Agony & Ecstasy: A Year with English National Ballet, BBC4, Tuesday
Monroe, ITV1, Thursday

A documentary filmed behind the scenes at English National Ballet had drama, spectacle, and its very own Victor Meldrew

BBC4 bosses must be feeling smug. They got in on the ballet trend before it even was a trend, beginning to film a behind-the-scenes documentary at English National Ballet at the start of 2010.

Of course, now the series appears to be riding the Black Swan, especially when episode one focuses, like the film, on a production of Swan Lake. There are moments, hearing Tchaikovsky's portentous music, when you almost expect lesbian romps, sprouting feathers and stab wounds.

Happily for the ENB dancers, there are none of these. But billed Agony & Ecstasy: A Year With English National Ballet, the whole thing clearly has been edited to include as many grisly injuries, Svengali directors and weeping doll-like dancers as possible. There's an awful lot of close-ups of sore ankles and bruised toenails, and a voiceover that will keep telling us how hard it all is: "from injury and defeat to success and elation, will English National Ballet survive one of its toughest years?" This voiceover seems to be read from a war zone, a newsy inflection that makes it sound, bizarrely, almost like a mock commentary.

These constant attempts to up the ante feel unnecessary – the company is quite interesting enough. Plus, a cracking story emerges anyway. Newcomer Vadim Muntagirov, a 20-year-old Russian so shy and cute you just want to squeeze him, is given the lead role, alongside international star Polina Semionova. But she's too grand for rehearsals so in steps 38-year-old Daria Klimentová, supposedly past her best. Enter director Derek Deane, our high camp commander-in-chief, who thinks nothing of telling people – particularly Daria – just how terrible they are. Fond of muttering "un-bel-ieeeve-able", he might be ballet's answer to Victor Meldrew, and is certainly about as sweet tempered.

As opening night gets closer, the scheduled Swan Queen doesn't. She is stuck in Germany, sans visa. You might think Daria would jeté at the chance to play the lead role, but not so. "You think if after 20 years I do one more opening night and the critics see me I become a star? I don't think so," she says, smiling through the pain. When it comes to it, she actually does sprout (metaphorical) wings on stage, and we're told that she and Vadim end up a celebrated duo, winning rave reviews. Hopefully next week, we'll get to see a little less of their agony and a little more of the hard-won ecstasy.

Monroe is not another look back at the dramatic life story of Miss Marilyn. But we are talking about another, almost as familiar, screen archetype: the hospital drama's brilliant but troubled doctor. The title role is taken by James Nesbitt, his usual cheeky charm firmly in place. In fact, for the first in a new series, Monroe already feels like business as usual. There are the quirky ticks that let us know Monroe is some kind of maverick neurosurgeon genius: he has a pair of "lucky clogs", smokes, and is wittily rude to his colleagues and patients. There's the troubled home life: in the old operating theatre vs family dinner conundrum, pizza is left to go cold; wife sighs. There's the spiky rivalry with a fellow surgeon, the hard-boiled Ms Bremner: they're surely going to end up shagging on a gurney. And there's an overconfident young trainee: yep, the "you remind me of me" line gets wheeled out in the very first episode.

What's new, then? The programme's got a rather chilly look to it, all de-saturated blues and steely greys. A comment on the clinical nature of their work perhaps, or just a background for Nesbitt to sail through, cuffing protocol and taking swipes at officialdom? His penchant for putting on playlists of patients' desert island discs while he cuts their brains open is a nice touch; I've never witnessed surgery to the sound of The Specials before.

Nesbitt is an obvious choice for the role. His colleague Bremner may snipe, "I'm just indifferent to your twinkly self-regard", but all those knowing little smiles are rather good. That said, the script can't quite keep up with Monroe's real professional rival: Dr House. The show feels as if it's trying to grow awkwardly in the shadow of a taller, spikier, and frankly more interesting specimen. Being British, there's less psychobabble and fewer stupidly glamorous actresses than in House, but Monroe just isn't quite as smart, and the doctor-with-demons territory is pretty well covered by Hugh Laurie. Monroe needs a shot of adrenaline – and originality – before it can be diagnosed a success.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?