The Weekend's Television: Wallander, Sun, BBC1
Louis Theroux: Law and disorder in Philadelphia, Sun, BBC1

After Rome: Holy War and Conquest, Sat BBC2

Take a cold, hard look

The titular detective in Wallander is gloomy – a crapulous, grey-looking figure in Ken Branagh's characterisation, poised unhappily between hangover and nervous breakdown.

Wallander's surroundings are anything but gloomy, though. Should he want to look on the bright side, he only has to lift his head, because this BBC adaptation of Henning Mankell's Swedish thrillers is as vibrantly colourful as anything we've seen on screen for months. The mood is noir, darkened by corruption and human cruelty and compromised justice, but the look is primary-colour picture book, gleaming with northern light. The opening scene gave a fair sense of the combination: in a field of glowing yellow rape, a terrified girl panicked at Wallander's approach, poured petrol over her head, and ignited a great marigold blossom of flame.

This didn't exactly improve Wallander's mood, and, as I've said, he's not exactly one of God's little sunbeams to start with. He's separated from his wife and living alone in bachelor squalor. His daughter is exasperated with him, his distant artist father is showing the early signs of Alzheimer's, and wherever Wallander looks he sees evidence of social decay. He's testy, too. When a brash young policeman in the office suggested that the fatal hatcheting of a prominent former politician might take precedence over the suicide of an unknown teenager, Wallander snapped back: "Fifteen-year-old girl burns herself to death and you don't think that's a crime?" If society turns out to be to blame, Wallander wants it in the dock.

All but the most half-witted viewer would already have guessed that the two crimes are connected anyway, and as a serial killer with a penchant for scalping his victims worked his way through Swedish high society, that link was gradually revealed. Sitting waiting for it to emerge was often a visually dazzling experience, the camerawork as attentive to the contours of Branagh's stubbly, despairing face as it was to the Swedish locations in which the action took place or the bruised pastels of a Munch sunset. But it couldn't really be said to be thrilling or unexpected. Branagh's playing of Wallander is utterly heartfelt, but the character oddly feels shallower than the performance, the disaffection and Weltschmerz just another detective gimmick.

That real policemen do get gloomy is undeniable. There were a lot of jaded and melancholy cops in Louis Theroux: Law and Disorder in Philadelphia, understandably depressed by the fact that the local citizenry would rather die than offer them assistance, but will then also berate them for their failure to control crime. Fans of The Wire will have found themselves in deliciously familiar territory here, in a film full of bantering cops and swaggering corner boys, row houses and vacant lots, casual drug murders and a sudden, universal myopia when a crime has been committed and a witness is called for. The only distinctive feature was the gangly rubber-necker in the body armour, asking gauche questions. "Is she a relative?" he asked tentatively about a weeping girl at the scene of a fatal shooting. "She" was the dead man's sister, and Theroux's nudging curiosity about her grief felt distinctly uncomfortable here.

It was a fascinating film, though, in part because of the utter dereliction of this particular patch of the inner city, but also because it confirmed that The Wire had, if anything, understated its portrait of civil breakdown. At one point, Theroux went to talk to a local drug baron called Reds, a nearly spherical figure draped with bling, who insisted, with a lazy, amused assurance, that he earned his living by trading in real estate and used cars. Reds also ran his own equivalent of an inner-city farm: a calf, a goat and a sheep that were let out to graze on a vacant lot. "We don't have the acres, you know?" Reds said apologetically, as the cow nibbled its way around the crack vials and litter. You wouldn't have dared make it up, but there it was, a little dream of another life beyond the chain-link fences.

After Rome: Holy War and Conquest gave us Boris of Arabia, London's Mayor lilting over the brow of a sand dune on the back of a camel, five inches of pallid shin between his black socks and rucked-up trousers. Boris was in Palmyra in Syria to kick off a two-part film about the grating, sometimes violent history of the relationship between Christianity and Islam, a topic he pursued from Jerusalem – "the San Andreas fault" of the clash of civilisations – to Spain, where the average bloke in the street is still inclined to downplay the part played by 800 years of Islamic rule, as evidenced by several average blokes who insisted that the Visigoths had been far more important. Johnson is a lively presenter – as likely to quote Pulp Fiction as he is to cite Edward Gibbon – and the subject is an important one. As Johnson reminded us, if you wanted to find a jihad in the 11th century, it was the Christians you'd need to turn to.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee