The Weekend's Television: Hope Springs, Sun, BBC1
Arena: T S Eliot, Sat, BBC2

Scotch on the rocks

"Oh, don't call it that," I thought, when I first saw the publicity for Hope Springs, the BBC's latest Sunday evening series.

Hope Springs might be the obvious title for a drama set in a small village of the same name, a drama which, I'm guessing, will demonstrate that, even if £3m of your money goes up in smoke marooning you and your friends in a Scottish backwater, life will eventually compensate you with less material rewards. But it's also a hostage to fortune and, it turns out, a really bad title for a drama as clunky as this. Hope is very poorly, you think, as it begins to dawn on you how far-fetched and laborious the set-up is. And by the time the final credits roll, the undertaker is erecting the headstone on hope's grave.

It might be argued that my hopes were unreasonably high anyway. Ann McManus, Maureen Chadwick and Liz Lake's drama comes from Shed Productions, the company that produced Bad Girls and Footballers' Wives. So, obviously, this account of four female ex-cons, accidentally diverted from a prosperous retirement in Barbados, was never intended to be another Brideshead Revisited. It's there as an end-of-the-weekend wind-down, the only problem being that it's never quite tongue-in-cheek or over-the-top enough to make you forgive its shortcomings.

Even its virtues – such as the reassuringly unprettified surroundings they find themselves in, all electricity pylons and radar domes rather than postcard Scottish glens – only makes things worse. You've got the setting for something that might be mordantly funny (like the first series of Shameless, say), but the plot and psychological depth of a children's comic.

The essential plot is this. Having scammed £3m out of her crooked boyfriend, Ellie plans to leg it to the sun with three friends. Unfortunately, the woman delivering their passports expired on the luggage carousel, leaving them with no option but to hop a train to Fort William and find somewhere to lay low, while Ellie's vengeful boyfriend searches for them. Then, for a reason that I still haven't worked out, Ellie decided to buy the local hotel, somehow convinced that this will make a better cover story when they apply for new passports. She didn't seem to have noted that paying for a hotel with a stack of crisp new £50 notes might arouse suspicion, even in the sleepiest Scottish village.

But then that hardly matters since nothing else makes sense here, not even the acting, which, with the exception of a nicely deadpan sheep, was coarse enough to grate carrots on. "What the hell have we got ourselves into?" wailed Ellie – after an arson attack by the local thug incinerates all their loot – and it's hard not to read the line as a cry of pain from Alex Kingston the actress, rather than the character she's playing.

Arena's film about T S Eliot had some modest scoops to show off: its access to Eliot's personal scrapbooks – stuffed with menu cards and press clippings and souvenirs of his marriage to Valerie – and a previously unpublished poem, a bit of comic verse about cows that he'd written for his god-daughter's family newspaper and which, a rather nice detail, had been declined by that journal's 10-year-old editor because he already had too much material.

The poem won't have done anything to alter anyone's view of Eliot but I think the scrapbooks might have done, eating away at the popular caricature of the stiff, banker poet, his dress as formally old fashioned as that wonderful accent. This was partly to do with snapshots of Eliot in shorts, holding the hand of children, and Eliot sunbathing in a deckchair, stripped to the waist. But it was also the touching banality of a newspaper multiple-choice quiz headlined, "Are You Too Good for Your Wife?". For "How would you rate your wife's intelligence?" Eliot had ticked "Above Average". And for "What do you find least satisfactory about your wife?" he'd indignantly crossed out all three available options.

Freighted with such glimpses of late happiness the conclusion – Eliot's own reading of the final lines of "East Coker" – was wonderfully moving. Lines that are easy to mistake as dryly cerebral suddenly flushed with feeling.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • 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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence