Catch Up TV review: The Virtues, Mary Kills People, Sliced
James R | On 19, May 2019
The Virtues (All 4)
Stephen Graham is having something of a moment right now. The 46 year old has been one of the best actors in Britain for some time, with roles in everything from Little Boy Blue and Boardwalk Empire to This Is England, via Gangs of New York and Coronation Street. Now, fresh from Line of Duty and Save Me, he’s been handed another humdinger of a part in The Virtues. It’s no surprise to learn that the show hails from Shane Meadows, not only a filmmaker familiar with his work first-hand, but also a filmmaker who an expert at capturing naturalistic performances from his stars. The Virtues isn’t just made for Graham: it’s owned by him, with Meadows and co-writer Jack Thorne crafting what is effectively a one-man show over several parts. We begin with him saying goodbye to his son and his son’s mother, who are about to move to Australia with her new fella, and Episode 1 simply follows him around Liverpool, as he waits to get the ferry out of town. It’s a masterclass in understatement, from Meadows’ intimate but invisible camera to Graham’s utterly convincing hangdog presence. He sits on benches in parks, drinks from bottles, makes friends with strangers in pubs – and, all the while, quietly tees up a drama that delves into trauma and recovery with a raw honesty that’s utterly mesmerising.
Mary Kills People (All 4)
Euthanasia, the right to die and the legal and moral debates sparked by each are the subject of More4’s latest US import, Mary Kills People. But the playful title sets the tone for the series, which tackles its weighty issues with the lightest of touches without losing its serious edge. The show follows Mary, an ER doctor by day who, by night, puts down her Hippocratic Oath and picks up a syringe full of pentobarbital – then proceeds to inject that into her latest client. It’s a morbid service she carries out with her partner, a former plastic surgeon: euthanasia to order, as long as people are committed and clear-minded enough about ending their own lives. From the opening scene, which sees them on a job that goes awry – and leaves them sneaking out of someone’s flat by jumping off the balcony – their side hustle makes for a darkly comic case-of-the-week-style series, as their serial assisted-suicides attract the attention of loved ones and the cops. Watching Mary balance all of that with her own family life, job and more makes for wonderfully complex viewing, and a fantastic showcase for leading lady Caroline Dhavernas. Judging by the opening episode, there’s a whole fascinating ball of yarn to unravel when it comes to Mary’s motivations, and the show is fast-paced enough to do so in detail without losing momentum. Highly recommended.
Sliced (UKTV Play)
Dave continues its strategy of commissioning three episodes from its fledgling comedies, rather than individual pilots, and it continues to pay off with this mini-run of Sliced, a comedy that follows two pizza boys, Joshua and Ricky, trying to make ends meet. A lot of the show hangs on the chemistry between the two leads, and Theo Barklem-Biggs (White Gold) is fantastic as Ricky, who doesn’t hesitate to come up with money-making schemes to help Joshua, when his overbearing mother demands he pays his monthly rent. Samson Kayo, meanwhile, turns in a starmaking performance as Joshua, building on his brilliant work in Famalam and Timewasters to serve up a wonderfully authentic character, who just wants to grow up, even as he’s incapable of doing so. They’re surrounded by equally realistic and natural characters, even though so many of them are larger-than-life – there’s a joy in seeing almost everyone being needlessly aggressive in a perpetual, harmful cycle, from angry bank call centre workers to the pizza shop boss who wants to be the next Italian gangster. Sight and verbal gags build up with callbacks and just enough chaos to keep things surprising, and it’s the pacing of Kayo and Phil Bowker’s script that really impresses, racing from “Dickhead!” to “Dickhead!” with a frenetic energy that makes for an enjoyable slice of homegrown comedy – delivered on time and with a smile.