STV, Thursday, 9pm
C4, Thursday, 9pm
Mum And Dad Are Splitting Up
BBC2, Thursday, 9pm
Back to happiness, sun-streamed rooms, wine flowing freely, a summer barbecue in preparation, everything golden – and then forward to misery where his parents are pale and hoody-eyed and never seem to turn on a house light anymore. It’s okay, ITV, we get it. We get that they might not have got over their four-year-old son being taken from them. You don’t have to draw this for us in quite such gloopy black ink.
Here’s another irritating thing that ITV does: it has the camera linger on each of the multiple suspects in turn as the actors contrive expressions which are open to interpretation, but one of those interpretations is definitely: “It’s a fair cop, guv. Where do I sign my confession statement? And is it true that all cells have wi-fi now and there’s a Tesco Express on every floor of the prison?” ITV did this in Broadchurch, the network’s last drama about the effects of a child murder on a small, close-knit community. Just typing these words depresses me. How many small, close-knit communities have to convulse for our prime-time delectation? Most of you lot loved Broadchurch. Olivia Colman excepted, I thought it was overlong and overrated. The Guilty has Tamsin Greig as the DCI with the thankless task of sifting through all those shifty glances. Meanwhile, the ITV house piano tinkles mournfully.
There’s the Shifty Au-Pair and her ne’er-do-well boyfriend who so far seems like the shiftiest of the lot, so we can probably rule him out. There’s the Shifty Teen Computer Addict and the Shifty Labourers. The least shifty person is Teresa Morgan, the local sexpot played by Ruta Gedmintas from Lip Service, but she could yet be charged with the little-known offence of serving lemonade in a manner likely to drive semi-rural men crazy with desire. It’s interesting, TV’s obsession with lifting up stones in small-town Britain – England, really – and finding so many slugs. In the past nine months there’s been Broadchurch, Mayday, The Town and now The Guilty. Aren’t they supposed to be nice places full of decent, coalition-bequeathing folk?
I don’t know about the pupils of Thornhill Community Academy, subject of the new fly-on-the-blackboard series Educating Yorkshire, but the staff could do with brushing up on their Contemporary American History. When deputy head Mr Barrowclough nicked some of the secondary’s most difficult pupils for smoking behind the IT block he was cock-a-hoop. “I’ve just caught the big team – I feel like Al Capone,” he announced. “You feel like Eliot Ness,” corrected the other deputy, Mr Steer.
Above these two is Mr Mitchell, the beak, who began the opener full of the joys of the first day back after the Christmas hols, waltzing along the corridors to the sounds of Frank Sinatra coming from the secretary’s office. But before long he was battling inappropriate hair issues, piercings, painted nails, sexting, the terrorising (with snowballs) of an OAP and a case of alleged racial abuse. Thornhill is in Dewsbury and Mr Mitchell is a local man. “I’ve seen so much tension, nastiness and aggression between different sections of the community and I won’t tolerate any of that here,” he warned.
He looks tough with his shaved head but seems to have the kids’ respect. “He’s fair, you can have a laugh with him – I love him,” said Bailey, hoping to become a prefect, but consigned once again to an isolation booth. “Two boards, a wall, work – it’s death in here,” she moaned.
Although we’re all so accomplished in front of the cameras now, no-one seemed to be playing up to them. Even the teacher who appeared most keen to “get down with the kids” won me over. I believe in Mr Mitchell too, but the real star of this series looks like being Ryan, only 12, but with a deep voice, an old head on his shoulders and oodles of Yorkshire bluntness. To the teacher who was complaining of feeling hot: “Miss, maybe you’re going through the menopause.” To the teacher who suggested a career in the armed forces: “No, because I could never shoot another man. I want to do good, I want to make people laugh, so I’ll be an actor or a fireman.”
In Mum And Dad Are Splitting Up, estranged couples perched on leather sofas and laid their dirty washing on the floor. They told how the mulleted DJ, once snared, became boring in slippers; how the cheese omelette signified the end; how the secret flits were done. Often the kids sat alongside, and you’ve got to hope they benefited from this strange therapy.