The Little House, ITV1, Monday
The Trip, BBC2, Monday

Francesca Annis conveys menace bordering on horror in a breathless thriller

Blonde, blue-eyed and vulnerable Ruth (Lucy Griffiths) is married to young, wiry construction whizz Patrick (Rupert Evans).

They are well-off, childless and enjoy having sex in restaurant lavatories. Ruth's an orphan, but the memory of her parents' death in a car crash has been partially occluded by the attentions of her fond in-laws, Elizabeth and Frederick, who are so benevolent, they buy them a little house close to their own. There's only one problem: Ruth's mother-in-law keeps radiating menace at her.

"Patrick needs a good home-cooked meal," says Elizabeth, implying that his wife is starving him. The young couple, she says, could go and look at the new house after lunch, "if Ruth [snarl] doesn't mind". At a boring family Christmas, she tells the quaking girl, "I thought you were harbouring a little secret," and when pregnant Ruth's waters break, "Little Ruthie's going to have our baby."

The fact that Elizabeth is played by Francesca Annis, a great beauty for most of her career, but transformed here into a cross between Cherie Blair and Ursula the Sea Witch, is also alarming. After the birth of young Thomas, things get worse. Elizabeth sneaks random casseroles on to Ruth's kitchen hob. Patrick becomes ever more useless and mother-pecked. He and his parents seem to be in cahoots against the hapless new mother, who takes up smoking and pouring her heart out to a stubble-chinned fellow teacher with an unrequited crush on her.

The baby refuses her nipple and cries all the time. Is it in on the conspiracy? Just when we think we're watching a satanic drama called Ruthie's Baby, directed by Roman Polanski, Ruth spots her mother's ghost strolling in the woods in a peasant headscarf. Is she coming with a message from beyond the grave? Suddenly we're in Don't Look Now territory. A friendly shrink diagnoses post-partum psychosis. Moments later, the baby is found burned by a cigarette while his mother is in the garden, Ruth can't voice her suspicions about Elizabeth and suddenly the in-laws are steering her to an asylum ("We've found a private clinic with beautiful surroundings") while they carry off the baby in triumph ....

The Little House takes some liberties with the excellent thriller by Philippa Gregory, making Ruth a teacher rather than a journalist, and turning Elizabeth into a deranged Medea from the outset. This is supposed to be a slow-burning psychic chiller full of believable people going mad while acting for the best. The TV adaptation piles suspicion upon menace upon horror and gives you no time to breathe. I'll be back for the second half, even though it's been mostly spoilt by an extensive trailer.

I don't think I'll be rushing back to The Trip, which started its six-episode run on Monday. Those who've seen Michael Winterbottom's film A Cock and Bull Story, a surreal treatment of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, will recall the droll rivalry of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, playing themselves when the periwigs came off. Watching Coogan's face as he realised Brydon could do a better impression of him than he could of himself was priceless. Winterbottom now films the two funny men going on a road trip in a Land Rover. Coogan has invited Brydon to join him on a one-week restaurant tour of the North for a Sunday newspaper. He needs a companion because he's split from his girlfriend, Mischa.

So here they are, our gigglesome pair, at The Inn at Whitewell, booking in and – oh no! – there's only one room and they may have to share a bed! Brydon is fine about this. Coogan isn't. "You might touch my bottom," he says. They joke about child abuse, swap photos of their children (not at all inappropriate) and compete, over dinner, to see who can do a better Michael Caine impression. Some needling between them goes unexplained. Coogan doesn't seem to like Brydon much, and criticises him a lot – so why has he invited him on the trip? But the conversations are so desultory, and the straining after wit ("Is there such a thing as an autistic impressionist? That's you") so plain dull, you feel they deserve each other's leaden company. I can't wait to read the restaurant reviews.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Arts and Entertainment

film
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.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment