TV reviews: Marriage (BBC1), The Secrets She Keeps (BBC1), High Heat (Netflix)

The comedy W1A, which sent up the inner workings of TV, was at its funniest when ideas were being pitched for new shows. Invariably these would be mad, desperate or insulting to us viewers, inferring we’d watch just about anything.

If W1A was around now I can imagine one of these creative confabs going like this: “How about Nicola Walker doing normal, everyday, boring things. Could we get away with that? Maybe Nicola Walker stacking the dishwasher. Nicola Walker on a trip to B&Q. Nicola Walker having slightly-longer-than-necessary conversations about holey underwear, sticky toffee pudding and whether it’s going to rain. Let’s face it: these idiots don’t care what the programmes are about, just as long as Nicola Walker’s in them.”

Actually we do care and while Marriage (BBC1) features Walker doing all of this in the company of her on-screen husband Sean Bean, the drama isn’t taking us for fools. It’s instigated a slew of think-pieces on the state of modern matrimony, and little wonder.

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Do we, the betrothed, behave like Ian and Emma? Is marriage really just a series of rituals, wind-ups and irritations, replayed over and over? Do we finish each other’s sentences, fail to listen to our dearly beloveds, bicker over the most mundane things – and, at other times, not speak at all?

Jessica De Gouw in The Secrets She Keeps.
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Have we been married for so long – in Ian and Emma’s case, 27 years – that we now don’t care the food bin has managed to inveigle itself into position as the kitchen centrepiece? (Maybe in your kitchen it is. Pride of place in ours goes to the Nigella Lawson Life-sized Model Limited Edition Toaster. If you don’t have one – only ten produced – then you’ll have to guess where the bread pops out).

Writer-director Stefan Golaszewski trains a microscope on small, still, samey domesticity and out of these tiny gestures makes towering shows. He did this first in Him & Her, the (bed)sitcom about a slacker couple who never ventured outdoors until a wedding right at the end.

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There were fewer laughs and more poignancy in Mum, which featured one of the great will-they-won’t-they? Romances involving a widow besieged by her thunderingly insensitive relatives.

So far Marriage – two parts to come – has been all poignancy and zero laughs, but Walker and Bean are terrific. Walker is more prolific on TV so we know how good she is. Maybe you still think of Bean in virile, masterful roles such as Sharpe – and a recent tweet marking Yorkshire Day totted up all those foes in the Napoleonic Wars saga who he addressed as “bastard”, finally stopping at 42 – but last year’s prison drama Time showed him as a denuded man. In that he’d lost his liberty.

These guys in High Heat also put out fires

Here he’s just been made redundant and, with too much time on his hands, worries that his wife may be about to embark on an affair with her boss. Maybe Marriage is too close to home, maybe you prefer your TV to be escapist, but I think it’s exceptional.

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There’s been a lot of Australia on TV recently, including The Newsreader and the last-ever Neighbours. Now for the second season of the Sydney-set psychological thriller The Secrets She Keeps, a high-grade soap about a glamorous media couple who’re the victims of a baby-napping.

Two years on, little Ben has been returned to sportscaster Jack (Todd Lasance) and yummy-mummy influencer Meghan (Jessica De Gouw), but the trauma remains for the lad who doesn’t speak and for his mother who’s reluctant to return to work. Meanwhile Jack is on the box, breaking a story about a football player’s cocaine-related heart attack.

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Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael is Aggie, the troubled soul who took Ben and is now due for sentencing. Prison has been hellish for her and both inside and outside she’s been cast as a witch, but a true-crime podcaster reckons she’s just as much of a victim. “Door-stepping” is the journalistic practice of attempting to gain an interview without prior arrangement or agreement. An old news editor of mine, unimpressed if you returned without the golden quotes, would bark: “What did you use to knock – a bloody sponge?”

Nicola Walker and Sean Bean put their Marriage to the test.

Lorelei (Miranda Frangou), though, is determined, won’t take no for an answer, and when the opener’s final scene shows Meghan behind bars charged with murder we’re left pondering a selection of potential victims. The podcaster? Aggie? Or hypocritical Jack, who’s just been sent footage on his phone of him snorting coke off another woman’s boob?

Netflix’s High Heat takes us from Sydney to Mexico City. Always wanted to visit, but glad I’m not a journalist there. So far in 2022, this drama tells us, 19 have been murdered, the latest being Dani who was investigating the goings-on at a fire station for an anniversary feature about a notorious serial killer.

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And what odd goings-on they are. Between blazes, the firefighters are often glimpsed bare-chested lifting barbells. They are, we’re told, waiting for the horn. Across the street there’s a women’s hostel and the girls have a telescope trained on the gymnasium.

To nail his story, Dani was planning to infiltrate the station and become a firefighter. So, to investigate his death, what does distraught twin brother Poncho do? Enlist, of course. Any relevant previous experience? Well, five minutes ago he was a male stripper and I’m sorry, a joke here about firemen’s hoses is unavoidable. There is lots of potential for humour in High Heat, all of it shunned.

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