The Weekend's TV: Kipling makes exceedingly good drama

My Boy Jack, ITV1; Wilfred Owen - A Remembrance Tale, BBC1; Learners, BBC1

Well, I cried at the end, which was the point I suppose, welling up as David Haig read Rudyard Kipling's poem My Boy Jack, written after the heavy losses of the Battle of Jutland in 1916, but given a wrenching personal particularity by the use of his own son's name. Jack had been killed at the Battle of Loos the year before, shortly after his 18th birthday and only after Kipling had used his fame and influence to lever an insurmountable obstacle out of the way of his son's enlistment; the fact that he could barely see beyond his nose. Kipling's short-sightedness about the nature of the war effectively cancelled out Jack's life-saving myopia, and it was a source of self-recrimination for him ever afterwards."If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied", he wrote later.

In last night's My Boy Jack, David Haig, moulded by nature to play Kipling, told the story of the writer's sacrifice of his son and inadvertently demonstrated, once again, how difficult it is to keep the old lies of valour and glory from seeping back in to accounts of those events. The done thing now - as universal and uncontradictable as bellicosity was in 1914 - is to shake one's head sorrowfully at the innocence of those who thought that war might be an ennobling experience. Instead, we insist on its horror, and, for perfectly good reasons of decorum, draw a veil over evidence that it might debase those who take part in it. Should it matter to us that John Kipling, a boy of 18, acquitted himself well in his final battle and was highly regarded by his men? Surely not if we mean what we say about the betrayal of putting mere boys into such places. But it does, and it did to Haig's drama too, which was at pains to represent Jack's last minutes as heroic rather than abject.

Daniel Radcliffe was well casthere - the Potter squint and earnest sense ofdestiny a natural fit for Jack, who, like countless boys of his generation, enthusiastically collaborated in his own destruction. And Haig's trench scenes were a cut above the usual inadvertent poetry, the last agonising minutes before going over the top grubbied by obscenity and puking and loosening of bladder and bowels. He'd captured, too, the torture of hope that Jack's parents found themselves exposed to - the word"Missing"on the telegram sending them scouring through photographs of prisoners of war to see if their son might still be alive. But, through no fault of his own, I don't think he could entirely keep a strain of sweet transcendence out of his ending.

That even the fiercest and most knowledgeable opponents of the war were subject to the same seduction was demonstrated in the documentary Wilfred Owen - a Remembrance Tale, in which Jeremy Paxman ce ebrated the best known of the First World War poets. Paxman started by going over the top, wildly, arguing that there was a case for saying that Owen"re-invented modern poetry itself". Fortunately, he abandoned the attempt to secure this implausible salient in favour of a straightforward account of Owen's war, visiting the sites of his boyhood and his war service. Owen was kind to his biographers, writing in detail about his experiences at the front in letters to his mother and sister, which, unusually for the time, didn't blithely underplay the horror. But even Owen felt remade by his service at the front."I fought like an angel,"he wrote in a letter signed"Wilfred and more than Wilfred."The soldiers he'd jocularly dismissed as"ugly, coarse, unlovely"when he was mobilised became a hallowed company by the end. In other words, behind the old lie there was the awkward truth that all remembrance programmes struggle with, which is that, bloodthirsty or pacifist, a lot of men think war is a transforming test. It's oneof the reasons that the statement"never again"always has such a forlorn note to it.

Learners, Jessica Hynes's one off comedy drama about a woman learning to drive (and discovering herself in the process, naturally), dispensed with the usual rule of signal and manoeuvre, by which most television dramas let you know well in advance where they're headed and what course deviations you can expect. Instead, it swerved all over the place, keying you with one budding romance and then suddenly having another candidate cut in front without warning. Characters that you thought were going to be played as mere light relief were suddenly revealed to have melancholic depth and apparently significant narrative details turned off and disappeared down a slip road. In a way it was quite refreshing to have all the rules of the road ignored so systematically, but it made for an odd and unsettling journey. It would have been nice, too, if Hynes's talent for bathos had had a little more space to breath. The clutch control might be a little smoother next time out.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?