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Regiments of women, monstrous and magnificent, on the march


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FARE thee well then Gentleman Jack (BBC1, Sunday, 9pm), which went out the door with its head held high and crowds of satisfied viewers cheering it on its way. The episode began under a cloud with Miss Walker (Sophie Rundle) languishing unhappily in Scotland, believing Miss Lister (Suranne Jones) did not care for her anymore.

Nonsense. At the same time as Miss Walker was racing back to Yorkshire, Miss Lister was doing the same from abroad. She had been told her aunt’s gangrene had taken a turn for the worst and she feared her beloved relative was on the way out. But the gods were good, the gangrene cleared up, the two lovers were reunited and everything ended happily. This series has been another triumph for writer Sally Wainwright: funny, bold, original, fearless with women, monstrous and magnificent regiments of them, everywhere.

There was no time to grieve the loss of Gentleman Jack because one of our other favourite costumed capers was back on council telly. Season three of Outlander (More 4, Wednesday, 9pm) had sauntered over from Amazon Prime, where they are now showing season four. Confusing? Totally, but for a show about time travel it is entirely in keeping that it should be all over the shop.

Season three opened with Jamie cutting up rough at Culloden in 1746, while his lover Claire was in 1948 Boston, about to give birth to his baby. He wasn’t going to make it to the birth, then. Men, eh?

Claire, now married to Frank, a professor at Harvard, is being patronised to death by her husband’s boss, who finds it amusing that she reads newspapers and has opinions. Time to channel some of Jamie’s warrior spirit, but maybe leave the sword at home, there’s a good girl.

For all its intensity, there was a distinct whiff of the nine bob note about the drama Dark Money (BBC1, Monday, 9pm). It had a decent writer, Levi David Addai (Damilola, Our Loved Boy), an impressive cast, and its subject, sexual abuse in the film industry, was very much of the here and now. A lot going on, but something was off.

The story opened in a fancy house with a swimming pool and a party in full swing. But out in the kitchen, dad (Babou Ceesay) was pressing a knife into his palm until the blood ran. Cut to one year earlier and a different house, a shabby terrace where the fridge was on the blink and a repo man was quizzing dad about unpaid parking fines. A party was going on here too, this one to welcome young Isaac home from LA where he had been shooting a movie.

Isaac was withdrawn and fretful, finally breaking down and telling his parents what had happened to him at the hands of a famous producer. He had a video of one incident, which was played several times during the first episode, in sound but not in vision.

His parents were distraught, outraged, and understandably in a spin. But a hop, skip and an internet search later mum and dad were sitting across the table from a bank of expensive lawyers and being offered a six figure sum to stay quiet.

The questions piled up fast. First, who would go to a solicitor first, rather than the police? Second, why were the family so skint if the child had been in a movie? And if a lawyer offered you £3 million and said a decision had to be made in the next 5 minutes, wouldn’t you smell a rat?

It wasn’t just the improbabilities that made Dark Money an uncomfortable watch. We know such cases have occurred, but they are rare when set aside the everyday horror of child abuse. It was as if the subject had been done so often that it had to be given an added, wholly unnecessary, Hollywood spin.

Eight Days: To the Moon and Back (BBC2, Wednesday, 9pm) was the latest in a busy season of documentaries on screens big and small to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. The unique selling point of this one was that it blended real audio from the space capsule with genuine footage and added dramatic reconstructions. As we watched actors of today mouth words spoken at the time by the astronauts, a lot of the chat was mundane, but then they would see the sun coming up and be awe-struck. To keep their spirits high, mission control gave them a mini news bulletin from home. One story concerned the House of Lords being reassured that a US mini submarine would not harm the Loch Ness monster. Armstrong looked decidedly unamused, and no wonder. He had lives depending on him, and the hand of history on his shoulder. This was not a time for frivolities.

With so much material around we are becoming rather spoilt for choice when it comes to the moon landing. But much of it contains footage never seen before, and it is a story that will never grow old.

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