Last Night's TV: Bonekickers, BBC1; Imagine... BBC1

They need to dig a little deeper

"Last week, we tripped over the Holy Grail, and next week, we're going after Atlantis," snapped the feisty Professor Magwilde, fending off the media frenzy that had just descended on her inner-city archeological site. The tone was mocking, naturally. She was trying to damp down speculation that the team had found something exciting, which apparently leaked into the public domain after a nurse at the nearby hospice started performing miracles. But here was the thing. The hacks thought she was being sarcastic when she said this. Even Professor Magwilde thought she was being sarcastic when she said it. But Bonekickers, the drama she's in, had actually called her bluff, because that's exactly how ludicrous its plotlines are. This week, a chunk of the True Cross; next week, proof that the history of the United States will have to be rewritten from page one onwards. While other archeologists will feel they've had a good day at the office if they turn up a bit of unbroken terracotta, the Bonekickers team deal in nothing less than finds that will shake the powers that be. When they break ground, it's invariably ground-breaking.

Bonekickers is written by Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham, the team behind Life on Mars. For the moment, they arrive in commissioning editors' offices backlit by the gleaming dazzle of a recent hit, and a hit moreover that everyone said would be a flop. So they could probably pitch a six-part series based on the Thompson Local directory and someone would say yes to them. The raw material here, though, has a more promising pedigree. The Da Vinci Code was a huge hit, someone has thought, and Time Team is full of promisingly eccentric characters, and everyone likes Indiana Jones, so why don't we stick it all together into the story of a group of West Country archeologists who have a tendency to stub their toes on potentially explosive relics? Julie Graham plays the team leader, Gillian Magwilde, while Adrian Lester is Ben Ergha, the thoughtful science man, and Hugh Bonneville is Professor Gregory "Dolly" Parton, described, in one of the opening episode's better lines, as "Google with a beer gut".

Professor Magwilde's approach to archaeology is unconventional. She likes to squat at the edge of the trench and mutter urgently, "Come on! Give up your secrets!" There's a lot of urgency in Bonekickers, a lot of exclamation marks and a lot of purposeful striding about, but it seems to work because, before you could say ground-penetrating radar, the team had unearthed the site of what appeared to have been an ancient ruck between Saracen raiders and Knights Templar. "That's just nuts!" someone said, but, nuts or not, that was where the evidence pointed. And then the team's newcomer levered a chunk of wood out of the ground, which may just have been part of the True Cross. This excited the fevered attention of a xenophobic Christian preacher (played by Paul Rhys at his very clammiest), who was attempting to incite a second Crusade against Muslim immigrants and was the cue for a ludicrous bit of chase-and-struggle action that concluded in a vast underground chamber stacked with Roman crosses.

Itemising the absurdities of Bonekickers would be pointless, I think. It knows it's complete nonsense and is simply assuming that it can be delivered with enough flair to make you forgive the fact. Indeed, forgiveness may not even be necessary. I watched with my teenage sons and we had a whale of time, hooting at the silliness of the dialogue and the wild improbabilities of the plotting. Whether we would have quite as much fun the second time around is another matter, because while Hugh Bonneville gets some decent lines as Parton, a living fossil of unreconstructed attitudes, there's not a great deal to keep you going elsewhere, unless gazing at Adrian Lester is enough for you. Pharoah and Graham undoubtedly earned the right to fail with Life on Mars. I'm not sure that it was wise of them to exercise it so vigorously.

Last night's Imagine... film about Anthony Minghella was sweet and touching, but just a little undermined by the readiness of actors and actresses to say nice things about the directors they're currently working with. I don't mean by this that the contributors here weren't telling the truth when they said how warm and generous and talented Minghella was; he seems to have been an exceptionally lovable man. It's just that they're sometimes not telling the truth when they say such things in standard publicity interviews, and that knowledge can't help but devalue the currency of affection and admiration. The films didn't half look good, though, and I enjoyed the story about Barbra Streisand. She'd whined to Harvey Weinstein about how The English Patient was only getting more attention than her film because Minghella was the new boy in town. On the night of the Oscars, when The English Patient swept the board, she was seated directly behind Weinstein. He appears to have enjoyed her disappointment even more than his own success.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable