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
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there