‘999 What’s Your Emergency’ – Series 4

Series 4 of 999 What’s Your Emergency started this week following emergency call handlers, police and the ambulance service in Wiltshire. This is a quality Channel 4 documentary full of revealing interviews and profound fly on the wall moments. The people on camera are witty and funny, sometimes fairly unintentionally. While yelling at someone dishing out racist abuse one restaurant owner shouts “You’ve got more chance of getting a kebab off the Queen than me!” Guys, never be rude to someone in charge of you food.

Channel 4 have earned something of a name for themselves with stylish documentaries that really get to the heart of the action and put a human face on the righteous, the pathetic and the despicable. We meet extremely memorable characters, even if they only have a few minutes screen time.

A call to the police (I hope it wasn’t to 999 because it’s hardly an emergency) sees PC Dan Lane dispatched to follow up on a report of man masturbating in his back garden. This is a crime apparently, which I had not realised, so apologies to the people who live at numbers 28 and 30 in my street. I can’t believe the voice-over guy kept a straight face when saying PC Lane was off “to look more closely at the matter in hand”. Turns out there had been zero al fresco wanking going on, but there was serious tension between one house in the street and their new foreign neighbours.

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‘Broken’

Broken is the beautiful, heart wrenching new 6-part drama series from award-winning English screenwriter and producer Jimmy McGovern, the champion of working class heroes. We are in familiar territory here – kitchen sink dramas and the seemingly small but overpowering tragedies of everyday life.

The big draw for drama fans is Sean Bean in the central role as Catholic priest Father Michael Kerrigan, a kind man, driven by his vocation to work hard for his community. Immediately we see that he’s haunted by an abusive past, rare in tv land where we frequently see priests as abusers, not victims. Bean played cross-dressing teacher Simon Gaskell in McGovern’s excellent drama, Accused an astounding role that he rightly won an International Emmy for. McGovern said in a Radio Times interview that he never considered anyone else for the lead role in Broken: “I always go back to Sean – I just think he’s world class,” he said. “People know he’s good, but I know he’s great.” Typically, Bean is stoic in the face of tragedy. He’s funny too – a bleak, black humour runs through this episode. On screen he is low-key with no histrionics. Appropriately, he doesn’t lose his head.

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‘Eyewitness’

The Norwegian crime drama Eyewitness is a tricksy little fiend before we even start. I’ve been looking forward to this for literally months. Walter Iuzzolino (of Channel 4 Walter Presents fame) mentioned it as one to watch back at the end of last year at the live event in Birmingham Literary Festival in October. I might have been writing this blog for 18 months now, but I still have much to learn about what ‘coming soon’ means in the world of television.  Soon wasn’t soon enough, and while constantly refreshing the Walter Presents schedule I was getting antsy. Surely lovely Walter wouldn’t fail me. The days and weeks ticked by and winter became spring. It wasn’t in any listings for shows coming soon  until suddenly I saw an advert for it two weeks before the air date. Unfortunately for me, three weeks before the air date I’d bought it. In a dark moment of desperation I gave up on Walter and got the DVD. Lesson being, trust Walter and don’t worry. He’ll see you right.

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‘Broadchurch’ (Series 3) and ”Line of Duty’ (Series 4)

This spring ITV and BBC1 are both banking on strong comebacks from Broadchurch and Line of Duty – two behemoths of British drama. Standards are high and expectations even higher – let’s check in with them both…

ITV’s Broadchurch was roundly panned for a patchy second series where the writers tried to do two stories at once and did them both badly. The courtroom scenes were embarrassingly poor with very little in the way of reality, or even a coherent story. Strangely a solicitor friend of mine enjoyed it, but maybe she’s not looking for gritty realism after a full day defending people in the dock.  Her giving it the benefit of the doubt was extremely generous; she was very much in the minority. Series 2 had terrible ratings and people gave up on it in droves (including Mr H who doesn’t have time for bad tv). It should serve as a warning to all broadcasters eager for a hit –  one good series is always better than undermining it with a poor return.

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‘One Killer Punch’

Life can change in the blink of an eye. This Channel 4 documentary about horrifying assaults makes this clear from the start. Straight away it was immediately gripping, in the style of mega-hit Netflix documentary Making a Murderer. We instantly sympathise with this baby-faced boy called Ben, talking to the camera about going to a party and snogging a girl. It’s a teenage romance. Then a drunken fight breaks out and it all turns sour. Ben describes the fight and how he was involved albeit unwillingly, defending the honour of his friend. “I’m not a violent person,” says Ben. We nod. Look at his face. How could we believe anything else? Then another face appears, another young man who was there at the party, and says no, that’s not what happened. Ben hit George with such force that he died. CCTV backs this up. Our view flips 180 degrees. What an ingenious way to start.

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‘Dicte: Crime Reporter’ – On the Box

Another slice of Danish pastry from Walter Presents project on Channel 4. Strong female lead – check. Horrific crimes – check. Beautiful Scandinavian interiors that’ll make your house look dingy in comparison – check. You may think you’ve already got the measure of Dicte – Crime Reporter but this one is a bit left-field for Nordic Noir fans and subverts our expectations.

The Guardian suggest this series will be yet more “grey dramas about the exhausted life of a crime-solving woman” but this isn’t the case. Yes, the subject matter is very dark (people trafficking, illegal immigration, selling babies, dead babies, religious fanaticism, illegal organ trafficking – you name it, it’s all awful) but deftly handled with the themes of the crimes echoing through the lives of the lovable main characters. Sure, this show shares some of its make-up with The Killing, but also, surprisingly Sex and the City. And the theme tune is just so peppy and cheerful!

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‘Line of Duty’ (Series 3) – On the Box

You have to be careful watching Gogglebox (Channel 4) when you’ve got a lot of  stuff to watch on your planner. I’m taking it in my stride as it’s my fault for watching things out of order, but it spoiled a major plot twist in the new series of Line of Duty (BBC2).

Gogglebox has become a strange and wonderful cultural touchstone. As you probably already know it’s a simple concept – families and friends sit in their front rooms and are filmed watching the best bits of tv from the week. These teams of amateur telly reviewers are now award winning celebrities in their own right. It’s a strange ,seemingly useless programme on paper but a genuine delight to watch. From initial scepticism (what’s the point of this?!) it’s slowly become must-see tv in our house. And anyway, we’ve been entertained by The Royle Family for years, and what’s that other than people sitting around watching tv?

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