Aidan Smith's TV week; Irvine Welsh's Crime, the return of Joe Exotic and a new Scandi-drama
This is Irvine Welsh’s first TV series, Edinburgh-set, and he’s packed it with fellow supporters of Hibernian Football Club. There’s Dougray Scott, the leading man; Jamie Sives, a big-money signing from Guilt; and Tam Dean Burn who’s handed a delightfully obscure piece of rhyming slang about how his character can’t smell the dead cat behind the sofa because his “Dennis Wynesses” are blocked.
For the uninitiated, Wyness was a striker who played for Heart of Midlothian. Come to think of it, the uninitiated probably include Hearts fans because he was far from being a goal machine. There’s a Jambo in the cast - Ken Stott - and I’m pretty sure having him play Chief Supt Bob Toal is another Welsh gag.
Welshian wit is splashed over a dark tale like an east coast chippy’s brown sauce. On dauners round the New Town the Trainspotting author must have been intrigued by the ornate boot scrapers outside front doors for here he has Gordon Kennedy - yes, Jack Docherty’s old pal from Absolutely - impale himself on one.
Exit Kennedy’s detective, sidekick of DI Ray Lennox (Scott), who gets a new partner, DS Amanda Drummond (Joanna Vanderham). She asks that he treats her like he would a bloke so he says: “Right then, ya fat, tight-arsed b*****d - your shout at the boozer.”
But the case in front of them couldn’t be more grim - a 13-year-old girl has gone missing on her way to school. Lennox suspects a child killer nicknamed Mr Confectioner who’s never been caught. “Pure, unadulterated evil,” he tells Drummond.
Lennox is experienced. “I dinnae postulate, I hypothesise.” But maybe he’s seen too much horror. He’ll discuss politics and the patriarchy in the cop car but there are moments when he mildly freaks out. Or he’ll ask to be dropped off without explanation.
Destination: AA. While his girlfriend is gushing to a pal about how “caring, attentive and reliable” he is, Lennox is ’fessing to fellow addicts: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right and all I want is oblivion. I want to drink this f*****g city dry. I want to snort the entire rainforest of South America.”
Crime has sprung from the pages of Welsh’s novel of that name. He reckons there’s nothing else like it in the over-populated field of cop dramas. “Rather than good guys trying to catch the bad guys, it’s “the f****d-up guys trying to catch the more f****d-up guys,” he says. Well, there have been shows before where the pursuer has been obsessed with his prey to a dangerous degree, but Scott is tremendous. He gets to stride mean streets. He gets to be funny. And he gets to go “radge”. Definitely this is the only cop drama where the standard warning cry is “Shoatie!”
Witch Hunt (Channel 4) is a Scandi drama which begins in an accounts department with a suspicious invoice. No, wait! It’s actually pretty good and Martin Fry’s in it. You know, the New Romantic guy, “The Look of Love” etc.
Well, not him but Preben Hodneland has the look of the ABC singer and every time he appears I can’t help warbling “Shoot that poison arrow!” But then this Norwegian series settles, moves out of accounts and gets interesting.
Hodneland is Jan Gunnar Askeland, the hotshot lawyer trying to force the invoice through, and Ida Waage (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) is the colleague who’s soon accusing him of money laundering. Askeland seems like the kind who’ll do whatever it takes to get the required result. Waage may never have nicked so much as a pad of Post-its from the office. Berdal plays her with ice-maiden imperturbability, which is what we TV critics always say about blonde female leads in Scandi dramas. Hodneland meanwhile seems to be having almost as much fun as Dougray Scott.
Witch Hunt appears to be good Norwegians trying to catch bad Norwegians but don’t be surprised if there’s a twist. And, as a wise man once said: “If you judge a book by the cover, then you judge the look by the lover.”
Apparently you lot spent lockdown watching Tiger King: Murder, Madness and Mayhem. Me, I baked sourdough, made a matchstick model of the Forth Bridge, made the bridge out of sourdough, learned Spanish, got up to 28 minutes doing the plank and read James Joyce’s Ulysses, twice.
So I’m thinking maybe I should catch up with the world’s favourite gay, mulleted, ex-cop, country-and-western-crooning, big-cat freak show impresario and here’s Tiger King 2 (Netflix) … but where is Joe Exotic? In jail. And where’s his nemesis, animal rights activist Carole Baskin? She wants no further part in the trasharama although she has competed in Dancing with the Stars off the back of it.
Undaunted, Netflix are getting by with Joe messaging from the hatch in his cell door, pleading his innocence on the charge of putting out a contract to have Baskin bumped off and counter-accusing her of murdering her husband. One of Joe’s supporters reckons she turned him into “tiger shichimi”. The rest are busy slapping Exotic livery onto planes and Cadillacs to lobby President Trump for a pardon. Meanwhile Joe’s husband contemplates anal bleaching …
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