Last Night's TV - This Is England '86, Channel 4; My Story, BBC1

Welcome back to Shane's world

Shane Meadows stitched together the end of his film
This Is England and its television sequel This Is England '86 with a shot of his character Shaun in the rain – hand out to test the water. And it wasn't very long before you could tell that the temperature had changed significantly in the three years that had elapsed between the first drenching and the second. This Is England ended in a mood of chilly bleakness – with violence and disillusionment. But now life is looking up for Shaun, not least because he's just finished his CSEs and has no intention of continuing the desultory imitation of the academic life that led up to them. "You're in for quite a shock young man," said one of his teachers, looking disdainfully at his exam paper. "I think you'll find that it's me that's doing the shocking, love," replied Shaun, and the remark was eager, not embittered. "How did it go?" asked his mother, meeting him in a café for an exam post-mortem. "It went," said Shaun, "end of."

Most of this first episode was concerned not with Shaun but with Woody and Lol, the skinhead couple who took Shaun under their wing and first gave him a sense of family. Woody and Lol are about to get married, a social occasion that doesn't involve a lot of frills. Meggy and Banjo are travelling to the ceremony on the bus – clutching a Tupperware box full of home-made vol-au-vents – while Gadget and his mate are in the local cemetery, stalking a visitor in the hope of nicking some fresh flowers. The mood and style is Ken Loach at his lightest, so when Gadget makes a rush for the bouquet there's no emotion more scarring than wild indignation from his victim. And as more friends pile up – filling the top and launching into a raucous chorus of "Daisy, Daisy" – it's easy enough to decide to go for the ride with them. It's an ancient strain in British entertainment this – running from the Cheapside scenes in Henry IV to Shameless – the charm of other people's joyous fecklessness.

For the moment, Shaun is outside this convivial gang again, exiled by his own choice and a loner ripe for exploitation by the local bully, Flip, who enlists him into a stupefyingly dimwitted plan to romance a local beauty. Shaun is to insult her at which point Flip will defend her honour. And if this strikes you as a slightly strained moment of picaresque, it's still pretty funny, and rescued by an interlude of awkward silence, when Flip and his sidekick, Iggy, stare in bemusement at the interior décor of a lower-middle class house straining for higher altitude. "That's got it's own rug," said Flip, pointing to the doily under a vase on the coffee table.

There are hints too that the warmth of these opening passages may be a lulling strategy, designed to get an audience far enough in to be able to withstand the darker realities that Meadows often admits to his dramas. Woody and Lol's wedding does not pass off well, with some comic misadventure (Meggy has a non-fatal heart attack while sitting on the lavatory) and a more poignant reversal, as Woody loses his nerve and can't bring himself to utter his vows. Lol, beautifully played by Vicky McClure, isn't just the victim here, but emerges as a character in her own right... one who, a long wordless final scene suggests, might have a more troubling back-story. For the moment, This Is England '86 could be accused of straining a little too hard to be likeable, something it would achieve anyway. But the quiet gaps between the mischief and the capering promise something far more involving than that.

My Story is very strange indeed – an oddly miscegenated programme that is best explained as the wrong answer to the question: "How might we best tap into the massive success of women's true-life magazines?" There's nothing particularly wrong with the stories themselves, which are the kind of heartstring tuggers and jaw-droppers that occupy a big stretch of the newsagents shelves. This week – in a programme themed around the idea of family – we got a woman who'd been reunited with her adopted daughter after a striking coincidence, and a mother who'd been forced to travel to Thailand to rescue her abducted son. But, as if it would be faintly downmarket to be interested in these stories for their own sake, the machinery of a competition has been bolted on, with a panel of three judges (including the novelist Kate Mosse and the journalist Fergal Keane) deciding which of the three will win "the ultimate prize" of being published as a book.

It isn't clear whether they're judging storytelling ability here (in which case there might actually be a point to the competition) or simply deciding where experience has kinked into the most seductive forms, which seems slightly distasteful, like an inverted lottery in which bad luck buys you a better ticket. But in any case the apparatus of judicious selection means that the stories themselves get distinctly short-changed. By far the strangest here – that of a woman whose "perfect marriage" was suddenly shattered when her husband celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary by attempting to murder her with an axe – left you with so many unanswered questions and weird elisions that it was impossible to know what to make of it. What we needed was a John Peel – to be a tactful proxy for our own prurience. What we got was Maureen Lipman, saying "gosh" in a variety of ways.

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz