Thursday, 25 February 2016

TV Reviews - Midsomer, Death in Paradise, Call the Midwife, The Night Manager

Tim Hiddleston in The Night Manager

“Midsomer Murders” was rather good last week, for the second week running. Lots of quirky characters, a good murder count, and at the heart of it, a story about family, about loss and suffering, and enough twists and red herrings to get the viewer going the wrong way more than once.

How anyone could refuse an appeal for a genetic match that could save a child’s life is beyond me, and I did think that the crusty husband who ran the riding stables was rather cruel to do so.

The on and off semi-romance between the sergeant and the pathologist is rather irritating me though. This week it was one-upmanship about looking after Barnaby’s dog while the family was away. It felt too contrived, and there doesn’t really appear to be any spark between the characters.

Barnaby and his wife, their child, and the dog Sykes are well done, even though the poor woman has very little to do with the plots. On the other hand, as most people who do end up dead, perhaps that’s a bonus.

“Death in Paradise” was good, but felt rather as if it was ticking the boxes, phoned in, written by numbers (choose your own cliché). Unlike last weeks, when Wendy Craig shone as the dotty aunt, there really was not any standout guest part.

The murder and the coincidence which gave the person framed an alibi seemed rather contrived, and there was not that “aha” moment which one really wants in a locked room mystery. As usual, the surroundings, the sunny weather, gorgeous scenery, make it a must for brightening cold, wet and windy evenings, even when it is not at the top of its form.

“Call the Midwife” doesn’t seem to sound a duff note at all. I am so amazed that even after so many series the characters and the stories are so realistic, and so brilliantly brought to life. The nun (Cynthia) who was brutalised by a Russian sailor who had been attacking other women, and the way the elderly nun took care of her and bathed her, was one of the most moving scenes. As was her realisation that she was the only victim who could speak to the police, as the others all had fears and secrets to hide - "It was not a test of faith, but a test of strength". With a home birth with no midwife going wrong, and the attacks on women, this was certainly another fraught episode.

But I’ve noticed it is also leavened with a touch of humour, in this case, Doctor Turner and his family attempting to take a holiday in a couple of tents, one of which collapses, one of which leaks, and the youngest daughter’s fear of squirrels – “she’s even afraid of Squirrel Nutkin, and he’s only a fictional character in a book”- was just what was needed before it became intense again.

“The Night Manager” was one I wasn’t sure of, but the standout performances from Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie made for riveting television. The locations were exotic enough from Egypt to the Alps, but it was Tom Hiddleston who drew the attention, so suave and polite, while at the same time, starting to play a very dangerous game, and all the time, this palpable sense of a hotel in the dark hours of the night when most people have retired to their beds.

We’ve moved on from George Smiley and the Cold War here, and it is disposable mobile phone sims cards which can hold secrets about covert arms dealing and terror. Making the MI6 central character a woman was also a smart move by the adapter, and one that Le Carrée has approved.

I’m certainly looking forward to it next week, and to seeing what happens next. There is the sense that the main character may be found out, and that ratchets up the suspense. The glossy cinematography is a bonus, but it is with its characters and plot that this series will succeed.

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