It’s that direct glance to camera, a cheeky acknowledgement of the audience, used so well in the advert for Gentleman Jack that’s made everyone decide it’s the Regency Fleabag. It’s going to be fast-paced, thrilling, and fun. But Suranne Jones is a dramatic actress, and being a lesbian in the 1830s can’t have been all japes, romps and saucy bed-swapping. As Fleabag wasn’t just a story about mean girls shagging, this isn’t just a cross-dressing lark with top hats and boobs.
But I’m putting the cart before the horses here, which nearly happens at the very start of this episode with injurious consequences for a small boy. The speeding driver is not our heroine Anne Lister arriving back in town, but she travels just as fast, only with a bit more concern for her fellow road users. The clever, adventurous and singular Miss Lister is back to shake things up after a personal disaster in Hastings which she refuses to talk about. She’s something of a Regency millennial; flown the coop with an unsuitable partner, been rejected and is going through an early mid-life crisis. She’s moving back into Shibden Hall with her dull, dusty family and her younger sister Marianne who is sick to death of playing second fiddle to her. The excellent Gemma Whelan, who you’ll know from Game of Thrones and Upstart Crow, is channeling both Yara Greyjoy’s sibling issues and Kate’s clever sarcasm. Her epic eye-rolls at yet another tale of her sister’s daring-do must become a meme. I demand it.
It’s New Years Day and I’m feeling charitable so this blog is brought to you in a whisper, with a cold flannel (for your forehead) and a bacon sandwich (for your mouth… if you need instructions on how to eat a sandwich, maybe don’t get out of bed yet). Read my round-up of the best Christmas telly and figure out what you want to watch on catch-up to keep the festive feelings flowing, and I’ll pop to the shops for paracetamol. Alright?
A classic tale of mismatched neighbours Andrew (Stephen Merchant, playing exactly the sort of person he always does) and Dev (Asim Chaudhry) from Bedford on a 9 hour mission to save Christmas and buy the must-have toy (Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess) for Andrew’s daughter. Dev is the lonely chubby one, separated from his family at Christmas, and Andrew is the awkward angry intellectual, successful but bad tempered with a family who loves him for some unseen qualities. Dev teaches Andrew to be a happier man and a better father, and despite themselves they’ll be best buddies for life. Basically it’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Jingle All The Way for the small screen. It looks lovely with cosy camera angles suited to our suburban action heros. There’s great pacing throughout with real tension and subversive moments of mischief. Neither lead performance is all that over-the-top and their situation, while silly, seems entirely probable. An unexpected gem.