KATHRYN FLEET My TV Week: Festive Hell! But Keeley had me on the edge of my seat


CROSSFIRE, TUESDAY, BBC1

rating: rating showbiz 4

After a tumultuous fortnight following the Queen’s death, television audiences were likely looking for potentially comforting combinations of solace and distraction. So where do I turn?

The three-part BBC drama Crossfire, starring Keeley Hawes, was originally scheduled to run back-to-back from last Monday, but was inevitably delayed before finally starting last Tuesday.

And if that was an ‘escape from reality’, then Crossfire did it – not least because its shooter-on-the-loose plot was set in a hotel in the Canary Islands where ex-copper security consultant Joe (an engaging Hawes) is holidaying with his husband , their two young children and her older daughter from a previous marriage. So far happy (modern, blended, blended) families.

A little less believably, though, Joe and company were also on vacation with their closest friends. Personally, I find organizing my own holidays hard enough without trying to coordinate other people’s schedules, so the fact that a bunch of busy middle-aged people with careers and kids can do it in just a few weeks (in retrospect, we discovered that the idea of ​​an Easter holiday was conceived on New Year’s Eve) felt like a dramatic sleight of hand by writer Louise Doughty.

The BBC's three-part drama Crossfire, starring Keeley Hawes, was originally scheduled to run back-to-back from last Monday, but was inevitably delayed before finally starting last Tuesday

The BBC’s three-part drama Crossfire, starring Keeley Hawes, was originally scheduled to run back-to-back from last Monday, but was inevitably delayed before finally starting last Tuesday

The author of the novel Apple Tree Yard (a huge hit when it was adapted for the BBC in 2017), Doughty explores what happens when outwardly strong and capable women find themselves in situations where events spiral out of their control.

In Apple Tree, Emily Watson’s Yvonne had a relationship with Ben Chaplin’s Mark that got very dark, very fast, while in Crossfire it’s the unfolding of Jo’s relationship with one of her husband’s oldest friends (on the same holiday, with family mu…) in the background of two angry gunmen running around shooting vacationers.

As Jo is forced to brush up on her police skills, it’s up to her to try and save her family, her relationship, the lives of her friends and other hotel guests and staff. It was a big ask – and her journey was predictably edge-of-the-seat with inevitable twists and turns; the excellent Hawes (who also co-produced) was the glue that successfully tied together some slightly frayed plot threads.

Catherine Flett (pictured): The random shooter with no clear motive also appeared in the otherwise utterly brilliant Sherwood - I hope it's not just a trend used to avoid offending

Catherine Flett (pictured): The random shooter with no clear motive also appeared in the otherwise utterly brilliant Sherwood – I hope it’s not just a trend used to avoid offending

Many viewers will want to catch it on iPlayer, so I don’t want to give too much away. However, if there was one thing about Crossfire that felt slightly jarring, it was the BBC’s checklist of diversity in action – providing Joe’s tight-knit group of friends (great performances from Royal Shakespeare Company stalwart Josette Simon OBE, the star of Line Of Duty Anneika Rose and Shalisha James-Davies as Joe’s daughter) felt slightly forced, while the shooters’ own motives were so unclear that it felt less like a proper plot than a pure plot.

The random-shooter-with-no-clear-motive also appeared in the otherwise completely brilliant Sherwood – I hope it’s not just a trend rolled out to avoid offense.

However, while I enjoyed much of Crossfire’s welcome escapism, the final frame of the series threw me off. The close-up of a uniformed police officer adjusting his hat with a shiny “EIIR” badge was—suddenly, unexpectedly—certainly far more emotionally iconic than the show’s creators could have anticipated.

A sponge-calmed apartment block

As I waited to watch the procession from the Palace to Westminster Hall before the Queen’s celebration, I spoke to the Met’s PC Skinner – on duty across the barrier – who admitted that after several long shifts “I’m fine because when I got home last night it was the Bake Off.

Whether viewers were at work or not, Syabira’s gorgeous Red Velvet cake and Janusz’s impressive sponge cake interpretation of his mother’s apartment block in the first episode were so inspiring that I’m sure we’ll all be both entertained and comforted through this season six (Tuesday, Chapter 4, with judges Paul and Prue, above).

His wide fan base is still far from wet – however, the new Prince and Princess of Wales are known to be fans.

MICHAEL PALIN: IN IRAQ TUESDAY, CHANNEL 5

rating: rating showbiz 4

Although it is the birthplace of civilization, there may be many countries that are closer to the top of your vacation bucket list than Iraq. Which is why it’s great to see the indomitable Michael Palin travel, if only so we don’t have to.

Having long been fascinated by the country, he had to get his doctor’s consent to travel there – presumably for insurance purposes – and was apparently delighted to be told that he could go “to see a country that has had a terrible present but extraordinary past ‘. A still-spirited Sir Michael (below) – he turns 80 next year – sets off by train, following the Tigris river south for 1,000 miles from its source in Turkey.

While in the still-ravaged city of Mosul, five years after the fighting there ended, he chatted with children playing in the rubble before moving on to buy a smart custom-made jacket in the glitzy, high-rise city of Erbil, the booming capital of Iraqi Kurdistan 50 miles away east. Then, somewhat nervously joining a torch-lit (“Glastonbury-meets-Apocalypse Now”) New Year’s Eve procession in Acre, Palin admitted that “the first few days in Iraq were really a baptism of fire.”

Sir Michael is still a dry, witty, amiable tour guide, just not as steady on his feet these days, so it’s pretty unlikely we’ll see him climbing mountainsides too much more while dodging tracer fire. His fans will certainly want to make the most of his visit to a country that many of us have more preconceptions than facts about.



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