Blackout, BBC1, Monday
When I Get Older, BBC1, Wednesday

Time will tell, but Christopher Eccleston is as reliably grim as ever in this dark thriller

Anyone who sat through the improvised banalities of the recent Dominic Savage mini-series True Love might well have questioned TV's obsession with keeping it real. From the praise lavished upon HBO's uncompromising argots to the hullabaloo over period drama anachronisms, it seems authenticity is all when it comes to small-screen drama these days. Which is fine for the most part – hold the waltz mash-ups there, Fellowes! – but what about the joys of the surreal, stylised and plain silly? Step forward new thriller Blackout to tick off those neglected Ss with some brio.

If its premise – the travails of an alcoholic, corrupt northern council official – sounded a bit Alan Bleasdale, the result was far more Christopher Nolan, launched as we were into a noir dystopia envisioned by director Tom Green as "the British Gotham City". Cue interminable rainstorms, retro-styled femmes fatales, fizzing neon lights, looming civil unrest, and not a performance target wall chart in sight.

"Wooaah," you might be thinking, "isn't that a bit sexy for primetime BBC1?" Well, thank heavens for lead Christopher Eccleston, an actor as reliably grim as a North Circular retail park. As our rheumy protagonist, he careened from Smirnoff-suckling and dodgy dealing to a morning after that certainly couldn't be remedied by tepid Irn-Bru. With a business associate laid low in a coma, you see, his sozzled flashbacks suggested he was the most likely culprit.

The question of his guilt would have sated many, less decadent thrillers. Here, though, the narrative executed more sharp turns than a joy rider on an airfield. No sooner had he realised what might have happened than he was gifted a chance to atone for his misdemeanours via a heroic intervention in a drive-by shooting. And no sooner had he come to in hospital than he was being cajoled by some Malcolm Tucker manqué into capitalising on his celebrity and joining the city's mayoral race.

These were jaw-aching implausibilities to swallow. But as the episode closed with our newly anointed people's candidate bullshittingly vowing to "dump the bullshit", it seemed they might be the basis for a compelling political fable. Well, that or a load of high-end cobblers, anyway. Either way, I'm looking forward to more of Sherlock's wonderful Andrew Scott, he of the dyspeptic owl face, as Eccleston's nemesis-to-be. And given both actors' supreme stare-iness, we could be in for the most compelling face-pulling contest since Zoolander.

"This is the story of four famous pensioners who have left behind their wealth, comfort and busy lives to live with the nation's forgotten old people." So began When I Get Older, another poignant study of the plight of celebrities struggling to come to terms with the ordinary lives of their peers. And rest assured there was (a) talk of metaphorical journeys, and (b) the 73,000th recorded use of Take That's "Greatest Day" to induce phoney uplift.

The two-part documentary saw our quartet (including Gloria Hunniford, inset) each spend four days with a (mostly) housebound senior before moving into a residential care facility for a further week. And though the intention was to highlight society's neglectful treatment of the elderly, too often you questioned the production's neglectful treatment instead. Or maybe Dorian from Birds of a Feather genuinely was the best person to be coaxing an anguished stroke victim into respite care.

Then again, not even Jim Davidson playing hopscotch with a Zimmer frame could have destroyed the affective power of the subject matter. And, beyond the celebrity patronage guff, there were plenty of insights into the twilight-years condition, from the profound – Malcolm's carer-wife's discussion of her own feelings of self-erasure – to the incidental – a dementia patient telling war journo John Simpson "I'm so pleased to think that we're working", perhaps heartened by the mental occupation of appearing on camera.

Simpson seemed most sceptical about the format's contrivances. Having gone to visit Peggy, a cantankerous, reclusive 83-year-old living alone in a Suffolk village, he decided to leave her to her antisocial ways. "I don't think that coming in, changing somebody's life and going away with a warm sense of achievement is really the thing," he noted. Now where was he at the pitch meeting?

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk