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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
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.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone