Catch up TV review: Girlfriends, Next of Kin, Kiri, Working Class White Men
Ivan Radford | On 14, Jan 2018
Girlfriends (ITV Hub)
In 2018, we still live in a society where woman over a certain age don’t get offered many roles. Thank goodness, then, for Kay Mellor, who returns to our screens with a series following not just one but several women navigating their mature years. Playing out like an all-female Cold Feet, the result is familiar drama, but comfortingly so, as we see old friends Linda, Sue and Gail all facing obstacles in their personal and professional lives.
Linda (Phyllis Logan) is on a cruise with her drunk husband, only for him to apparently fall to his death, while Gail (Zoë Wanamaker) is in similarly suspicious waters with her son, who is clearly involved in something illegal. Sue (Miranda Richardson) appears to be the most successful of the bunch, but her high-flying magazine life is also crashing, as her boss (Anthony Head) fires her for being too old. Bridal magazines are for younger women, he tells her, but this drama is anything but; if you’ve already ooo-ed and aahh-ed over the cast list, this is one for you, a show driven by complicated characters, some of whom you’ll love and some you may not. As life should be.
Next of Kin (ITV Hub)
It’s a sad indicator of current times that a terror attack could be considered a recognisable everyday scenario from which to kick off a drama, but ITV’s Next of Kin does so with surprising nuance and a delicate building of tension, as we see Dr. Mona Harcourt (Archie Panjabi) discover that her brother her been kidnapped in Pakistan. The show explores what happens back home, as the family (what is left of them) panic and group together, but there are questions that loom, from the connection to the opening events – seen from afar on ground level – to the whereabouts of her brother’s son, Danny, who has gone missing. The cast, including Jack Davenport, are on convincing form, and events manage to be weighty without feeling heavy-handed. A well-performed drama with potential.
Kiri (All 4)
It’s been over a decade since Sarah Lancashire signed a golden handcuffs deal with ITV for millions of pounds, and all these years later, you can still see why she was worth top dollar. Here, she plays Miriam, a social worker who is trying to do the best for the eponymous Kiri, a young girl about to be adopted by her foster family. Before they can officially make her part of their family, though, Miriam arranges a visit to her birth grandfather and his wife – only for her to go missing. A black girl going missing just before she was set to live with a white family? It’s the kind of situation guaranteed to whip up a media frenzy, and Kiri dives right into the complex themes of adoption, race and class, not to mention child care and social services. Lancashire is fantastic as Miriam, unsure how much the biological family is too blame and how much is her fault for cutting corners or not performing adequate checks. Lucian Msamati, too, is excellent as her granddad, who makes an impression with only a brief amount of screentime. Throughout, writer Jack Thorne twists the tension and teases out new complexities with a flawless sense of character, subtlety and pace. Get ready for a gripping four-part box set.
Working Class White Men (All 4)
Isn’t it tough being a white man in modern Britain? Ask some working class men that and they’ll tell you it really is, because much like Trump’s America, there’s a group in society that hasn’t moved with the times, left to feel forgotten about as communities step forward into a more progressive, diverse and equal age. Making a documentary to give them a voice is a dangerous task, as it risks normalising this idea of white Brits being a minority, stoking the flames of xenophobic hate speech. Fortunately, Channel 4’s new series has chosen the right man for the job: Professor Green. Now a staple part of BBC Three’s documentary team, he’s a gentle and insightful presenter, one who asks us to empathise, but not sympathise, with this faction – he, after all, is one of them too, having been raised on a council estate by his nan.
Interviewing a range of young and old men across the country, Green still finds himself rebuked by a crowd protesting, as talks of patriotism and foreigners stealing jobs crops up. But he’s astute enough to cut through that rhetoric and highlight the important part of their dilemma: it’s not about being white or male, but those other two words in the title. This is a class problem, which they’ve conflated into a racial problem.
David, in Bolton, is a classic example of how that journey can happen, as he falls from a job in a restaurant run by British Pakistanis into unemployment and, later, protests and rallies. He’s surrounded by angry men who have lost a sense of who they are, something that leads them to strike out at entirely the wrong person. Green points out that the establishment is the problem, not immigrants, something that you sense others such as Denzel understand better. An Essex hustler trying to make a buck with a rave (and some “naughty business” on the side, which, of course, he has no part in), he admits he’s more likely to waste his cash on a quad bike than his child, all ambition and excuses with no responsibility. There is hope, though, in the form of Lewis in Hampshire, who is the first in his family to apply for Cambridge University – and it’s that tale of a man who has picked himself up and even speaks differently that seems to strike Green as the most surprising. This is a thoughtful piece of filmmaking that dares to listen to those who feel forgotten, while sensitively pointing out where their values have gone wrong. Years on from being raised by his nan in a council flat, that Pro Green really has come good.