The Weekend's Television: Damages, Sun, BBC1
The Victorians, Sun BBC1
Free Agents, Fri, Channel 4

"You're the only one I can trust, Patty," said Daniel Purcell, neck-deep in the kind of corporate malfeasance that is the chief stock in trade of Damages. Patty's eyes glittered hungrily. Telling Patty that she's the only one you trust is a bit like handing your baby to a boa constrictor and saying "Could you hold her for a minute, but please don't squeeze too tight." Patty lives on betrayed trust, and she hasn't had a meal for some time now, what with recovering from the shuddering, mascara-dribbling breakdown that concluded the last series of Damages. Just like that series, this one began with a teasing flash-forward, as Ellen Parsons menaces an unseen character with a pistol. Then we're back in the moment – "six months earlier" – as the drama sets about connecting these two temporal points with the most convoluted and tangled line it can get away with.

Patty is in her pomp again, a guest-star on Live with Regis and Kelly, where she works the crowd and announces her intention of devoting some of the squillions she earned from the Frobisher case to a charitable foundation. Ellen, meanwhile, is devoting most of her energies to her plan to bring Patty down, meeting FBI agents to discuss an entrapment scheme, in-between group therapy for her revenge fantasies and glooming around the office looking murderous every time her employer enters the room. I'm not sure that this is the best strategy for lulling Patty into a false sense of security, not to mention the best strategy for staying alive long enough to enjoy the moment of victory, but luckily Patty is distracted by traumatic flashbacks of the moment that her friend Ray blew his brains across her office wall.

In fact, what with Ellen's reveries about gut-shooting Arthur Frobisher and Patty's unwanted flashbacks of splatter-pattern, it was quite tricky working out what was real and what wasn't in last night's episode. Sufficiently confusing, anyway, to distract you from the fact that absolutely none of it is remotely realistic, given that New York corporate law is actuallya numbing ordeal of contractual small print, rather than this murky shadow world in which every executive has a hit-man's number programmed into their BlackBerry speed-dial. Never mind that, though – in-between fits of sobbing remorse, Patty has got her mojo back. An associate unwise enough to disappoint her is brought back into line after Patty arranges to have his daughter arrested on a cocaine charge. Glenn Close is doing that weird but compelling thing with her eyes again too, flickering between glinting shards of broken glass and black pits from which no light escapes. It's nonsense, but for the next 12 weeks I fear it is my nonsense.

In The Victorians, the first of a series that examines the Victorian age through the prism of Victorian painting, a thoughtful producer had contrived to produce a balm for scalded politicians – the sight of Jeremy Paxman breaking rocks in a workhouse yard. On the radio the other day, Paxman said he didn't entirely approve of this gimmick, but I thought it was rather entertaining myself and I felt a little disappointed that he wasn't also required to work eight weaving looms simultaneously and pour molten iron in a Victorian foundry, two other features of Victorian society that he touched on. Paxman's point here isn't that Victorian painting is particularly good, just that it is particularly representational, and so offers a wealth of information about a genuinely fascinating period of history. I think he slightly overeggs this argument. A Luke Fildes painting of a workhouse queue, he said, was "more eloquent than any newspaper exposé". Well, it isn't and wasn't – newspaper exposés and novels actually resulted in changes to the law. But the painting is a good illustration, both of the facts of Victorian life and Victorian attitudes towards them. Paxman was on sounder ground in describing these paintings as "the cinema of the day", not just one of those new-for-old metaphors designed to bridge a chronological gap but a vivid account of the crowd-drawing excitement a new painting could arouse. Frith's The Derby Day – a big screen spectacular packed with incident and detail – had to be protected from the crowds by an iron railing, so eagerly did they press to get close to it. And the blockbusters are still worth watching.

Free Agents, Channel 4's new Friday-night comedy, began with a bit of awkward post-coital conversation. Alex (played by Stephen Mangan) has just slept with his colleague Helen (played by Sharon Horgan). He doesn't regret it, she does (in a cheerful, maybe-back-for-seconds kind of way). That's the sit. The com comes from Chris Niel's salty, rueful script, which very nicely exploits the best features of its cast, and also creates a genuinely comic monster in the shape of Stephen, the boss of the talent agency where Alex and Helen work. Stephen (Anthony Head, shaking off the memory of those twee coffee ads and crushing its skull beneath his heel) is foul-mouthed, lubricious, misogynistic and amoral. And funny.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
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.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor