TV review: Some Dogs Bite | Ancient Worlds

Some Dogs BiteBBC3Ancient WorldsBBC2

One of the interesting side-effects of watching TV for a living is that you're continually confronted with evidence to the contrary of received opinion.

For instance, it's all too easy to dismiss the youth-skewed BBC3 as a tawdry vault of lowbrow trash - hell, I've done so plenty of times in the past - but the truth is that under outgoing chief Danny Cohen (recently named the new controller of BBC1), the channel has actually improved.

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It still deserves the flak it gets for its inane comedies and reality shows, but it should also be credited for its sensitive documentaries about young adults living with disabilities, and its well-intentioned investigations into various social ills.

Unfortunately, its commitment to quality drama doesn't extend much further than the enjoyable Being Human, which is why the solemn TV movie, Some Dogs Bite, was such a surprise. Gritty social realism on BBC3? What next, a Lindsay Lohan season on BBC4?

It starred Aaron Taylor and Thomas Brodie Sangster as H and Casey, two vulnerable teenage brothers who'd spent their lives in foster care. Desperate to keep his family together, the nave, innocent Casey absconded with his fostered baby brother, before roping the taciturn H into a harried odyssey from London to Inverness to find their estranged father.

En route they encountered two girls with whom they briefly formed a surrogate family and, in H's case, the potential for the first stable relationship of his life. But fate, of course, had other ideas. Dad didn't want anything to do with them, and the brothers ended up back in care, separated once again with an uncertain, but presumably bleak, future.

As an insight into the care system's failure to keep families together, and the often vanquished lives of the children it shepherds, the film might have benefited from a more nuanced tone, rather than the relentlessly depressing route it followed. It's often the curse of British social realism: an earnest point delivered at the expense of narrative surprise. The only shock was the sudden, brutal death of one of the group, but even that felt like a heavy-handed slap in the face.

Nevertheless, this beautifully photographed film boasted strong, understated performances from its young cast, and I can't be alone in hoping that BBC3 will commission more well-made dramas along broadly similar lines.

In Ancient Worlds, archaeologist and historian Dr Richard Miles went in search of the origins of civilisation as we know it.

He began in Egypt and Iraq, or rather Mesopotamia, as it was 6,000 years ago, to trace the birth of the class system, the city, the written word, trade (in both senses of the word), war and empire.

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Though his underlying point, that history is a replicating tapestry from which we seldom learn, was hardly original, it was stitched with colourful detail.He gave short shrift to Ancient Egypt, describing it as "conservative, complacent, xenophobic, incurious about the rest of the world… a glittering dead end." Much like Devon is today (NB: I have never been to Devon).

All very interesting, despite Miles' occasionally disconcerting manner. With his dramatic pauses and emphatic whispers, he'd be well suited to reading HP Lovecraft by candlelight.