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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
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.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea