lie straight in his own bed.”
The biggest drama of the first half-hour is the commotion in Main Street when the occupants of the brightly-painted houses discover that one of their neighbours has opted for “s***e brown”. PJ, urged to intervene, again declines. “Safest place in the world, West Cork,” he chirrups, tucking into a gargantuan breakfast and unable to button up his breeks afterwards. Just as well, because he’s never going to be able to chase a suspect over the rooftops.
Then human remains are uncovered on a construction site. Could this be the final resting place of Tommy Burke, the long-missing local lothario who had two women on the go at the same time: Evelyn Ross and Brid Riordian, the latter being stood up at the altar?
Since his disappearance Brid had taken to the bottle and Evelyn has taken to quickies with a schoolboy hurler in an abandoned ambulance. There’s a lot of fine Irish acting talent on display here with the best-known being Brenda Fricker as PJ’s housekeeper who, in between all his comfort eating, asks: “Do you know what to do for a murder?” You might also recognise Charlene McKenna as Evelyn from having stolen the show in the Jimmy Nesbitt policer Bloodlands.
The - un-named - town in Holding has a rival in the nothing-ever-happens-here-and-crivens-then-it-does stakes. In the thriller Pieces of Her (Netflix) the lowest-in-the-state crime rate of the fictional Belle Isle in Georgia is mentioned on the TV news. But a crazed gunman has just shot up a diner.
A jilted boyfriend, he’s dispatched by Toni Collette’s character Laura with such slickness that the police are minded to ask: “Was she in the military?” There’s obviously something in Laura’s past which will explain why she’s so handy with a blade - and it’s sufficiently dark for her to insist that her traumatised daughter Andy (Bella Heathcote) gets the hell out of town.
Before then Andy has to rescue her mum from being asphyxiated with a plastic bag. This is just after she’s been discharged from hospital having had a knife removed from her hand. By now it’s clear that in her previous life Laura wasn’t an Abba obsessive who dreamed of a storybook wedding like in Muriel’s Wedding.
Is Snow Angels (Channel 4) the most un-festive Christmas story there’s even been? Not if like me you still shiver at the memory of the original slasher film Black Christmas from way back in 1974. But while in this Swedish drama Christmas gets plenty of mentions - “God jul” is “Merry Christmas” - we’d otherwise never know it’s coming. There are no trees or decorations in the houses and even at the ice rink no one looks especially excited.
One child features in the first episode - little Nicole who switches off her hearing aid when her parents argue. There should be two but her baby brother Lucas has gone missing from Salle and Jenni’s Stockholm high-rise. Dad is usually rushing between two jobs while Mum is on tranquilisers.
Alice is the detective investigating the tot’s disappearance and she seems to have a menage a trois ongoing. Maria is a paediatric nurse with a brain-damaged brother who encounters a pregnant teenage runaway also worrying the cops. The uniform colour here is grey so, for light relief, you’re glad when the violent blizzards come. Grim but gripping.
“Never trusted the Swedes,” says Brenda Blethyn in Kate and Koji (ITV). “They don’t put tops on their sandwiches.” That’s the quality of the gags in this sitcom, back for a second series. I missed all of the first, and much as I like Blethyn, who plays Essex seaside cafe owner Kate, and Barbara Flynn, who’s her snooty nemesis on the local council, I’m not too devastated about that.
Kate has a long list of people she doesn’t like: “Austrians, vegans, Gwyneth Paltrow, people who stick up for Gwyneth Paltrow, French bulldogs, the French, joggers, bloggers, vapers and people who send you online inspirational poems every day.” But she must be a decent sort for being about to receive a civic award live on TV for her community work during the pandemic. There’s a snag: Flynn’s acting deputy mayor is doing the honours. Kate wails: “Like being told you’re getting an OBE and then discovering it’s being presented by Prince Andrew.”
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