Last Night's TV - Accused, BBC1; The Trip, BBC2; Miranda, BBC2

The return of the working-class hero

Scarcely have we emerged from the warm bubble bath that was Downton Abbey than along comes a piercingly cold shower in the form of
Accused, six separate dramas written by Jimmy McGovern, who might just be what you'd get if you fed a profile of Downton Abbey's creator Julian Fellowes into a computer and programmed it to identify an exact opposite.

Happily, television has room for both these skilled story-tellers, but I make the comparison because of something McGovern himself reportedly said recently – that drama on TV should reflect modern reality. "Why write drama that doesn't matter?" he said, by which he meant drama that has no relevance to the way most of us live. It's a valid point of view, but it overlooks the unyielding appetite of the British for gentle escapism. Moreover, I'm not ashamed to admit that Downton Abbey has indirectly provided my wife, Jane, and me with a one-liner that we now use regularly to respond to almost any unfortunate situation. When Jane met her friend Ali on the morning after a lusty Turk had expired in Lady Mary's bed, Ali greeted her with the heartfelt lament, "poor Mr Pamuk". And so it is that "poor Mr Pamuk" has entered our household lexicon, though I'm not sure that satisfies the McGovern definition of a drama in contact with everyday life.

Whatever, I know what he was getting at, and certainly I felt like applauding last night's episode of Accused on and off the screen, for here was an hour of primetime drama on BBC1 not about a detective, or a doctor, barrister, architect or spy, but a plumber, living not in a chic urban penthouse or a wisteria-clad pile, but in an ordinary house in an unremarkable Northern town. McGovern understands what commissioning editors increasingly seem to forget – that ordinary working people have complicated lives, rich in dramatic potential, no less than, indeed possibly more than, the puy lentil-eating bourgeoisie. With his enthralling series The Street, and now this, McGovern is a one-man counterblast to the ridiculous and yet firmly entrenched notion that their stories should be confined to the soaps.

Anyway, Accused presents the tale of a defendant in a trial, gradually explaining through flashbacks how he or she got there, rather than dwelling on the court case. First up was hot-headed, chippy Willy Houlihan, played by that specialist in Northern chippiness, Christopher Eccleston. Not long ago Eccleston played a notably chippy John Lennon, and may even be just a little bit chippy himself, not that I've ever met him. I have met McGovern, though. I interviewed him once for a documentary about The Royle Family, of which he was a tremendous fan, and I remember him citing as his favourite bit of dialogue an exchange between Ricky Tomlinson as Jim Royle and I think Ralf Little playing young Antony. They were washing up the Sunday dinner dishes, at least until it came to the encrusted roasting pan. "Leave that for your mother," said Jim, which made McGovern roar, for it conveyed a ubiquitous truth with simple economy of language, which is his own stock-in-trade.

Really, Accused is his gig, not the actors', excellent though they all were last night, from Eccleston down. The story began with Willy planning to leave his wife for a younger woman, who suggested telling their respective spouses at a pre-appointed hour, 6.30pm, just as the woman reading the news said "and now it's time to join the BBC news teams where you are." I love that marriage of the momentous and the mundane, but in fact Willy bottled out, because his daughter chose that very second to walk in and announce her intention to get married.

She was marrying into money, but Willy was determined to pay for the wedding. Then a builder who owed him more than £20,000 went bust on him, so he hot-headedly smashed up all the bathrooms he'd installed, which didn't stop his own life spiralling down the plughole. Cleverly, McGovern kept us guessing what crime had landed Willy in the dock, and it turned out to be passing counterfeit money, which he hadn't done deliberately, but clearly, if I might be permitted one more plumbing metaphor, here was a man destined to drown in the septic tank of life. There was redemption in his reawakened love for his wife, and rejection of his mistress, but not even that ended happily, and McGovern's overriding triumph was to elicit such sympathy for a decidedly unsympathetic fellow. In that recent interview, McGovern also asserted that class "informs everything ... there are still lots of situations in which I am ill at ease because I am working-class". Which may well be, but as a writer he's a very classy piece of work indeed.

So, in their different ways, are Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The Trip, their culinary odyssey round Northern England, is a strange delight, like snipe on toast. Last night they reached Holbeck Ghyll in the Lake District, with their respective characters (Brydon relentlessly cheerful; Coogan insecure and melancholic) now firmly established, though how much of it's an act we're not quite sure, which is where the appeal of The Trip lies. There, and in the endless stream of very funny impressions, including, in this edition, Brydon's celebrated ventriloquism act, "Small Man Trapped in a Box".

Finally, from a very small man to a very large woman, it's a joy to have Miranda back, offering a reminder, in this polemical age, that comedy can still be visual as well as verbal.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
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.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders