‘We’ve all been Charlie Brooker during lockdown’ - Aidan Smith’s TV round up

When is it permissible to laugh at Covid-19? Charlie Brooker reckons round about now. Like the rest of us, he’s had Matt Hancock as an uninvited houseguest these past two months. Long enough to think: “Health Secretary? Nah, he’s Your Sister’s First Boyfriend With a Car.”

Charlie Brooker
Charlie Brooker

We’ve all been Brooker during lockdown, staring at the TV in horror and boredom, so who else can claim that when the virus, enlarged and psychedelic, began swirling around the screen they thought it resembled a 90s rave compilation CD cover?

Or when a politician flanked by two boffins started appearing, wondered: “What is this weird new afternoon gameshow, Daily Briefing?” A rubbish title and a rubbish concept, says Brooker in his Antiviral Wipe (BBC2), because the questions are hellishly difficult and “despite constant promises to give away money and equipment there are never any winners”.

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Chris Whitty looks like “Tintin prematurely aged after watching his dog drown” and Dominic Raab “this sort of EastEnders baddie”. And Hancock was back with a new name: “Peter Pandemic, the estate agent boy”.

I thought I was doing well with a wife who’s a teacher and brilliant at the home-school art and craft but Brooker is able to call on 
Konnie Huq, ex-Blue Peter. He tasks her to make ventilators out of washing-up liquid bottles then come up with a vaccine.

You may be tempted during Into the Night to ask what seems a pertinent question: “Do you like gladiator films?” You might want to enquire: “Have you ever seen a grown man naked?” And one command in particular may prove irresistible: “Don’t call me Shirley.”

But see if you don’t make Netflix’s Belgian-made thriller your lockdown-schlockdown group-jeopardy guilty pleasure.

The world is burning and a plane will fry if it cannot outpace the sun. The passenger list is full of the classic disparate types beloved of Airport and its gag-laden spoof, Airplane!

Initially no one knows what caused the disaster but as Leslie Neilsen solemnly intoned in Airplane!, that’s not important right now. What is important is that when urgent appeals are made from the flight-deck they’re answered.

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Is there a doctor on board? Can anyone speak Arabic? Crikey, can anyone even fly a plane? Sylvie at least has experience of helicopters. You might try to anticipate the next shout-out. A plumber? A defensive midfielder? A life model? A latte artist? An authority on wisteria and other climbing plants? Can anyone do kids’ birthday-party magic? What’s the secret of the 39 Steps?

But Into the Night is pretty thrilling. Landing at places still in darkness, death all around, it must refuel and re-stock quickly (“Grab those bananas - it may be the last time we see any!”). Among the passengers there are power-struggles and mutinies, unlikely alliances and great resourcefulness. Oh, and unforgettable dialogue, too, such as: “I’m gonna die in Scotland - with Belgians!”

First stop on the race round the globe is RAF Kinloss where a trio of squaddies have survived. The Scot among them suggest to the air hostess that since death is likely for them too they should join the mile-high club. Trust us to lower the tone. But the squaddies turn out to be awaiting a war-crimes trial so they’re dumped in Canada, only one manages to chase the plane down the runway and hide in the hold. Not for long. Bonkers, but perfect for these cooped-up times.

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Since we’re shouting out old catchphrases this week, only one works for The Eddy: “Nice!” Remember Jazz Club? That smoothie in The Fast Show sketch with the pudding-bowl haircut and the giant medallion might have ruined jazz for a generation.

But look at it now. A new young British scene is exploding. The leader of the new young American scene, Kamasi Washington, has a star turn in the Homeland finale. And here’s a Netflix drama set in a jazz joint in Paris, a shonky place echoing to skronky vibes where les hipsters convene nightly.

Every few minutes, in the club of the title, a messy flat with a mattress on the floor or a lock-up, a dude picks out some random notes, piano or trumpet. Which is just as well because the story is about as elusive as a hummable tune.

But hummability isn’t the point of jazz and The Eddy reflects this. It’s chaotic, the camera jitters, the dialogue drifts through English, French, and Arabic and a murder comes out of nowhere.

I like it, though. For making me long to go out again and resume my gig-going. Oh, to be in a squash of people and feeling a manky floor under my feet while sipping over-priced beer, failing to catch a glimpse of the willowy bass guitarist and almost getting into a fight with idiots who won’t cease their infernal gibbering.

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