Margaret, BBC2; EastEnders, BBC1; Paris Hilton's British Best Friend, ITV2

Lindsay Duncan's portrayal of Thatcher during her last days as PM was so one-dimensional it was hard to care

Was it deliberate that Margaret, about the last days of the Thatcher government, struck a similar tone to the film about the last days of the Third Reich – Downfall? Both deeply claustrophobic, they showed the bare minimum of what was going on "out there" – be it Berlin burning, or Brixton, though Downfall gave slightly more sense of its protagonist's career ("Margaret" didn't mention the words "monetarism" or "IRA"). Bruno Ganz brought – and I mean this almost sincerely – more human sympathy to Hitler than Lindsay Duncan did to Thatcher. Her performance came straight out of the deep freeze, ungenerous and psychopathic.

The producers were listening to their political, not their dramatic instincts; it was difficult to care, over two hours, about this woman losing her job. Duncan, as limited here as a malevolent porcelain doll, played her angry scenes like a supermodel having a hissy fit, and as the narrative bobbed back to the past, she missed myriad opportunities to age up and down, to contrast the fresher younger Margaret with the sclerotic Maggie Caesar.

The flashbacks to her early years were wooden and over the top – Airey Neave whispering in her ear like a posh Gollum – and the piece worked best as a portrait of her twilight days, a Gotterdammerthatcherung. Writer Richard Cottan and director James Kent achieved a portentous atmosphere, even without surly lions pacing Whitehall. It was Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, but with pinstripes instead of togas. She was beginning to bestride the Cabinet like a Colossus; rebellion was brewing; Heseltine had a lean and hungry look ....

The main pleasure of the piece was watching the semi-caricatures of Thatcher's favourites, flamboyant, half-forgotten beasts from a now-flattened political jungle. I gasped when I saw Heseltine. That hair! No wonder Oliver Cotton gave such a bombastic performance – he had to up his volume to be heard over that sandy wig and eyebrow gear, props that are requisite for the part but hard-to-handle, nevertheless, like Santa's beard, or Satan's tail – delete according to political prejudice. John Sessions was in his element as Geoffrey Howe – after all, he spent years doing his voice on Spitting Image – playing him as if he was in a sort of trance, like Brutus in his "phantasma or a hideous dream", as he delivered the unkindest cut of all, his resignation speech.

The parade of have-a-go cameos continued: James Fox, pictured above, as Charles Powell; Robert Hardy as Willie Whitelaw; Paul Jesson as Ken Baker. Kevin R McNally was also vocally pitch perfect as Ken Clarke .... For fans of senior British actors of substance, Christmas was come early indeed.

The piece had a good ear for subtext, such as the true meaning of Ken Clarke's "no one wants you humiliated, Margaret", and the magpie script arranged scraps of truth so they glinted, a line of Nigel Lawson's memoir here, from Alan Clark's diaries there. I looked it up: Peter Morrison really was asleep at his desk when Clark came to the door. (They left out my favourite Clarkism: "Hullo, aren't you Edwina Currie?" – "Now then, Alan, there's no need to be objectionable.") The made-up scenes – icy domestic repartee chez Thatch – were weaker than the quotes, but that's every docudrama-writer's tragedy.

Finally, the piece didn't have the stamina to get to the friends, Romans, countrymen speech, leaving John Major (the wonderful Michael Maloney, ticking like a buried bomb) still at home with his infamously achey wisdom teeth. I enjoyed it, but I was left wondering how it is that people who work in entertainment have the confidence to trivialise so relentlessly people who work in government.

EastEnders sprang on us a black history episode, a one-off themed broadcast featuring an all-black cast, the younger ones togged up in street style and talking politics, the older ones drinking rum and reminiscing: "Back in Trinidad we don't call it pancake day, we call it carnival ... Mardi Gras." It was all a bit awkward and clichéd, but at least the envelope was pushed. One paper invited its readers to vote on whether the episode was "Tokenistic or Overdue?" (it can't win really, with that binary choice) while a huge to-do was made in another broadsheet about the fact that it wasn't flagged up with a pre-publicity campaign, when in truth it could have done with being even more casual, wearing its purpose more lightly.

Top trash TV at the moment is Paris Hilton's British Best Friend. Paris tells us she has found it hard finding people who want to be her friend "for the right reason", so she figures throwing a reality TV competition might help. Then she makes a little moue at the camera. That woman has a genius for camp. There are 12 British contestants, sweet as chicks but mentally – well, let's just say none of them will be on University Challenge any time soon. There is one man among them, who is given to wearing hairbands. Paris sets them all friendship tasks, such as buying her a present. She gives them £50, then receives the gifts graciously: "For me? That's so thoughtful!" Although it is not clear what the contractual definition of the post-show friendship will be (must Paris respond to a certain number of text messages per week?). Paris still has strict ideas about her selection process.

She has made it clear she will only choose a British best friend (BBF) who won't sell stories about her to the press. Touching, isn't it?

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

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.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album