Aidan Smith's TV week: The return of The Split, a noir-ish thriller on Channel 5 and a brush with Jimmy Savile

I’m not in favour of women hitting women, obviously, but it doesn’t half leave its mark on a telly drama. The single most memorable moment in Dynasty? No contest: the catfight between Alexis and Krystle.

So persuasive, so believable ... Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story
So persuasive, so believable ... Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story

And This Life - what would be the scene you might bury in a time-capsule to best illustrate a show about the messy lives of those flat-sharing twentysomething lawyers? There are two points for nominating when Milly slugged Rachel, plus a bonus if you can remember Warren’s one-word reaction to the punch (“Outstanding!”).

We’re back among the legal set in The Split (BBC1) and I really don’t know why Hannah doesn’t knock Kate into the middle of next week’s episode. Well, I do: Hannah is played by Nicola Walker - the nation’s sweetheart, the actress we all love for her everywoman frustrations and sad eyes - and I think the shock of physical violence would be too much for many.

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It must have been a close-run thing, though, for the provocation is intense. Over dinner in a restaurant, Hannah accuses Kate (Lara Pulver) of being “retrograde, anti-feminist and presumptuous”. This is, she says, “one of the most sanctimonious women I’ve ever met”. Oh, and another thing: Kate is the new squeeze of Hannah’s ex, Nathan, the fellow divorce lawyer with whom she’s hoping to achieve some kind of perfect, painless break-up. Only she doesn’t know until this moment that he’s already moved on with the self-righteous child psychologist. Put the chopsticks down, Hannah - don’t stab her in the eyes!

Nicola Walker (second right) plus Deborah Findlay, Annabel Scholey and Fiona Button return for a final season of The Split.

I must admit I approached the third series of Amy Morgan’s saga with some weariness. Walker’s great, as always, although I never knew what Hannah saw in Christie, her smarmy, too-tall Dutch lover. And the rest of the show - the rest of her family, indeed - just seemed like add-ons: the sister who didn’t convince as wild, the sister desperate for a storyline, the tedious mum. They’re all back, although no sign of Christie (yet).

Also Hannah and Nathan’s property-porn home annoyed me. This is perverse because so many TV interiors are like this but also probably envy, because my home is a dump in comparison. But who’d want one of those ludicrous, swivelly hose taps for the kitchen? Oh you would? No, like the work surfaces - like the offices of Noble Hale Defoe - I thought The Split was just too slick.

But this is a strong start to what will be the final run, with Hannah removing her wedding ring and putting it back on again, staring at the divorce papers but not signing them, phoning Christie then being relieved to get his voicemail. This is proper, grown-up, believable, touching drama, so I only hope the arrival of the dreadful Kate doesn’t turn things soapy.

Here’s something else that’s perverse: I get irked by sudsy dramas on the Beeb but don’t mind them on the commercial channels. Channel 5 are unashamedly good at this kind of thing and Deadline is their latest. You probably began the week thinking that as a viewer you were in charge, that you could take this murder-mystery or leave it, but I bet you had tune in last night, just to see if she really did it.

James D'Arcy and Charlie Murphy in the murder mystery Deadline

She is socialite Natalie (Charlie Murphy), accused of murdering her husband. Documentary-maker James (James D’Arcy) is intrigued by the case and she agrees to give him an exclusive interview if he’ll help clear her name.

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He used to be a serious investigative reporter; now he competes for buy-ups with schlocky supermarket mags. Pondering the state of journalism, Natalie asks him: “What went wrong? When did it all go ‘Top ten serial killers’ and ‘Who remembers Spangles?’

That’s a good line but Deadline, shot in Budapest, doesn’t spend terribly long lamenting fourth-estate frivolousness. It’s far more interested in the smouldering tension between James and his femme fatale. If this was one of the films noir being homaged here, Natalie would be played by Barbara Stanwyck or Veronica Lake. Or, if you need a more recent reference, Sharon Stone.

James thinks Natalie’s guilty but can’t help falling under her spell. He’s like Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct but only up to a point. He doesn’t appear in a nightclub in a pink pullover and then proceed to dance appallingly. Just as well.

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It must chilling to watch Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story for those who came into contact with him and were charmed. “The whole country’s like a big front room to me,” Savile remarks at the end of the opening instalment of this Netflix documentary.

I was the Evening News Charity Walk correspondent when working for our sister paper and Savile was its star attraction. Before taking to Edinburgh’s streets he would swan round our office in his tracksuit and bling like he owned the place. If you were young and female you’d get a hug that lasted a few seconds too long.

It’s easy to be wise after the event, though, for so many fell under his gruesome spell including Prince Charles for whom he was an unofficial PR adviser and Margaret Thatcher who lobbied for him to be knighted. Selina Scott squirms as she watches back how she flirted with him from behind her fringe, Princess Diana-style, on breakfast TV. What a shame for the kids - 20,000 per week - who wrote in to Jim’ll Fix It although the monster that was revealed only left them sad and let down. Others fared much, much worse.



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