Last Night's Television - Who Do You Think You Are?, BBC1; Whitechapel, ITV1

Gore blimey, guv'nor

Hold the front, or in this case the inside-back page! Unforgiven, the ITV1 drama that finished last week, offered writing and acting out of the very top drawer, and Whitechapel, which started last night, looks to be out of the next drawer down. I hate to cram too many metaphors into one paragraph, but gripping ITV1 dramas are like London buses: you wait for ages, then two come along in rapid succession.

Whitechapel stars Rupert Penry-Jones, last seen legging it through the heather in a slightly clunky version of The 39 Steps, as Joseph Chandler, a high-flying detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police. Chandler's ascent through the ranks, however, owes more to his lofty social connections, and in particular the patronage of the commissioner (Alex Jennings), than any notable record of dirtying his hands with proper police work. On the contrary, DI Chandler hates getting his hands dirty. He is a cleanliness freak, whose neuroses are challenged when he is dispatched to take charge of an investigation into a grisly murder in the East End, partly because grisly murders are by definition messy, but mainly because the detectives he must lead, working out of Whitechapel cop shop, are a slovenly bunch. Naturally, they resent the arrival of Chandler, who as well as being suspiciously clean and tidy is also disconcertingly tall and posh. Small, messy and decidedly unposh Detective Sergeant Miles (the ever-excellent Phil Davis) orchestrates the resentment.

Now, there are problems with all this, for us as well as for them. For us the problem is a wearyingly familiar TV formula, the one that presents the detective as a maverick or misfit, being pitched in with mistrustful and usually unreconstructed new colleagues. In Prime Suspect it was a woman, in Life on Mars it was a time-traveller, and I could fill the rest of this column with further examples going back to the 1970s and beyond. Remember Dennis Weaver's McCloud, the cowboy in New York City? Chandler is McCloud with antiseptic wipes instead of a 10-gallon hat.

The problem for them, meanwhile, is that the clash of personalities impedes the investigation, with the seen-it-all cop Miles refusing to believe that the murder is a precise copy of the first strike by Jack the Ripper, 120 years earlier. Every time there is a murder in Whitechapel, he complained, some "Ripperologist" surfaces to invoke Victorian London. The Ripperologist here is Steve Pemberton from The League of Gentlemen, having a high old time leading tourists along streets almost as creepy as those in Royston Vasey. When he pointed out to Chambers the uncanny similarities with Jack the Ripper's crimes, Chambers believes him. When another woman is murdered in the same way, even Miles grudgingly accepts that their quarry is a copycat serial killer.

None of this brought anything original to what is essentially a standard police procedural (albeit with more gore than we normally get), so why did I enjoy it? Partly it was the acting, by Davis and Pemberton in particular, but mostly it was S J Clarkson's direction, a little over-flashy at times but very good in the crucial business of generating mood and suspense. I even just about forgave the inevitable way in which the background music kept infiltrating the foreground, making it sound as though it wasn't just a murderer loose on the streets of Whitechapel, but also the entire strings section of the London Symphony Orchestra.

From Ripperology to genealogy. A new series of Who Do You Think You Are? kicked off with Rory Bremner, making the title even more apt than usual, although Bremner on the whole held back the impressions, except for the frightfully pukka 1940s English he used to intone the entries in a phrasebook circulated to British Army personnel, including his father, Major Donald Bremner, stationed in Germany after the Second World War. With the high-handedness that the victors doubtless felt was their privilege, most of the phrases were highly peremptory, such as "go away, please. I cannot talk to you now."

Bremner's father was 53 when his younger son was born, and died 18 years later ravaged by cancer. With tragic irony the cancer charity he worked for after leaving the army summarily fired him when he got cancer himself, sending him a signed photograph of the Duke of Devonshire as a leaving present. Bremner dates his own highly productive sense of injustice from that moment.

Some years ago, incidentally, Ken Dodd was a guest on the Radio 4 programme In the Psychiatrist's Chair. Dr Anthony Clare introduced him by saying that he intended to strip away the mask of the clown, get beneath the carapace of the funny man, to see what made him tick. "How," he asked Dodd, "do you feel about that?" To which Dodd replied that he felt it was quite tatttifilarious and totally plumptious. In other words, he had no intention of letting his clown's mask slip. Bremner, by contrast, let us see exactly what makes him tick, another triumph for a series that is never less than watchable, and quite often deeply moving.

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Gravelle on trial for Danny Latimer's murder as Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Review: Broadchurch episode 7

Arts and Entertainment
Barry Norman has predicted a Best Actor win for Michael Keaton at this Sunday's awards

Arts and Entertainment
The right stuff: 'Ukip: the First 100 Days'

Review: UKIP: The First 100 Days TV
Arts and Entertainment
Anastasia Steele with Christian Grey in his offices in Fifty Shades of Grey

Arts and Entertainment
Class act: Julia McKenzie and Keeley Hawes in 'The Casual Vacancy'

JK Rowling's story is a far better drama than it is a book

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Channel 4's Indian Summers

Arts and Entertainment
The BBC's version of 'The Crimson Petal and the White'


Arts and Entertainment
We will remember them: 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' at the Tower of London

Art Police investigate abuse sent to Paul Cummins over Tower of London installation

Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman was named worst actress for her performance as Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game; the film’s producer, Harvey Weinstein, said the UK government ought to honour its subject
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.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower