Catch up TV review: Electric Dreams, Bad Move, Porters, Eamonn & Ruth’s 7 Year Itch
Ivan Radford | On 24, Sep 2017
Electric Dreams (All4)
Last year, Channel 4 lost Black Mirror to Netflix. This year, it’s teaming up with Amazon to steal back its dystopian sci-fi crown. Its weapon? An anthology series of standalone episodes based on short stories by Philip K Dick. It’s a fantastic idea, not only because Blade Runner 2049 is hitting the big screen, but because the author’s ideas remain wonderfully relevant and still surprising, even decades after his death. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has the upper-hand, in theory, for topicality, but fortunately for Dick, society in 2017 is as keen on surveillance as ever.
That’s the crux of the series’ ambitious opening episode, which is set in a familiar, retro-styled future, one where a new race of people have evolved: Teeps, who can read the minds and feelings of everyone around them. Naturally, the police have started to recruit them, on condition that they never do the same to a badge, and so Honor (Holliday Grainger) and Agent Ross (Richard Madden) team up to track down the eponymous Hood Maker, whose masks will prove increasingly important in the future.
If Mirror hinges on singular concepts, Dick’s work hinges partly on world-building, and Life On Mars writer Matthew Graham and director Julian Jarrold (The Crown) do a grand job of realising this universe on a low budget. Madden slots into the scenery comfortably as the guarded veteran agent, who wears a hat with the same poise as he regards his new partner. Grainger, though, steals the show as the wonderfully sincere, disturbingly intimidating telepath – one standout sequence sees her interrogate a suspect with a relentless, piercing gaze, capturing the queasy balance between trust and security that underpins the tale’s themes. The climax is a tad underwhelming, given the solid work elsewhere, which makes you wonder whether Electric Dreams would be better expanding Dick’s source material or compressing it to something shorter. Either way, this is a confident, if slightly uneven, start to a series that holds great promise.
Bad Move (ITV Hub)
How much can a cast redeem a bad script? ITV’s new sitcom, Bad Move, appears to be an experiment to test precisely that to the extreme. Jack Dee and Kerry Godliman play Steve and Nicky, a couple who have moved to the country to get away from the city – only to discover that rural life is far from the dream they hoped for. Dee, who co-wrote the script with Pete Sinclair, is on typically grumpy form, as the husband who is far from enchanted with the weird country noises, the remote location and the lack of Wi-Fi. The latter is what fuels the opening episode, as they try to get the web hooked up, despite living in “a dip” with no signal. While that might be enough for a plot, it doesn’t prove enough for jokes – and the paper-thin people we’re presented with don’t ring true enough to fill the gaps in between. It falls to the sheer comic timing of the actors to elevate the lazy, safe, overly familiar material – and while Dee is good at deadpanning and pretending to be happy about eating sugar-free yoghurt, it’s thanks to Miles Jupp that the show even loosely works, as he turns up on their doorstep as an annoyingly friendly neighbour. Even they, though, can’t redeem the source material.
Porters (UKTV Play)
If you thought recent BBC One drama Trust Me, in which a woman pretends to be a doctor, was endearingly ludicrous, wait until you see Porters, from the same writer. Dan Sefton’s sitcom also stems from a similar premise, as we follow Simon Porter (Edward Easton), a new porter who dreams of being a doctor – and hopes he can work himself up the chain. The only things in his way? A complete lack of qualifications, an inability to handle blood, and the fact that’s not how medical degrees work.
It’s impossible not to compare any hospital sitcom to Scrubs, and there are some disappointingly familiar elements, as our hero is once again a middle-class white male who pines for a woman out of his reach (Lucy – Claudia Jessie). But Porters already shows signs of its own tone and feel, and doesn’t waste any time in adminstering a healthy flood of jokes. Both primarily stem from Susan Wokoma as head porter Frankie, who not only delivers quips to your funny bone but also calls our protagonist out on being yet another white, middle-class protagonist. Even Lucy (played with likeable indifference by Jessie) isn’t afraid to put him in his place.
Throw in Rutger Hauer – yes, really – as a bonkers veteran of the hospital who lurks in the corridors and delivers strangely philosophical advice, and a non-stop string of increasingly daft scenarios and you have a promising new comedy from Dave. It’s already got the clout to bring in a wealth of impressive guest stars, from Matt Horne as a suicidal patient and Kelsey Grammer as a medical expert related to a deceased patient to Sanjeev Bhaskar, who is hilarious as a transplant surgeon who pretends to be incompetent – or does he? Comprising three episodes, this mini-season continues Dave’s practice of testing out a show before commissioning a full season. We prescribe more episodes immediately.
Eamonn & Ruth’s 7 Year Itch (My5)
When a relationship reaches the seven-year mark, so the old adage goes, people get the itch for something different or new. How do you spice up a marriage? Roleplay, swinging and alternative sex therapy are all options. How do you not spice up a marriage? Watch this excruciating Channel 5 documentary, which sees reality TV royalty Eamonn and Ruth Holmes sample these methods for themselves. It’s a topic that’s certainly worthy of being explored by non-fiction TV, but whoever made the bewildering decision to choose this couple to do the exploring needs to take a long, hard look at themselves. Or, perhaps, they deserve a medal, because this morbidly curious hour is hilariously awkward and delightfully unsaucy, as the pair make polite small talk about sex while getting embarrassed at dolls making rude noises, then loiter awkwardly in a dominatrix dungeon, as a man is whipped. “Goodbye Mistress of the night… or whatever,” says Eamonn, hurriedly, as he tries to leave. “It’s been an amazing experience, we’ve learned a lot.” You won’t be able to say the same. But you’ll have laughed a lot for all the wrong reasons.