Last Night's TV - Accused, BBC1; Don't Hit My Mum, BBC1; Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After, History

When the battle still rages

The television dramatist, not unlike the newspaper columnist, can heave a sigh of satisfaction on causing something of a brouhaha. Provocation is not the objective of all dramas, or indeed all columns, but the mission is always to elicit some kind of response, and what better response than the purple wrath of retired colonels, except perhaps the purple wrath of serving colonels?

That, at any rate, is what has been visited upon last night's episode of Accused, "Frankie's Story", in which Jimmy McGovern aimed a howitzer at the British army with a tale of institutionalised bullying so brutal that it caused one young soldier to shoot himself and landed another with a life sentence for murder.

It wasn't hard to see why the head of the army, General Sir Peter Wall, asked the BBC to ban transmission. First, there was the suggestion that a couple of Northern scallies only joined the army to get out of convictions for assault. Then, there was the battle scene in Afghanistan, so terrifying that one of the lads, Peter MacShane (Ben Batt), though brave and hard enough in civvy street to have been an amateur boxing champion, suffered a panic attack and was unable to return fire. Next came the bullying sequences, with MacShane turned into the company's "bitch" by the psychopathically nasty Lance Corporal Buckley (Mackenzie Crook), an indignity that included being showered with buckets of excrement.

No wonder the same stuff has hit the fan at the Ministry of Defence, for not only did MacShane put a bullet through his own head, but the horrible Buckley made a pretty good fist of justifying the ritual of making life unutterably miserable for one hapless soldier. "The army," he said, attracts "young men with very little imagination. That's why they're so fucking brave, because half the time they can't imagine the consequences of their actions, and that's how we like it." The victimisation of one of their fellows, he added, was to spell out the consequences of stepping out of line, helping to create obedience, loyalty, camaraderie and ultimately, effective soldiering.

It was an eloquent defence of the indefensible, but it cut no ice with Peter's mate Frankie (Benjamin Smith), who avenged his friend's suicide, and his own selection as replacement bitch, by stabbing Buckley to death. This was all precisely as grim as it sounds, but the issue up for consideration in this column is not whether "Frankie's Story" was unfair on the army, because McGovern and the BBC have been at pains to explain that the thing was wholly fictional, and fiction should surely be allowed to tread whatever ground it likes. No, the issue here is: was it good enough?

Certainly, the acting couldn't be faulted, and Crook's performance all but obliterated memories of Gareth in The Office (although my wife did point out that Gareth was very proud of being in the Territorial Army). McGovern's manifold skills shone through, too. It is very clever, the way he keeps us speculating on what has landed the defendant in the dock, and in a way we were double-bluffed last night, for it seemed almost too obvious that Frankie would end up murdering his tormentor.

However, I thought "Willy's Story" last week a finer piece of drama, character-led where this was issue-led, leaving too many questions unresolved. For instance, where were the officers in this benighted company? Why was there no official enquiry into a soldier's suicide? Could a tyrant like Buckley, in the modern British army, really only be stopped by a knife? Yes, you can take liberties in fiction, but to take them at the expense of plausibility is asking too much of the viewer. That said, McGovern is sufficiently long in the tooth to know that understatement never forced an issue into the headlines.

Another emotive issue was raised by Alesha Dixon, the Strictly Come Dancing judge, in Don't Hit My Mum, a documentary about domestic violence. Dixon witnessed it in her own childhood, as, annually, do upwards of 750,000 children in Britain. She talked to some of them, and also to a wife-beater who has checked himself into a "perpetrators' programme". Unsurprisingly, he grew up in an abusive household himself, and was clear enough about the equation that had turned him into a version of his own father: "I love my dad, he's doing these things, so they must be right."

Dixon did an admirable job of drawing attention to this blight on a civilised society, and it would have been an even better job had the BBC scheduled it at a more accessible time than 10.35pm. Still, at least the History channel got the timing right with Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After, screening it on the 47th anniversary of JFK's death, and compelling stuff it was too, even for those of us who thought that we had been made aware, over the years, of every conceivable angle on the subject.

This documentary focused on the transfer of presidential power from Kennedy to his vice-president, Lyndon Johnson, during hours of chaos and bewilderment. It was a tale of bitter enmity, principally involving Johnson, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and FBI chief J Edgar Hoover. Apparently, it was with manifest satisfaction that Hoover conveyed the dreadful news from Dallas to the younger Kennedy. Sometimes the truth is even more disturbing than fiction, but don't tell General Sir Peter Wall.

Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
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

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

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

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
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?
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.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?