Catch up TV review: Marcella Season 2, Young Sheldon, Working with Weinstein, The First Brit
James R | On 25, Feb 2018
Marcella: Season 2 (ITV Hub)
Anna Friel’s fantastic performance as Marcella made ITV’s crime drama – set in London, by way of Nordic Noir – a compelling watch in 2017. Now, it returns for a second season, and the detective finds herself investigating the mystery of a disembodied ear. It turns out to originate from a friend of her son, who’s gone missing. Meanwhile, she’s got the challenge of dealing with her ex-husband (Nicholas Pinnock), who’s already moved on to someone else. Naturally, it’s a stressful combination that leads to more eruptions of rage from the unbalanced copper – the kind of outbursts that leave her with blank spots in her memory and leave you wondering why on earth anyone would continue to employ her, let alone allow her to raise kids. But Friel’s turn remains convincing, her intensity building up to a playground confrontation that will have your heart in your mouth. Still able to serve up surprising cliffhangers, Marcella is back in style and as grippingly absurd as ever.
Young Sheldon (All 4)
The Big Bang Theory is one of modern TV’s most overrated sitcoms. The idea of spin-off series devoted to Sheldon, then, is not one to fill you with much hope. This prequel, though, which takes us back to the formative years of the precocious geek, is a deceptively heartfelt, even understated series.
Iain Armitage is excellent as the young nerd, whose primary concern on his first day at school is finding his bow tie to wear – optimistically hoping that, despite his mother’s warnings of being different, he might start a trend. Once in school, he starts calling out other kids for their failure to abide by the school’s dress code – a surefire way not to make friends. It all unfolds in a fairly predictable manner, pitching the tone somewhere between the humour of an eccentric, intelligent child and the gentler drama of his family – football coach George (Lance Barber) and protective mother Mary (Zoe Perry) – trying to cope and support a boy with Aspergers that they don’t quite understand. But it’s the latter that really works, as we get glimpses of his siblings’ struggling to find normality in their relationship with him (his older brother is embarrassed because his nine-year-old brother is in the same high school class as him, while his sister is honest but envious of the attention Sheldon gets).
Throughout, the show resists the urge of the original to dump a laughter track over everything, allowing for its softer side to show through. The result is a far less hectic style than The Big Bang Theory, and one that feels more sincere, as it finds the time to see Sheldon sit down at a piano and discover he’s a natural at playing by ear. Cute and funny, this prequel is that rare thing: a spin-off series that’s better than the original.
Working with Weinstein (All 4)
Harvey Weinstein. The name today conjures up images of abuse, assault and exploitation of power. Rewind 20 years, though, and it was synonymous with success – more specifically, the success of the British film industry, as the Hollywood mogul, and his Miramax studio, championed such international hits as Shakespeare in Love and brought glamorous accolades to UK talent. But the abusive behaviour of this horrible man was exposed last year, as brave women came forward to divulge their stories of mistreatment and rape. If the #TimesUp movement has been associated with big name stars in the entertainment industry, though, this documentary is a vital reminder that normal employees and producers behind-the-scenes were also victims, with meetings held in the Savoy Hotel whenever Weinstein was in London and women telling each other to go in twos or threes – and, if alone, to wear large, puffy coats and never sit on the same sofa as him. With contributors showing more bravery still to go on camera and reveal the unspoken shadow that has loomed over their careers, this is an important, vital piece of filmmaking.
The First Brit: The 10,000 Year Old Man (All 4)
“There’s been a lot of talk lately about Britain,” The First Brit begins, with an ominous voiceover. “About who belongs and who doesn’t.” It’s the kind of grandstanding narration that some documentaries employ to make them sound more important, but in the case of The First Brit, it doesn’t need a narrator to point out how pertinent it is.
If you’ve been near a newspaper this week, you will be aware of the findings of scientists, who used DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton to accurately recreate the face of the country’s past – a figure known as Cheddar Man, because he was found near the Cheddar Gorge.
They discovered that the skin of this man was much darker than one might have presumed – a scientific finger in the air at Viking ancestors, as this 5’5″ male, who died in his 20s, turned out to be dark-skinned, with a heritage stemming back to China and the Middle East. The build-up to that reveal is fascinating enough already, as it gives us a glimpse of what it was like thousands of years ago, from hunting, gathering and possibly even cannibalising. Grim uses of bones and other such evidence are picked apart with intriguing, sometimes disturbing, detail – all paving the way for the surprising final sight of the unveiled face, one that takes on additional weight in the current political climate, as it raises questions of what we consider to be “British”. Informative, engaging, accessible and relevant, this is a quality piece of scientific telly.