Any Human Heart, Sunday, Channel 4
Peep Show, Friday, Channel 4

Who could root for such a charmless philanderer, even if one of his three faces is Jim Broadbent?

A big-budget literary adaptation crossing continents, straddling the 20th century and featuring a vast ensemble of national treasures and brightest young things?

Does "quality drama" get more quality than this? The gushing wave of coverage that preceded the launch of Channel 4's Any Human Heart suggested not. And yet after watching last week's opener, "white elephant" was the phrase that more readily sprang to mind. More than 105 long minutes, this pseudo-biopic proved to be as negligible in substance as it was voluminous in scale.

In truth, it always seemed a tall order to make dramatic sense of William Boyd's 2002 novel, aka the "intimate journals" of fictional writer Logan Mountstuart. Journals, after all, deal in the random and the internal, neither qualities which translate easily to the small screen. Still, Boyd himself wrote the screenplay, and has talked a good game in recent weeks, noting that "as the author writing the screenplay you can actually be far more ruthless and audacious". And astute, certainly, considering the book's maxim that "every human being is a collection of selves", was his decision to split the main part three ways, with ailing, solitary octogenarian Jim Broadbent reflecting back on his years as young 'un Sam Claflin and middle-aged Matthew Macfadyen.

That aside, however, the opening episode was not so much creatively ruthless as tawdrily reductive, filleting those aforementioned intimate journals down to a slapdash flick-book of Logan's romantic and sexual conquests. So, his virginal school years were duly done away with and his student years among the dreaming spires became a kind of "Confessions of an Undergraduate", centred upon his dogged quest to get his end away. Within the space of 45 minutes, he had had an affair with his best friend's girl, Tess, had fallen in and out of love with the haughty socialist, Land, and had married petulant aristocrat Lottie.

It left some of our finest young actresses vainly attempted to mug a character out of their hair's breadth of screen time while Logan himself drifted through proceedings as an impregnable blank, in both his Claflin and Macfadyen incarnations. Where the former was prissily stiff, the latter was stolidly lugubrious; and they both lacked the raffish charm crucial to the original conception of him as a philandering narcissist you might possibly root for.

No doubt, things will pick up, just as soon as we see more of the expressively forlorn Broadbent, as well as Gillian Anderson's archly alluring Wallis Simpson. (Oh yes, did I forget to mention Logan's inadvertent encounters with assorted big historical cheeses? All very Forrest Gump.) Though having read the book, I'm not sure whether I need to get the knock-off televisual T-shirt.

When I interviewed Peep Show's Jesse Armstrong a couple of years ago, I asked him whether he and co-writer Sam Bain had thought about quitting while they were ahead. "It takes self-awareness to know when you're past your peak ... we'll probably lack that like everyone else and crank them out until [audiences] are bored of them," he joked. But though the ever-increasing profile of its stars David Mitchell (inset below) and Robert Webb would suggest there's no danger of audiences getting bored with this caustic flatshare sitcom anytime soon, I do wonder whether the new run would do well to be the last.

The problem, to this carping critic at least, is that where its original brilliance derived from the stasis of its lead duo, thirtysomething suburban odd couple Mark and Jez, they have increasingly fallen prey to such conventional dramatic demands as plot and character development. In Friday's hospital-set series opener, indeed, we saw Mark become a dad, a game changer which resulted in an ending of disorientating sentimentality. That's not to say that Peep Show isn't still a lot funnier than most of the competition; only that these are two self-destructive Peter Pans who should never be allowed to grow up.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future