This week, Paul confronts a timely drama about institutional racism…
NEXT WEEK’S TV
SITTING IN LIMBO
Monday, BBC One, 8:30pm
Inspired by the unforgivable Windrush immigration scandal, this relentlessly angering standalone drama tells the true story of Anthony Bryan. In 2016, four years after David Cameron’s coalition government introduced their hostile environment policy, Anthony decided to visit his ailing elderly mother in Jamaica. He’d never needed a passport since he moved to the UK in 1965. After filling in the paperwork he was shocked to discover that there was no record of him as a British citizen. He immediately lost his job and, without any official explanation, was stripped of his rights to use the NHS and claim benefits. Written by Anthony’s brother, Stephen S. Thompson, Sitting in Limbo follows him through the nightmare ordeal of having to prove his residential status. It arrives with perfect timing. Do not miss.
I MAY DESTROY YOU
Monday and Tuesday, BBC One, 10:45pm
I wouldn’t normally recommend a show involving young metropolitan media types struggling with deadlines, but this new series from actor/writer Michaela Coel of Chewing Gum renown isn’t remotely smug or self-indulgent. This is no carefree celebration of living inside a sexy, solvent London bubble; the occasional moment of dry humour aside, it’s a stark and queasy drama about a woman dealing with severe trauma. Coel plays Arabella, an author with a hit debut novel under her belt. Her life is pretty much perfect. Then, during a night out with friends, she’s drugged and raped. At first, Arabella can’t fully recall the exact details of what happened, but she gradually pieces it together. I May Destroy You cuts deep.
Wednesday, BBC One, 10:45pm
The actors Michael Sheen and David Tennant are, like all of us, in lockdown. They were, in this semi-fictionalised version of reality, due to appear in a West End production of Six Characters in Search of an Author, but the Coronavirus pandemic put the kibosh on that. Written and directed by Simon Evans – who also plays himself – Staged consists of Skype conversations between the bored Thesps as they struggle to remain sane while rehearsing for no reason whatsoever A six-part series of 15-minute episodes in which two famous men bicker and knowingly mock their fragile egos, Staged stirs inevitable echoes of Brydon and Coogan in The Trip. It’s nowhere near as funny or jagged as that show at its best, but Sheen and Tennant have undeniable chemistry.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Thursday, BBC Two, 10pm
This likeably silly sitcom about cohabiting vampires is unique in that, despite being an American show, its principal cast are British. Matt Berry, Tash Demetriou and Kayvan Novak are very funny people, so their cult ‘Stateside’ success is almost enough to make you feel vaguely patriotic. Sure, Berry can only do one thing – a burgundy-throated caricature of a ripe English ac-tor – but it rarely fails to amuse. In season two (it’s ‘season’ for American shows, ‘series’ for British shows: them’s the official rules, folks), the 21st century Munsters search for new human slaves. Pedants such as myself will never fully accept quasi-documentary sitcoms which don’t resemble actual documentaries, but that’s a crucifix I have to bear.
FILM of THE WEEK
Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm
Amy Winehouse was a hugely talented musician who eventually became more well-known, thanks to an aggressive and utterly amoral invasion from grubby tabloid sewer rats, for her self-destructive lifestyle. This compassionate documentary presents her as a rounded human being. It’s a thoughtful study of addiction and an angry attack on drooling media mendacity. A powerful film.
LAST WEEK’S TV
ALAN CARR’S EPIC GAME SHOW
Saturday May 30, STV
Whenever he gets overexcited, Alan Carr sounds exactly like John Lydon singing This Is Not A Love Song. That’s the most insightful observation I can muster about this harmless bowl of froth in which Carr revives various classic game show formats. It began with a tribute to Brucie and Play Your Cards Right. Celebrity couples competed for charity. No distress was caused. Carr is a likeable, nimble-witted pro and this is the comfortably-upholstered vehicle he’s been chasing for years.
BRADLEY WALSH: HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY
Wednesday June 3, STV
Walsh was a hack comic who eventually discovered his true calling as the genial host of The Chase and as a surprisingly sensitive dramatic actor (his performance in Doctor Who is genuinely touching at times). This breezy birthday tribute gave an evidently nice man his due.
THE FIRST TEAM
Thursday June 4, BBC Two
I never much cared for The Inbetweeners. It was a realistically-observed portrayal of the way teenage boys interact, but there was no joke beyond that. This new sitcom from the creators of that show falls into a similar trap. It’s just a boring procession of charmless characters being awkward around each other.