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
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'