The Weekend's TV: Case Histories, Sun, BBC2
The Hotel, Sun, Channel 4
The ladies' number one detective
Monday 06 June 2011
Ho-hum. Another weekend, another detective.
And, just in case you wanted a bit more choice when it comes to adult investigators driven on by the memory of a childhood abduction, another one of those as well. As DC Janet Scott pursues the ancient cold case that inspired her to join the police in Scott & Bailey on ITV, here comes Jackson Brodie in Case Histories, still haunted by memories of his sister's murder. Jackson runs a lot, pounding through the streets of Edinburgh in an attempt to outrun his demons, and allowing the director to do some tricksy intercutting between Jogging Jackson and Jackson Junior, racing through the colour-drained woods of a classic traumatic flashback. And this coincidence can't help but make you wonder. Why are we so fearful for our children these days? Time was when the default victim for a murder mystery was a starlet or a wealthy uncle, and anyone under the age of 13 could reasonably be assumed to be hors de combat. Not any more. It's open season on the young.
In fact, Jackson's got two missing girls to think about, not just one, having contingently bumped into another cold case while helping a batty old lady find her cat (I think this scene is meant to alert us to Jackson's kindness, rather than the hopeless state of his private-investigation agency). Hearing an odd noise over a garden wall Jackson is drawn into the orbit of Amelia and Julia, two young women who don't seem unduly perturbed by their father's death (they toss a coin to decide between burial and cremation), but do want to know what their missing sister's soft toy is doing, locked in his desk drawer alongside his porn stash. "I think fate brought you to us, Mr Brodie, don't you think," says Julie, which may be her way of defusing the implausible convenience of this coincidence. As if that isn't enough to be going on with, Jackson is also being badgered by a bereaved father – whose teenage daughter was bloodily murdered in broad daylight – and struggling to juggle his investigations with contact visits with his own daughter. "We went to where a dead girl was murdered... there was blood and everything!" the little girl tells Jackson's estranged wife, estranging her even further.
Case Histories will be watched with some vigilance I expect – a lot of people having already formed a strong attachment to the Kate Atkinson books on which it is based, and a lot of female readers having formed an attachment to her hero, Jackson. I can't really say whether Jason Isaacs is going to satisfactorily flesh out that literary infatuation, but, barring his wife, he certainly seems to hit the spot for the women within the drama. Both Julia and Amelia fancy him rotten, a former police colleague comes prowling for a dinner-date and at least one prospective client opens negotiations by giving him a vigorous knee-trembler up against his office desk. That was the only consummation you got though, since unlike Scott & Bailey there are no single episode storylines to accompany the long-form enigmas. Fortunately, enough of Atkinson's dry humour filters through into Ashley Pharoah's script to make the wait perfectly entertaining.
This week was our last opportunity to check in at the Damson Dene, the Lake District hotel whose staff and guests have been cheerfully oversharing in Channel 4's The Hotel. I'm still faintly dazed by the British public's lack of discretion, if the people who feature here can be taken as representative in their willingness to sign a release form. We've had couples getting paralytic and couples canoodling and couples valiantly trying to patch up their marriages, and none of them apparently dismayed by the fact that there are cameras attached to every vertical surface. The undisputed hero of the series, though, has been Wayne, the general manager, who lives in a caravan at the bottom of the hotel garden, right next to the pigs, but whose mood never appears to be adversely affected by this fact. Nothing appears to be too much trouble for Wayne. When a guest turned up and found it a little inconvenient to use the kitchen microwave to heat up her baby formula, Wayne raced off to his caravan to lend her his for the duration of her stay. And last week, very tenderly, he fussed around the place arranging a surprise anniversary dinner for Paul and Lavinia, a married Romanian couple who work at the hotel.
But there has been one weakness in Wayne's armour-plating of bonhomie and sunniness – Marta, the acting manager he effectively demoted when he arrived and a woman who, understandably perhaps, has not taken well to his presence. This week, matters came to a head and we saw a more implacable side of Wayne, who gave his employer a she-goes-or-I-go ultimatum. In the end, Marta went, but only a few miles down the road to Kendal, where there was a place for her at one of the Damson Dene's sister establishments. What's been best about The Hotel is just such human muddle, occasionally bad-tempered, or sorrowing or rueful (as when Wayne recalls his broken marriage), but mostly just human and full of a struggle to be slightly better than we can manage by instinct. Charming guests this week were a family from the Isle of Man, on a week's break to try and write songs together. Much intervened, including snoring and an abortive shopping trip to Edinburgh, but they left with a new number completed and a broad smile on their faces. Lovely.
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