TV reviews: Mayfair Witches (BBC2), Platform 7 (ITVX), Smothered (Sky Comedy)

What’s next? What should come after your breakout performance? Something good obviously, consolidation at the very least, and hopefully another step forward.

You don’t want to go backwards, otherwise before you know it you could be running for your life again, hiding in a coffin, closing the lid on yourself, only for the power-driven cutting tool to slice straight through.

This was Alexandra Daddario in Texas Chainsaw 3D when her career seemed to be bouncing between schlocky horror scream-queens and bikini-ed babes until Mike White, creator of The White Lotus, saw something else in her. A role in his brilliant satire about the rich having a terrible time in paradise brought Daddario an Emmy nomination to go with her two gongs for Best T&A of the Year, which I don’t think was recognition for technique and authenticity.

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What’s next for Daddario? Mayfair Witches (BBC2), a supernatural thriller, which is the genre where we also find Jasmine Jobson post-Top Boy. Intriguing choices, variable results.

The eyes have it ... Alexandra Daddario in Mayfair WitchesThe eyes have it ... Alexandra Daddario in Mayfair Witches
The eyes have it ... Alexandra Daddario in Mayfair Witches

Mayfair Witches is based on a trilogy of Anne Fine novels and follows the earlier dramatisation of the author’s Interview With the Vampire back to a sultry, spooky New Orleans. But just before then, we’re in San Francisco where Daddario is neurosurgeon Dr Rowan Fielding. That’s work of high precision, so it follows that away from the hospital she must lead a life of some imprecision, picking up random men in her local bar, including the barman, and taking them back to her houseboat in the bay.

So far, so predictable. But then we discover how the show comes by its name. When Rowan is confronted by mansplaining from her priggish and condescending superiors, she has the ability to burst their brains.

“There’s something really wrong with me – I have some kind of monstrous power,” she tells her adoptive mother who’s on her deathbed. It’s the investigation into her genealogy that takes Rowan to New Orleans and the discovery she’s heiress to a witch dynasty stretching all the way back to 17th-century Scotland.

Now witcherature, as it’s called, may be your kind of thing, but this is terribly slow and I’m not sure I’ll make it through all eight episodes. Daddario has shown she has talent for running. Aside from fleeing chainsaw psychos, she’s jogged along a beach for the 2017 Baywatch movie’s money shot. But the producers of Mayfair Witches weren’t interested in her running – a pity, it could have sped the action along – and wanted her for her eyes. To emphasise that looks can kill.

Jasmine Jobson in Platform 7.Jasmine Jobson in Platform 7.
Jasmine Jobson in Platform 7.

Admittedly they’re amazing. The bluest blue. Bluer than the inspiration for Thomas Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes. Bluer than Derek Zoolander’s “Blue Steel” (one of the himbo model’s “looks”, tragically identical to all his other catwalk pouts). They’re Hollywood’s bluest since Paul Newman and Steve McQueen staged a stare-out contest for that title. The biggest divas in Bel-Air must crave swimming pools this colour, screaming at their tilers until the shimmer is just right. You may think I’m obsessed with these eyes. My wife does. I tell her this is consolation for none of our four children inheriting my blue peepers, her master-race brown winning out each time.

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Daddario and Jobson have wildly different backgrounds. The former is from prestige New York legal and political stock, while the latter grew up in care with a social services file rating her “the most difficult child in Westminster”. In Britain’s answer to The Wire, Jobson was Top Boy’s top girl, unflinching and contradictory (gay, drug dealer, community activist), and now for her there’s Platform 7 (ITVX).

Also from a book, by Louise Doughty, this is a ghost story. Jobson’s character Lisa exists in spectral form, initially trapped in the railway station of an unnamed English city where she fatally fell onto the tracks. Suicide? That’s what the staff said, so she’s gone along with it. A man (Phil Davis) turns up on the same platform, ties his dog to a bench with the intention of ending it all. Trying in vain to stop him, she shouts: “It’s no great shakes being dead, it really isn’t.”

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Then an anniversary visit by Lisa’s parents bearing flowers has the effect of freeing her to move around outside. This irks her fellow ghost, Edward, but, having previously been unable to remember anything about herself, she can try to retrace some steps and is soon wondering: “I was a teacher, I had a family, I was loved – why would I take my own life?”

Just as The White Lotus asked a different kind of acting of Daddario – subtlety for one thing – so Jobson must switch from the hyper jive-talking aggression of Top Boy for quietness and stillness. No longer in-your-face, she’s offering hugs that can’t be felt to the grieving.

I thought Platform 7 might be silly, but it’s poignant as Lisa replays the budding romance with her doctor-boyfriend and gripping as flashbacks involving his creepy work colleague turn ever darker. She might be able to get to the truth, but if she were to shout about it her words would be lost on the breeze. Hope rests with the low-ranked station policeman who reckons the investigation into her death was too quick and too lazy to probe further.

Romcoms are hard to get right, harder still to put distance between them and Richard Curtis, but Sky continue in this vein, Smothered being their third of recent months.

Cleverly, Monica Heisey’s show is aware of the pitfalls, inserting sly, no-liability references to cliches of the genre, such as when Sammy makes a deal with Tom: “No last names, no details, three weeks and we’re done. We just walk in different directions on a bridge or something.”

She’s fed up with sex parties and he’s fed up with dating apps (“Everyone’s so into choking”). Can their scheme work? Heisey’s credits include Schitt’s Creek, so the script is nice and sharp, the lines deftly delivered by Danielle Vitalis and Jon Pointing whose characters, for self-protection, are always sending each other up with reminders that, of course, this is just a bit of fun, right?

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“I don’t want to marry every guy I sext at 2am,” Sammy tells flatmates who may have mopped her up once or 27 times before. They insist on calling Tom ‘Neil’ because he looks like a Neil. “If Neil hurts you, we’ll kill him because you’re so annoying when you’re sad.”

Tom, it turns out, has been married before and has a daughter, Sammy discovering this while only half-clothed and just before she sprints out the door. Henceforth, the girl refers to her as “Bum-woman”.

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At the end of the three weeks Bum-woman and Neil stick to their arrangement and part. Of course with five more episodes to come, that’s not really the conclusion. Sammy starts to miss Tom, his “gorgeous elbows … and how he always texted me back, I never had to worry if he would”. Only one thing for it: “Now I’ve got to turn up at his house in a thunderstorm like bloody Hugh Grant.”

Wasn’t that Andie MacDowell? Or Minnie Driver? Not that I ever watch romcoms. Can’t stand them.



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