Catch up TV review: It’s a Sin, Back S2, Finding Alice, The Bay S2
Ivan Radford | On 24, Jan 2021
It’s a Sin (All 4)
“My friend says it’s a plague.” “Don’t be silly. That’d be all over the news.” Russell T Davies’ astonishing new series is steeped in historical accuracy, period glee and gorgeously likeable characters, as we follow five friends growing up in the 1980s. As we watch them assemble in a London flatshare – including Callum Scott Howells’ endearingly naive Colin, Lydia West’s Jill, gently schooling and support him, Olly Alexander’s Ritchie, a wannabe actor, and Omari Douglas’ defiantly ambitious Roscoe – Davies surrounds them with banging tunes and a stellar cast that includes Shaun Dooley and Keeley Hawes. In short, there’s everything here you need to get immediately emotionally involved in this tale of growing pains, forming identities and self-discovery. Neil Patrick Harris provides added star power (without distracting from the central cast) as Henry, who takes Colin under his wing and provides some wisdom and shelter. But from the emotional scene of Roscoe daring to leave his family to Colin’s open-hearted excitement at expressing himself, looming over it all is the shadow of AIDS – no sooner have we started to care for these characters than Russell T Davies starts to bring home the reality of the unspoken crisis. Prepare to laugh, cry and get angry – this is a heartbreakingly brilliant piece of television.
Back: Season 2 (All 4)
David Mitchell and Robert Webb are brilliantly acerbic in Simon Blackwell’s darkly funny and surprisingly moving sitcom about Stephen (Mitchell), who tries to follow in his recently deceased father’s footsteps and take over the family business. His plans are foiled, though, by the unexpected return of his estranged foster brother, Andrew (Webb). As the twists and turns make their relationship increasingly twisted, the show grows into a hilarious but surprisingly thoughtful meditation on belonging, family and identity. Season 2 takes that one step further, as Stephen, after the conclusion of Season 1, attempts to return home and pick up his normal life once more. But with everyone around him walking on eggshells and with Andrew still playing mind games, the resulting web of gaslighting, back-stabbing and plotting builds into a sincere exploration of mental health as much as an enjoyably passive-aggressive antagonistic comedy. Mitchell and Webb have never been better, bringing to life painful, awkward and believable characters with complexity and heart – and a barrel of laughs. The addition of Anthony Head to the ensemble as “Charismatic Mike” is a bonus.
Finding Alice (ITV Hub)
It is scientifically impossible for Keeley Hawes to be bad in something. From Spooks to The Durrells, she’s as versatile as they come, from comic timing to steely grit. Both extremes are on display in ITV’s Finding Alice, as she plays Alice, a wife and mother who finds her move into a new home turned into a nightmare when her husband, Harry, ends up up falling down the stairs to his death. Lashing out in response, she swings from denial to anger with a wildly poor-taste string of jokes, insults and snarky comments. If that sounds like a confused mess for a TV show, you’re not entirely wrong: this six-part drama can’t work out whether to be a darkly comic murder-mystery thriller or a thoughtful, wry meditation on loss and grief. Simon Nye and Roger Goldby’s script doesn’t pull off that mix of tones as well as Netflix’s Dead to Me, but Hawes is flawless throughout – leading a cast that includes Gemma Jones, Kenneth Cranham and Sharon Rooney – and that goes a long way to making this an entertaining and at times moving watch. Here’s hoping the script does eventually find Alice over the ensuing five episodes.
The Bay: Season 2 (ITV Hub
Morven Christie brings an understated charisma to the second season of this ITV drama, which once again sees Lisa Armstrong struggling to get through a murder case. Season 1 saw her detective distracted by some questionable personal decisions. Season 2 sees her dealing with the aftermath, as her colleagues eye her with uncertainty and disdain, and it’s a much better fit in terms of credible character behaviour. Unfortunately, it also means that The Bay’s second season is a far more generic crime drama, the most notable part of it being the disappointingly short appearance by Stephen Tompkinson. On the plus side, though, it’s a generic crime drama with Morven Christie in it and her chemistry with Taheen Modak’s rival DC “Med” means this is still compelling enough for a Sunday night filler.