They say if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. Or at least that’s what they used to say, until television dramas like Mad Men, Endeavour and Inspector George Gently furnished us all with perfect recall of life in decades past - whether we were actually there at the time or not.
Ah, the summer of ’96! Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer playing up front for England, The Spice Girls hit Wannabe on the radio and John Major droning on at No. 10. I remember it all like it was yesterday; Or rather last Tuesday, when the first episode of From There to Here the late 90s-set family saga aired on BBC One.
Philip Glenister stars as Daniel Cotton and the story follows the fortunes of Cotton and his family from 1996 up to the Millennium, a period well within living memory for most viewers. Most viewers, however, won’t able to recall those years in the same detail as Peter Bowker’s script. Although it does sometimes felt like sitting a modern history pop quiz on the rise of New Labour, From There To Here has managed to transcended mere nostalgia television. It’s an attempt to sum up the spirit of the whole period, not just borrow its sense of style.
The 60s-set Mr Sloane, which begins a six-part series on Sky Atlantic this evening, is less interested in the pull of history and more interested in the pulling power of one man. Nick Frost (Simon Pegg’s erstwhile Spaced sidekick) plays Jeremy Sloane a depressed, newly single man living in Watford in 1969, although he’d much prefer it was still 1961.
Back then, Mr Sloane was climbing the career ladder at work, he was still loved by his wife, and his clothes were still in fashion. “The 60s are gonna be our decade, my son, I can feel it,” says Jeremy’s friend Ross (Peter Serafinowicz) in one of the episode’s nostalgia-within-nostalgia flashbacks. Unfortunately for the 1969 Jeremy Sloane, Ross’s words proved prophetic; it seems, his best days are all behind him.
A depressing thought, but nothing that an episode of 50s-set Quirke couldn’t soothe. It starts this Sunday evening on BBC One and stars Gabriel Byrne as a crime-solving pathologist in 1950s Dublin. The special charm of Quirke lies in the low lighting and Noirish camera angles, which make it look like it might actually have been shot in the 50s as well as set then. Compare this to the unmistakably 70s fashions of Happy Days (1974-84) or the soft-focus never-neverland of The Darling Buds of May (1991 - 93) and Quirke is in a whole different category of authenticity. That’s the thing about nostalgia on TV - it’s so much better than it used to be.
How survivalism on TV gained a new audience
Should society breakdown completely next Monday evening at 10pm, I will be fully prepared. I will have seen the finale of The Island with Bear Grylls and the first episode of How the Wild West Was Won with Ray Mears. These rival survival experts have been on TV for decades, but in an age of environmental chaos and social unrest, their shows look less like a pompous Boy’s Own adventure and more like an essential how-to manuel.
It’s not just for boys either, this fascination with reviving lost survival skills. Dawn O’Porter is presenting Channel 4’s new series This Old Thing which will show us how to repair old clothes instead of buying new, and the BBC have announced a second series of The Big Allotment Challenge, in which Fern Britton encourages us to ditch the supermarket queue and grow our own instead. Come the End of Days, that basil-blueberry preserve will still taste delicious.
Penny Dreadful, Sky Go
Sky Go’s new gothic horror series has the same ghoulish interest in gore as the Victorian comics it was named after. The monsters are all truly terrifying, but none quite as scary as Eva Green. She plays Vanessa Ives, a demon-hunting occultist who’s elegant, sinister and preternaturally calm.
How The Wild West Was Won, BBC iPlayer
You don’t have to be a bushcraft enthusiast to enjoy this new three-part Ray Mears series. It’s also a fascinating insight into pioneer history and how the American landscape has shaped the American people. In this first episode, there was also a rare chance to glimpse the hellbender salamander, native to the Appalachian mountains, some say it’s the ugliest creature in the world.
Gracepoint trailer, YouTube
Broadchurch swept the board at last week’s BAFTA TV awards, but how well will this US remake fare? David Tennant reprises his role as the outsider detective, but this time with an dodgy American accent and a dodgier haircut. Olivia Colman’s role, meanwhile, has been taken on by Anna Gunn, better known as Skyler in Breaking Bad.
Coronation Street, ITV Player
Only just recovered from Hayley’s demise? Don’t put away the tissues just yet. This week Corrie has been gearing up for another big storyline. Tina McIntyre has a date with destiny aka the script writers next week which will see actress Michelle Keegan written out of the show after six years.