Last Night's TV: A gory story that failed to make a killing

Cold Blood, ITV1; First Cut: Allergic to the 21st Century? Channel 4

If it's not quite the case that there's no such thing as bad publicity, it is true that bad publicity is fragile and easily capsized. In 2003, Matthew Kelly, host of Stars in Their Eyes, was arrested over allegations that he had sexually abused an under-age boy nearly 30 years earlier, with the consequence that his name was splashed all over the press and he became the butt of some tasteless jokes by Frank Skinner. But then police announced that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation, and later in the year Kelly went on to Skinner's ITV chat show and held him to account for the gags; and, lo, the publicity became good.

Even though he'd walked away from the affair without a stain on his character, Kelly's image had been affected enough to make a return to light entertainment seem, perhaps not quite inappropriate, but inappropriately eye-catching. Leaving Stars in Their Eyes to Cat Deeley, he went off and won an Olivier award playing Lenny, the murderous innocent, in a stage version of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, then returned to prime-time commercial television as a serial killer. It's possible that Kelly didn't connect his role in Cold Blood to the past allegation; even so, I can't help feeling discomforted by the appearance of exploitation, more discomforted, to be honest, than I was by anything going on in the drama.

The character Kelly plays isn't just a serial killer in the old-fashioned, technical sense that is, somebody who kills a lot of people over an extended period but in the modern, fictional sense of a preternaturally self-controlled, quasi-omniscient superman. The derivation of this silly notion was acknowledged in last night's final episode of Cold Blood, when Kelly was seen sitting in a hospital bed browsing through Thomas Harris's Hannibal Rising. I liked the slyness of the allusion, but it may not have been a good idea to remind viewers about Dr Lecter. Kelly's character falls short in so many respects, starting with the name: "Brian Wicklow". Brian Wicklow, surely, isn't a demonically clever madman; he's a sales manger from Telford who goes on Stars in Their Eyes to do his impression of Neil Diamond. And where Hannibal the Cannibal gets to wear a hockey mask when he's out of jail, to stop him biting somebody's nose off, Brian has to settle for a woolly hat, like Benny from Crossroads.

This wouldn't matter if Brian were believable and scary, but neither script nor acting were up to the challenge. In previous outings, Brian had played Lecterish games with the police from his prison cell, but he'd been outsmarted by the insights of Jake Osbourne (John Hannah), a contrite murderer now working in criminal profiling. This time, a baby called Jake Osbourne was kidnapped, and big Jake swiftly realised that Brian was organising some twisted revenge. There followed 80-odd minutes of predictable action sequences, punctuated by episodes of less predictable but incoherent psychological quirkiness (just why did Brian's mad older sister wait until the police were searching the Wicklows's childhood home before sneaking into the bedroom to deposit a mummified baby's corpse? "Because she was mad" doesn't qualify as an answer). You couldn't complain about the climax lacking action: self-mutilation, throat-slashing, suicide, revelations of incest and more throat-slashing (only this one turned out to be a grim practical joke), followed by Jake stabbing Brian in a frenzy. A purist might complain about the obvious debt to the film Se7en, which also ended with bad guy deliberately driving good guy to murder him; but at least this made a sequel pretty much impracticable. Hannah was rather good as Osbourne neurotic, tired, a little bit greasy round the edges. But Jemma Redgrave, as the policewoman supposedly madly attracted to him, seemed uninvolved, and Kelly's theoretical icy menace came across as grumpiness: who, I could imagine him asking, ate all the digestives?

In First Cut: Allergic to the 21st Century?, Anne-Claire Pilley interviewed a number of people who reckon they are being killed by the modern world. Some were "electrosensitives", allergic to the "electro-smog" of radio-waves and electricity generated by urban civilisation; others found it was chemicals fabric conditioners, hairspray, paint that set off their somewhat vaguely described symptoms. Gillian McCarthy claimed that she caught it both ways: for 15 years she has lived in isolation somewhere deep in the countryside in a freezing-cold, mouse-infested timber shack, for the sake of her health. She insisted on Pilley and her crew bathing in special soap and wearing only cotton clothes washed in bicarbonate of soda before allowing a visit. Even then, she met them wearing a gas-mask and swathed like a bee-keeper. It is just about possible that all these people are correct in their self-diagnosis, but it's far more likely that they have found an outlet for other anxieties; Pilley's film, though enjoyable, was a bit too even-handed. But there is this to say: none of them watched television at all. Does that sound like irrational behaviour to you?

r.hanks@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
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.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice