Last Night's TV: They've got a place in the heart of England

The Poles Are Coming! BBC2; Bionic Woman, ITV2

What a melting pot of immigration stereotypes The Poles Are Coming! proved to be. All the stock characters were there, though none of them in quite the roles a stalwart Little Englander would have assigned to them. There was, for example, the indignant local resident who was prepared to say that she believed immigration should be stopped completely and that "the way of life that British people use should be honoured". But her surname was Patel, which I'm guessing is a relatively recent arrival on the municipal rolls of Peterborough. Then there was the civic dignitary mounting a campaign for repatriation, arguing that soon there just wouldn't be enough jobs to go around for those arriving and that their native land needed their skills more. But his name was Bogdan and he'd come over to Peterborough from Gdansk, hoping to persuade some of his fellow countrymen to return in time to build the football stadiums for Euro 2012. And, finally, for those who like a narrative to obey the classical rules, there were the opportunistic types putting an unfair burden on the benefits system. It was just that they all appeared to be 20th-generation English, pasty-faced inheritors of a true-born Briton's right to ignore the facts in favour of a fetid bit of prejudice.

Tim Samuels, the presenter of the most jaunty contribution yet to BBC2's White season, went down to a Peterborough labour exchange to find out why the fields of Cambridgeshire were full of Eastern Europeans, with barely a British voice to be heard. The answer appeared to be indolence: "Nah... yer all right, mate," said a local churl when Samuels gave him the good news about the ready availability of agricultural work. "I'd prefer to sign on than do that." Another – in a brilliantly lateral variation on the old lament that immigrants were taking all the jobs – explained that he wasn't prepared "to work with a load of foreigners". "Makes you proud to be British, eh?" said Samuels ruefully as this specimen of the national genius slouched off down the road clutching his can of lager. Which wasn't exactly the point of these programmes, I thought, the White season having been commissioned to give a voice to those who feel dispossessed rather than expose them up as workshy oafs. It can't have been easy, though. Earlier in the film, Samuels appeared to have stumbled across a gold-standard example of native indignation when a passing motorist wound down his window to complain about how his neighbourhood had taken a nosedive in recent years. There'd been fly-tipping, street crime, vandalism. Then he spoiled it all by explaining that it was the English that caused most of the problems and the Poles were preferable as neighbours.

That the pace of Peterborough's changing population was causing problems was undeniable. A local worthy who had endured hate mail after offering homes to Ugandan Asians in the 1970s detailed the anxieties of some of his constituents, and a doctor and a headmaster confirmed how difficult it could be to deal with the sudden increase in workload, most of it complicated by a language barrier. In a GP's surgery, a tearful Russian mother had to communicate her daughter's problems through a dial-up translation service, all of which came at a cost to the surgery. On the streets, the police had to be accompanied by a Polish-speaking constable. Ignoring such changes, or dismissing those anxious about them as kneejerk racists, is a good recipe for turning a manageable awkwardness into a serious social problem. But even so, the overwhelming impression left by The Poles Are Coming! was not of British grievance but of the courage and nerve it takes to leave your family and language behind for the sake of a better future.

Talking of which, spare a thought for Michelle Ryan, who uprooted to Hollywood and learnt to speak American for the title role in Bionic Woman, only to have to come home again when the series was cancelled after just eight episodes. Knowing that, you wonder whether it's worth forming a relationship at all, but, don't worry, there's little danger that you will, because this is very soggy popcorn, murky and sombre in all the wrong ways.

After being broadsided by a truck (driven by a woman who looked suspiciously like Posh Spice), Michelle was rebuilt by her boyfriend in a top-secret lab. Despite the fact that she lost both her legs and was left hideously scarred by the crash, she seemed bizarrely resentful about her makeover, sulking about the place as if she was thinking of going on Rikki Lake, over the strapline "My boyfriend healed me without asking permission". Then she discovered that she's super-strong and can engage in rain-lashed rooftop chop-socky with another bionic woman, who is even more gloomy.

I suggest Michelle follows the advice given to her character when she escaped from the Wolf Creek Biotech Research Facility: "Go back to your life like none of this ever happened."

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
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.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat