Grace Dent on TV: Legacy, BBC2

Everyone in this Cold War thriller was brilliant, but I still fell asleep 

I chanced upon spy thriller Legacy on BBC2 during a perilously slim week for British television. My withering dismay for the fetishisation of that duff children’s programme Dr Who has been documented. It was boring in the 1980s as I chewed the sofa arm in captive anger, wishing I’d been born with sisters instead of farting chomps of brothers who demanded to watch it when I could be reading Ceefax. And it is boring now, even if the BBC have employed every PR muscle they possess to give it a three-week publicity blitz.

One’s heart is heavy for everyone else involved in BBC output during this time who receives no coverage whatsoever, none, and relies on its actors to tweet, “Please, please, watch me, please!” as their show doesn’t even have a trailer because the cash for that was spent on a papier-mâché mask for a Dr Who villain that wouldn’t even scare a queue of children at Santa’s grotto.

So yes, Legacy on BBC2: a spy thriller. I cannot normally stand spy thrillers. Oh, the sitting for days in dark, fuggy rooms, and the smoking and the mumbling of Russian names and the holding up of photos while shouting, “You know this man?” and the shagging of pneumatic, wasted prostitutes who will inevitably die with their tits out, before the hero is eventually turned to work for the “other” side – and does the whole thing again with a Russian hat on. No. Cold war? Cold bore more like! Am I right? These are the sort of solid gold jokes I scribbled on my pad during Legacy where the spy Charles (Charlie Cox) gets himself into a terrible pickle with his Russian former uni chum Viktor, while Romola Garai – playing spy Anna – provided diverting sparkle and a shoulder for Charles to snivel on. I fell asleep during my first viewing of Legacy although in its defence it was warm and dark in the living room and we’d reached the section where Charles had been told by the Russian that his own father, now deceased, was a high-ranking Russian spy, so Charles had gone to question his mother played by Del Boy’s missus from Only Fools and Horses. Obviously she denied it. But then she would as we were only 25 minutes into a one-and-a-half-hour drama and we still had to fit in some car chases, a dead hooker, Charles shagging Anna, a lot of scenes where Simon Russell Beale does his Monty Python-style simmering fury schtick, and a point when Charlie’s mother faces up to the truth.

I should point out here that everyone in Legacy is rather bloody brilliant. Lovely Geraldine James clomps in at one point being haughty in a twin-set, employing a gait that suggests she has killed many people yet still reserves her worst revenge for shoddy customer service. But there wasn’t a great deal for any of them to play with here.

Of course one great plus about Legacy was the fact that it was on BBC2 and during the 90 minutes one was staring at it, one wasn’t in danger of seeing the John Lewis, Tesco or Marks & Spencer Christmas adverts for the 348th time. All are equally flimsy – while masquerading as epic – and are being force-fed down viewers’ throats in the manner of factory foie gras preparation right now. What is this fresh Christmas hell we have all been gifted with? Awful, barely coherent, jarring tat at every ad break. Someone please look me in the eye and tell me what the story arc is of that M&S Wizard of Oz crapfest. And for a bonus point, name one single item it is advertising.

The Tesco advert should just cut to the chase and have a grim reaper sitting at the Christmas dinner table and the tagline, “you’re all going to be dead one day, enjoy your fucking sprouts”. Obviously, the Tesco ad would be more upsetting if the ageing make-up didn’t look like it was two parts Tesco value flour and two parts lard propelled at actors’ faces from six metres away using a Tesco Back To School Helix ruler.

And then John Lewis: a bear goes to sleep for a bit and is woken up by a hare. Maybe the bear liked being asleep? Maybe the bear had put himself to bed with mild depression until Christmas Day as it had already sat through David Gandy as the Mad Hatter on every single ad break since 10 November. I don’t want to be depressed or have my heart-strings pulled at Christmas, the realities of life do a good enough job. Give me Ant and Dec jumping out of a Christmas pudding while Noddy Holder screams “It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas” and is lost in an Armaggedon-level glitter cannon  scenario instead.

I finished Legacy on the third viewing by sitting upright all the way through with the radiators off and a cup of coffee. Cold War thrillers make me so sleepy. I should go to John Lewis and buy an alarm clock.

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

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
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

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.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    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