The Weekend's TV: The Event, Fri, Channel 4
Single Father, Sun, BBC1

There's a runaway plot heading straight for us

Oh my god! Drop the camera! Drop the camera, run, run!" shouted an offscreen voice at the beginning of The Event, Channel 4's new Friday evening brain-rinse.

The picture jolted and fizzed into snow – television's current obligatory cliché for the cataclysmic – and then a title card reading "23 minutes earlier" flashed on the screen. "Oh my God!" I thought. "Drop everything! Run, run!" There's a herd of Godzilla-sized synthetic mysteries stomping towards us, and once they've got their claws in, no amount of self-loathing is likely to break their grip. I survived Damages. I got over the trauma of Lost. I even managed to heal after accidental exposure to the fabulous idiocies of 24. But I'm not sure I'm strong enough to go through it all again.

The warning, issued by a rolling news presenter covering a Presidential press conference, had been prompted by the sight of a kamikaze passenger jet heading straight for the lens. The flashback took us inside the plane just before take off, where a conspicuously sweaty and furtive young man was doing everything in his power to arouse the flight crew's suspicions. Had he been wearing a T-shirt reading "Hijacker" he would have been less conspicuous, but it was only when he pulled out a gun and tried to storm the flight deck that he finally got their attention. At which point, another title card flashed us to "Eleven days earlier", when sweaty young man was shown not sweaty at all, and preparing to set off for a Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend. "Thirteen months earlier" and we were in Alaska, at some black-ops gulag in which "They" are being held, They having arrived sometime in 1944 after a mysterious crash.

It helps to have a spreadsheet open if you want to keep track of things here, because the time jumps come at you like wasps at a picnic and there's more than one set of Theys too – some of them working for the kind of agencies the CIA don't have the security clearance to know about and some of them from another planet entirely. The kamikaze plane, incidentally, disappears into a bubble of blue light just before it hits the President – a Barack Obama liberal who has caused all sorts of flusters by promising to close down the Arctic Circle Guantanamo where the aliens are being kept. "So this is true... this is all true," he murmurs when he's finally shown a dossier detailing the arrival of these very special illegal immigrants. "It's unbelievable." That's putting it mildly, Mr President.

Sweaty guy is the hero, drawn into the plot by a Hitchcockian nightmare in which his girlfriend disappears and the cruise ship crew deny all knowledge of her. He's on the plane because his prospective father-in-law has been blackmailed by her kidnappers into landing it in the presidential compound and he hopes to persuade him that this is a bad career move. He fails, but after the plane pops out of Florida airspace it almost immediately appears again over the Arizona desert, where yet another group of Theys (not Them, as far as I could work out, or Them either) thunder through the heat shimmer in black helicopters to murder all the passengers. These faint reverberations of 9/11 Truther paranoia – and the fact that the extraterrestrials also turn out to have their own Donald Rumsfeld hardliner – should not for one moment mislead you into thinking that The Event has anything genuinely interesting to say about American dread. The President best sums it up when demanding that his chief of staff bring him up to speed: "Blake... cut the BS," he says, "I want everything." Don't cut the BS, Blake, because if you did there simply wouldn't be anything left.

Mick Ford's Single Father continues to explore dilemmas that are a little closer to home than what to do if aliens whack you through a space-time rectum. What you say to your recently bereaved seven-year-old if she catches you in bed with her dead mother's best friend, for example – not a universal problem, I grant you, but plausible enough to enlist us all in its excruciating embarrassment. Single Father doesn't exactly deprive the audience of simple narrative pleasures. It has its villains (notably Dave's witchy sister-in-law, Anna) and it has its big secrets, such as this week's revelation that the sainted Rita – of blessed memory – might have been much less perfect a partner than Dave had always assumed. A bit of detective work with her old diaries has revealed that the paternity of all his children may be in doubt. There's a worryingly gleeful exclamation mark after the entry reading "Dave's away this weekend". But it beds those simple pleasures in something a little more complicated: a genuinely attentive account of how compromised many strong emotions are, so that love can be coloured by pride and sorrow by resentment. In The Event, as in many pulp thrillers, time is a plastic affair – notionally in desperately short supply, but always conveniently elastic if you want to squeeze a bit more in (that crashing plane, for instance, seems to take about five minutes to travel the last 500 yards to impact). In Single Father, by contrast, time is realistically inflexible, forcing people to make flustered choices between what they want to do and what they have to. And the only conspirator is life itself, laying its traps and pitfalls. Single Father snags you with question marks that have a real point to them.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tv Review: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series began tonight with a feature-length special
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
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
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