I didn’t really enjoy Sherlock (BBC1 Sunday, 8.30pm) it’s plot mostly pertaining to John and Mary’s marriage. This was a story that meant a great deal to the characters (and probably the writers) but not to me. I don’t feel sufficiently invested in any of them to care as much as I needed to. That’s okay, though, I’m not saying either I or the show committed a crime. Although I do wish more scenes would just end gracefully, rather than flouncing off the screen yelling, “BYEEEE!” with a look-at-me wipe.
There isn’t a lot that’s pretty in The Bridge (BBC4 Saturday, 9pm), one reason why this most preposterous of Scandinavian imports also works out as the most satisfying. With everything tinged in slate grey or, at best, a mossy green, there’s a kind of industrial estate lack-of-allure that works very well contrasted with a plot wherein “someone’s trying to cause an outbreak of pneumonic plague,” and the baddies leave a calling card. This house style, unlike Sherlock‘s, contains the excesses of the story. But that’s not to say it has to mollify the writing. The opening double-bill superbly portrayed Martin’s continuing grief following the death of his son. He’s a man who’s been calcified by the trauma, almost physically: he’s gone shockingly white.
It also helps that in Kim Bodnia the show has a true acting great who has created an unusual character for TV – someone who radiates both actual ordinariness and kindness. So many of his lines are delivered through laughs as he responds to the antics of the birdlike, almost sociopathic Saga (Sofia Helin, who’s also terrific, once you realise where she’s going). Meanwhile, it looks like this year’s story will play out as some kind of weird parable about shopping local, or, as someone says, “pathos-driven eco-terrorism” and I think that will be the least interesting aspect in all of this. But Martin and Saga and the lovely audacious turns in the tale will keep me happy.
Two of the shows I watched this week sported the P-within-a-P symbol, meaning I’ve been subjected to covert selling, although of what I’m still not quite sure. Dancing on Ice (ITV Sunday, 6.15pm) was one, but it was more plagued by another small on-screen graphic, namely that revolving inverted-comma that’s waving-in the commercial break. It felt like the whole programme was under the yoke of this angry punctuation point, Christine Bleakley forever telling us what’s “coming up” before it brought down the curtain. In fact, the production was so geared towards selling the future it began with a routine put to The Best is Yet to Come.
Despite that, there was also a lot of looking back. Plenty of noise was made about this being the last ever series – although why that should be was never explained – with old contestants returning and their various histories elucidated. I like all that sort of stuff, programmes getting into their own mythology. The result being, I felt more engaged by the potential last dances of Bonnie Langford and Joe Pasquale than Mr and Mrs Watson’s first waltz back on BBC1.
Another constant joy of Dancing on Ice – Christopher Dean’s continual drive to sound excitable. He deployed the phrase “tearing it up” twice over the evening. Much racier was Simon Reed in the commentary booth describing the moment Andrei Lipanov elevated Bonnie by means of a hand on her gusset as “something we’re calling ‘Too Hot To Mention’.”
Second sighting of that PP was The Taste (Channel 4 Tuesday, 9pm). Every food competition on TV, for me, is tested against MasterChef, as I run all the decisions the production team have made on a notional MC logic diagram. A kind of ‘what would John and Gregg do?’ One year, they opened their contest with an ‘auditions’ round, as if it was a requirement to show their working. Few people seemed to like it. The Taste‘s debut felt a bit like that, as if – again – the best was yet to come. I still quite enjoyed it though and in particular the tension between judges Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre which – in as much as these things aren’t real – felt real, specifically the bits of grumbling that crept in after the obvious edit points. I’ll watch again next week, but I do reckon this is programme that’s been polluted by the aphorisms of other similar endeavours: the bit where the camera whips around then slows up as our trio are introduced, contestants pledging their “heart and soul”, a Dragons’ Den-style montage of those contributors who weren’t interesting enough to merit their own three minutes, plus talk of ‘mentors’, ‘auditions’ and ‘locking in’ decisions. This fidelity to those cliches meant the coining of the phrase “final 12” to describe next week’s participants. The rules actually state it must only be the final five or four who are celebrated. Because of the alliteration.
The same rules dictate any review should now exit on some kind of wordplay about the sort of flavour this show left us with. Can’t think of something, so instead here’s Richard Osman’s terrific pun from Pointless Celebrities (BBC1 Saturday, 7pm) about the “sequels” to erbium (erbium on a Saturday night!): Erbium Rides Again and Erbium Goes Bananas.