Catch Up TV review: Beecham House, The Crystal Maze
Ivan Radford | On 30, Jun 2019Reading time: 4 mins
Beecham House (ITV Hub)
Fresh from ITV’s sumptuous Vanity Fair, and from enjoying himself as a villain in Liam Neeson thriller Cold Pursuit, Tom Bateman stars in ITV’s latest glossy drama. This one, we’re told, is different to the norm: a drama set on the cusp of the 19th century in India that calls out the problematic nature of colonialism, rather than glorifies it for TV entertainment. But the show, for all its good intentions, doesn’t seem much different at all.
Bateman plays John Beecham, a tall, handsome, noble, handsome, bearded, handsome man, who has severed ties with the East India Company so he can carry out trade in a more respectful manner. And so he purchases the titular estate, ready to begin a new life of decency with his family. But in its rush to convey all of this information, Beecham House’s opening double-bill races through its plot and its characterisation, trying to introduce us to everything and everyone without giving any of them time to breathe. Beecham is, we’re told, a Good Man, but we only know this because of all the exposition-heavy dialogue, while his partner and old friend Samuel (played by the always-excellent Marc Warren) comes across as little more than his Slightly Naughty Sidekick. As for the Beecham staff, they fare no better: they can be summed as The Quiet One, The Sometimes Angry One and The One Who Has Eyes for Beecham’s Soldier Brother.
Chandrika (Pallavi Sharda), aka. The One Who Has a Past with Beecham, gets a brief moment to begin fleshing out her mysterious role, as children and other entanglements coming into play, but she’s sadly overshadowed by the presence of Lesley Nicol as Beecham’s constantly complaining mother, who doesn’t like the heat, the scorpions or the food – or the Indians, for that matter. She renames the household staff to English-friendly monikers she can remember, something that Beecham corrects her on, but then continues to tolerate her patronising behaviour – whether played for laughs or dramatic tension, her unwavering political incorrectness only reinforces the kind of colonial tropes that the series purportedly sets out to change. There’s chance, of course, for growth, lessons and important messages as the programme continues, but its introductory double-bill feels more artificial than authentic, from the colourful, yet curiously dust-free, sets to the token romance with governess Margaret (Dakota Blue Richards). The cast are doing their best but Beecham House needs more depth to become more than just Downton Delhi. Go in with lowered, soapy expectations to get the most out of it.
The Crystal Maze (All 4)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the only thing more satisfying than solving a puzzle is watching someone else fail to solve it while shouting loudly at the telly. The Crystal Maze, back once again for another round of rebooted fun, continues to tap into that timeless truth, producing an hour of easy-viewing TV that’s as enjoyably agonising as ever. There’s fresh intrigue in this season, as it brings with it The Eastern Zone, which is inspired by the historic art, architecture and monuments of East Asia – replacing the Medieval Zone. The result, whether the broad-stroked approach to culture is sensitive or not, means new rooms to add into the mix, and the balanced variety of tasks – from memory challenges to rolling balls down slopes – remains well suited to the participants on each team. Here, they include Jeff Stelling (who gets phased by a spinning chair), Paralympian Hannah Cockcroft (who conquers everything set before her) and Tom Rosenthal, who promptly gets everyone else wet after falling in the water. Watching Richard Ayoade run from moisture is immensely satisfying, before he switches back into his cool, calm self moments later. “Time… who cares?” he muses, sarcastically, as someone is about to get locked in a room. “It’s not like anybody’s going to die.” Welcome back, The Crystal Maze. We missed you.