Last Night's TV: Lost In Austen, ITV1
God On Trial, BBC2

Jane's world left me open to persuasion

It is a truth universally acknowledged that ITV commissioning editors are absolutely desperate to get a big ratings hit, so they must have been as giddy as a Regency spinster approaching 30 when they first saw Lost in Austen galloping over the horizon. Hybridise the dependable bonnet-and-bustle attractions of Pride and Prejudice with the left-field fantasy of Life on Mars, the thinking must have gone, and surely the result will be happy ever after. Well, they made it to the altar, but that – as any attentive reader of Jane Austen knows – is no guarantee of happiness. The reluctant time traveller in Lost in Austen is Amanda Price, an Austen devotee who uses the novels much as some women use Valium, to smooth out the disappointments of daily life. Sadly, Amanda's lacks romance. When her boyfriend eventually proposed, he accompanied it with a beery belch and used a lager ring-pull tab as the engagement ring. Her divorced mother – now in a steady relationship with Mr Pinot and Mr Grigio – suggested that she might as well settle for what she can get. "You have standards, pet," she conceded warningly. "I just hope they'll help you on with your coat when you're 70."

But Amanda wants more – and got it in trumps when there was a clatter in her bathroom and she discovered Elizabeth Bennet standing there, toying in an enchanted way with the light switch. Elizabeth explained that Amanda's tongue-and-groove panelling concealed a portal connecting her rented Hammersmith flat with one of the most famous households in English fiction. And after she popped through to take a look and the door slammed shut behind her, she found out that if you really sink into a good book, you quickly begin disturbing its consoling predictability. Amanda was thrilled to encounter Mr Bennet – a nice study in exasperation from Hugh Bonneville – and as excited as everyone else about the arrival of Mr Bingley. But then Bingley started getting cow-eyed whenever she appeared and she realised that she had to redirect his affections. Slightly mysteriously, given this ambition, she then launched herself at Bingley at the Assembly Room ball and gave him a thoroughly 21st-century snog.

Not quite enough happens in the way of culture clash. There are little dabs of historical instruction, as when Amanda asked to clean her teeth and was shown a bundle of birch twigs and a block of chalk. And there is some fun to be had with the mismatch between modern clothes and idiom and local manners. But oddly (given that the plot involves a kind of temporal exchange programme) we learn nothing of how Lizzie is getting on in west London, and the drama lacks the edge of terrified uncertainty that gave Life on Mars its extra emotional depth. At worst, Amanda simply seems exasperated that she can no longer get a mobile-phone signal, which may not be quite enough to persuade us that she really thinks this is happening at all.

It doesn't take time travel to wrench you instantly into the past. The Nazis managed it millions of times, plunging sophisticated 20th- century citizens into a primitive misery of filth and hunger. Frank Cottrell Boyce's drama God on Trial explored what such an experience might do to your moral certainties, in particular your faith in God. A group of prisoners in Auschwitz decided to put the Deity on trial, their minds concentrated by the fact that they knew that many of them would die in the next 24 hours. Playing father and son, Rupert Graves and Jack Shepherd found themselves on opposite sides in the proceedings, the former bitterly arguing for God's conviction on a charge of breach of contract, the latter moaning in distress at the blasphemy being committed. But a devout rabbi, played by Stephen Dillane, argued that there is an honourable Biblical tradition of theological disputation and took up the case for the defence. In Lost in Austen, you wouldn't have got very far if you hadn't been prepared to believe – for 50 minutes at least – in time travel. Here you didn't need to believe in God to take the drama seriously, only to believe in men's belief.

And the result – given the hazards of such an enterprise, its multiple risks of exploitation and false sentiment – was very good indeed, gripping both by means of theological debate and unexpected revelation. Every now and then you saw Antony Sher, davening silently in a corner of the barracks. Like a loaded gun in a Chekhov play, you knew he was going to go off eventually and that it would be significant when he did, and indeed it was his explosive inventory of God's biblically attested crimes that finally swung the judges in favour of a guilty verdict. The last 30 seconds of the drama allowed viewers who could not live with this adjudication to imagine that an appeal might be successful.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
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.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor