Catch up TV review: Vera, A Year in British Murder, SAS: Who Dares Wins
Ivan Radford | On 27, Jan 2019
Vera (ITV Hub)
Sunday nights on ITV always feel like a cosy spot for Vera, ITV’s cosiest of detective dramas. But Brenda Blethyn’s sleuth is still capable of surprising, as its ninth season shows. Firstly, Cuckoo serves up a corpse steeped in the topical reality of the rising drug trade in Britain, as Vera uncovers a hotbed of pills beneath the cute rural surface of a seaside community. Secondly, it ratchets up the tension, as our detective narrows in on her unexpected suspect, before the whole thing climaxes in an on-foot chase and burst of claret that comes like an elbow to the face. But at the heart of it all remains Blethyn’s quaintly charming presence as the no-nonsense crime-solver, who’s unfazed by murder, tolerant of youths and helpful to her colleagues. We’d pay good money to see her go head-to-head with Luther.
A Year in British Murder (All 4)
47% of female homicide victims are killed by their partner or ex-partner. 38% of killings involve a knife or sharp object. 105 deaths since 2000 have been related to terrorism. These are the statistics that drive this unusual Channel 4 documentary, but the film makes a concerted effort to go behind those numbers and bring a human face to the patterns. Filmed over 12 months, it aims to highlight the value of a life taken from their loved ones, meeting the families and friends of different people who have departed in the last year. It’s a laudable goal, and one that director Ben Anthony achieves by steadfastly refusing to exploit his subjects, descend into heavy-handed sentiment or be anything other than sensitive and respectful.
SAS: Who Dares Wins (All 4)
In 2019, SAS selection opened its doors to women for the first time – the perfect chance, then, for Channel 4’s documentary to find a fresh angle for its long-running series that mostly involves getting viewers to watch people being treated very poorly in nasty conditions while being shouted at by Ant Middleton. And so 25 new recruits head to the Andes, where they have to hold boulders above their heads, survive in the middle of an icy river, and overcome other such ordeals, while being shouted at by Ant Middleton. “Gender doesn’t matter,” he declares at the camera, and the programme, if anything, at least succeeds in showing that the SAS doesn’t treat the women any differently from the men, with the odd sexist jibe only joining the endless litany of taunts designed to discourage and heckle every participant. What’s the purpose of it otherwise? A study of the machismo celebrated by the military? An exploration of the psychology required to survive such tasks? A social examination of the bonds that form in a pressurised group, even with the added tension of knowing one of them is a mole reporting back to the instructors? It’s hard to say. But with three seasons under its belt, this show’s certainly honed its sharp brand of schadenfreude to a brutally efficient point.