Last Night's TV: Moving On BBC1<br />Rev BBC2

 

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The Independent Culture

BBC1 will be broadcasting close to four hours of original one-off drama this week, though it would be easy to miss the fact since Moving On goes out at 2.15 in the afternoon, not a stretch of the schedules that tends to get a lot of coverage. This isn't just the television equivalent of styrofoam peanuts either, something bulky, cheap and lightweight to help stop things rattling about too much.

The first series was created by Jimmy McGovern and, like that, this second run shares its DNA with series such as The Street and Clocking Off, dramas that very rarely look far from the lives of their target audiences for their subject matter, even if they tweak common dilemmas and problems to a higher pitch. And when they work they can be little models of narrative economy and viewer engagement.

On Wednesday, for example, in "Punter", Reece Dinsdale played a gambling addict who thought he'd found a way out of his financial hole, only to discover that he'd been used as the perfect loser. And while it might have ended a little tritely – with a visit to Gamblers Anonymous that seemed to take instantly and a reassuring shot of him re-united with his wife – the story bowled along very briskly.

It's what you might call Helpline Drama really, self-consciously probing for raw nerves and offering some reassurance that they can be soothed. In yesterday afternoon's episode, "Donor", the sore point was a ticking biological clock. Sally Phillips played a mildly grating life-and-soul type, first seen crawling from the wreckage of her bed after a heavy night. "I feel like Janis Joplin," she tells a friend on the phone, "five minutes before she dies." The furtiveness of her manner leads us to believe that she's concealing an affair from her partner (Paul Rhys, who was not exactly shaped by nature to play a navvy), but she's actually going for a fertility check-up with a gay male friend. And then a little later she discovers that her partner has been keeping a secret (he's not been shaped by nature to be a father) and the drama meanders around the issue of sperm donorship and gay and straight attitudes to having children.

If that sounds dismissive it's not meant to be, because one of the virtues of "Donor" was that it didn't tie things up too neatly. Even your attitude to its central character teetered in interesting ways. "Who's got the poppers!" she shouted at the end of a long night on the town, and it occurred to you that there might actually be a good reason that she's still childless at 41. There was a nicely judged scene at a children's birthday party, too, at which the yearning to have a baby was almost perfectly counterbalanced by the tedium – to her free-spirit eyes – of actually bringing one up. As her married friends settled into an engrossing conversation about nappy-rash, she sidled out of the patio doors to have a quick fag. Reasonably predictably, she ended up asking the gay best friend to provide the baby gravy. Less predictably, he turned her down and you ended with the sight of her singing "Little Ol' Wine Drinker Me" in a karaoke bar, a narrow escape or an unavoided doom, depending on your perspective. Discuss, over a nice cup of tea.

I wasn't entirely sure about last week's Rev, which seemed to make a slightly hesitant start to its second series. But this week's episode completely restored my faith. From the opening scene, in which Colin was discovered shooting "crack squirrels" in the church garden, to the long sequence at the end in which Tom Hollander showed us what it looks like when a vicar accidentally takes ecstasy ("I'm off my tits, Lord... Colin did it... naughty Colin" ), it was funny, sharp, beautifully written and full of charity. I don't actually believe God exists, but if he did I think he'd chuckle omnisciently.

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