Aidan Smith's TV week: McDonald and Dodds, Man in Room 301, Your Honor

There are many pop bands I’d like to send up in a hot-air balloon with near-empty fuel tanks and under-strength moorings and Spandau Ballet would be near the top of the list.

Used to seeing right through alibis, Judge Bryan Cranston must concoct one for his son in Your Honor

Thinking about this, Tony Hadley’s foghorn would probably be sufficient to keep the thing airborne, especially if he were to bellow “Gold – you’re indestructible” ad nauseum as he was wont to do circa 1983.

But sadly Martin Kemp in McDonald and Dodds (ITV1) cannot call on his bandmate and so his balloon, with Patsy Kensit on board as well, plunges to the ground at the start of the Bath-based odd-couple cop caper, now into a second season.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mick Elkins isn’t too much of a stretch for Kemp. He’s playing a mover and groover from the decade that taste forgot.

Kreeta Salminen as Leena is caught up in dark family secrets in the Scandi-noir thriller Man in Room 301

In the basket were three other figures just as influential in the New Romantic era. Oddly, the fantastic four, who all survive, still live together. Odder still, there was a fifth passenger, but he disembarked early.

Even odder still, he wasn’t famous and yet could afford to share their swish apartment block – a hanger-on who couldn’t hang on any longer.

Did he fall or was he pushed? This is the kind of Cluedo mystery that Jason Watkins and Tala Gouveia love.

Did the quartet have any enemies? “Norman Foster, because I loved to call him Richard Rogers,” says one, “and Richard Rogers, because I loved to call him Norman Foster.” That’s a good gag if you know your ‘80s architects.

Jason Watkins and Tala Gouveia are back on their Bath beat probing why five go up in a hot-air balloon and only four come down

Even better is the fun to be had in the bromance that develops between Watkins’ Dodds and Rob Brydon’s air-accident investigator – two men who love beige anoraks and the “gubbins” you can accommodate in a multi-pocket lifestyle.

McDonald and Dodds is Sunday night comfort viewing and, of course, in a pandemic, as a superior 80s warbler once had it, everyday is like Sunday.

Saturday night discomfort viewing usually comes from Scandinavia. Denmark, Sweden and Norway have all produced grisly thrillers with grisly vowel sounds, but what of Finland?

Well, here’s Man in Room 301 (BBC4) about a family tragedy on midsummer’s night when two-year-old Tommi wanders into the woods and doesn’t come back alive.

Twelve years later on holiday, grandfather Risto thinks he spots what we’re meant to assume is the boy’s killer.

What a family the Kurttis are. Tommi’s dad is Seppo who drinks too much. He’s married to Olivia, who’s been sleeping with Seppo’s brother Mikko, whose wife Leena announces at an excruciating party, to her husband’s horror, that she’s pregnant.

Oh, and did I mention that Risto left his cancer-stricken wife for Eeva? Oh, and did I mention that Tommi’s father might be Mikko and not Seppo?

When the saga flips to the present Seppo and Olivia have divorced and it’s a wonder there’s been no more collateral damage to this highly dysfunctional clan.

With four more episodes to come, though, there’s still time. British dramas will sometimes merely nibble at familial wounds, but Scandinavian shows often lay out the secrets on the table like a smorgasbord for everyone to dive right in.

Meanwhile, has the red-haired feral lad who was scraping cars and stealing food from the family’s summer house in the Finnish countryside really then turned up in their Greek hotel, just along the corridor, to spirit away another of the kids for a rock-climbing expedition? Grandpa thinks so after receiving an anonymous threatening note is soon playing detective and handbrake-turning like a maniac.

Nicely tense and satisfyingly desperate, Man in Room 301 is shaping up to be a fine addition to the Scandi-noir cannon. Welcome Finland, but please don’t invite me to any of your hideous parties.

A few weeks ago on this page I nominated my top three US dramas of the current golden age – The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men – and forgot all about Breaking Bad. Which was silly, because watching Your Honor (Sky Atlantic) it’s impossible to forget about that show.

This may diminish as Bryan Cranston’s latest develops, but after the opening episode I can’t help thinking that his character would want to re-enact the universal truth that is the desire of all men, which Breaking Bad so brilliantly delineated – jacking in the day job and taking off into the desert in a mobile home to cook drugs in your pants.

Cranston is first glimpsed jogging in a hoodie on the mean streets of New Orleans, peering into a house and alarming the kids inside.

This is research for work. He’s Michael Desiato, a judge, establishing the dwelling’s layout for his ongoing case (The house is a “shotgun shack”, a term I first heard in a Talking Heads song, its meaning only becoming clear now).

Then, tragedy strikes. Desiato’s son Adam, driving along even meaner streets in the Big Easy, hits a motorcyclist and, suffering an asthma attack in the panic, flees the scene. The victim dies and Desiato and Adam are about to ’fess up to the police when they discover the grieving father is the city’s feared crime kingpin, promptly turning on their heels.

“I can do this,” the highly-respected magistrate reassures Adam. “I can keep you safe. This is the rest of our lives.”

Cue crazy scenes of him attempting, in a highly conspicuous manner, to remove evidence that is completely at odds with his impeccable professional life. Well, how far would you go to protect your children?

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.