Catch up TV review: Belgravia, Penance, Kate & Koji
James R | On 22, Mar 2020
Belgravia (ITV Hub)
Just when you start to wonder whether you can have too much Julian Fellowes, two of his dramas land at once, with Netflix’s The English Game joined by ITV’s Belgravia. The Sunday night drama slot personified, it begins on the eve of Waterloo, a battleground for class conflicts, forbidden romance and – the show’s signature flourish – a time-jump to show us the consequences of events 25 years later. Within an hour, we’ve had the Duchess of Richmond’s ball on Brussells, voluminous gowns and stern exchanges about nothing much in particular, but the cast certainly pull it all off with aplomb, from Tamsin Greig and Philip Glenister (plus Alice Eve) as the fresh money on the scene and Harriet Walter on Maggie Smith-like form as the programme’s scathingly frosty matriarch. It all feels much too familiar, and far too shallow, but if Gentleman Jack was too modern for your liking, there’s some comfort factor to be found in a bit of post-roast dinner stodge.
Channel 5 does it again with this unexpected three-part drama that’s steeped in secret desires, family grief and manipulative stares. Julie Graham stars as Rosalie, a mother and wife who loses her son – and, in the confused, emotional aftermath, winds up taking in Jed (Nico Mirallegro) as a lodger. Neil Morrissey as her husband seems blithely unaware of Jed’s crawling ways, while Art Malik steals scenes as the local priest, but it’s Mirallegro’s show, and he balances smiling charm with enticing menace with magnetic charisma. Expect to look him up and IMDb and seek out his other work immediately.
Kate & Koji (ITV Hub)
Immigration! Surely nobody’s thought to make a TV show about that! That’s presumably the conversation that led to the commissioning of Kate & Koji, ITV’s new sitcom. Thoughtful and funny, with insights into the experience of being an asylum seeker, Channel 4’s Home has proven that this subject matter can be dealt with in a way that’s both respectful and hugely entertaining. Kate & Koji reminds us that it’s possible to do the opposite.
Brenda Blethyn stars as Kate, a grump cafe owner who is frustrated by everything – changing society, modern technology, rich people, scroungers, veganism and foreigners. Worse than being unlikeable, though, she’s not funny, and that lack of laughter sets the tone for a programme about intolerance that doesn’t therefore have much to offset the unappealing views.
Koji (Jimmy Akingbola), meanwhile, is a refugee who happens to be a doctor, but mostly spends his time disdainfully dismissing anyone around him.
It’s not hard to guess the direction in which the show’s headed, but that doesn’t mean you want to watch it get there. A disappointingly dated effort.