The Weekend's TV: The Passion, BBC1
Gavin & Stacey, BBC3

Don't pass over this Easter treat

"Coming Soon" read the title card at the end of the first episode of The Passion, as viewers were tantalised with teaser previews of the Easter story, and if someone had their tongue in their cheek about the millenarian overtones of the phrase (or the absurdity of treating this particular thriller as if viewers didn't already know the ending) nobody was letting on. You can do quite a few things with a modern-media passion play, but flippancy isn't one of them, and, so far, Frank Deasy's version of Christ's arrival in Jerusalem is unimpeachably serious about its subject. The Moroccan location and the dusty hugger-mugger of some of the street scenes mean that it is fleetingly haunted by the spirit of The Life of Brian, but only the most zealously dogmatic Christian could complain that it was irreverent.

Naturally, at least one dogmatic Christian has already volunteered his services. Stephen Green, the self-appointed pharisee who speaks for Christian Voice, has expressed disquiet at the fact that Deasy's account of Christ's last days should have been at pains to round out the motivations and character of two other notable players in the drama – Caiaphas, the High Priest, and Pilate, the Roman Governor. Mr Green wouldn't be satisfied, I suspect, unless both men appeared on screen accompanied by sulphurous gusts of smoke and a blast of the Carmina Burana. But for the rest of us, religiously minded or not, the prospect of a series diplomatically poised between revealed truth and historical speculation must be something of a relief. If you believe that Christ is your redeemer I can't so far see anything in The Passion that would have affronted that faith. And if you don't, its account of the politics of a week that was critical in world history proved surprisingly gripping.

The drama began with the Judean equivalent of a second-hand car deal, Jesus and his disciples shelled out the shekels for a donkey colt as they approached Jerusalem. This is important for the fulfilment of prophecy, as is the entry through Jerusalem's East Gate, and though some of his disciples questioned the wisdom of this move, Jesus himself insisted on the details. Is he fulfilling Zechariah's prophecy or exploiting it? Deasy leaves this open, I think, though, there's nothing self-seeking or cynical about Joseph Mawle's Jesus, who startles even those most devoted to him by his indifference to the old demarcations between the pure and the polluted. Caiaphas, meanwhile, is struggling to maintain a balance between Jewish resentments and Roman power, and Pilate is trying to keep the peace in a city that is already simmering with religious fervour because of Passover. The last thing either man needs is a messianic preacher to turn the gas up even higher.

In The Lost Gospels , the previous night, Peter Owen-Jones reminded us that the canonical gospels represent a considerably tidied-up version of Christ's story, one which suppresses accounts that emphasise the importance of Mary Magdalene or even question the nature of the crucifixion itself. The Christianity that survived, Owen-Jones argued, was a religion calculatingly shaped for survival, sanctifying the suffering that early believers would almost certainly have to endure. Deasy's drama never goes quite so far in questioning the standard theology, but it does effectively capture the sense that this is still a religion in the making, and that human reactions and errors and self-interest will play a large part in shaping it. That in itself will be regarded as heretical by some, but for anyone interested in drama, rather than a Lenten sermon, it was a considerable relief.

A different kind of second coming for Gavin & Stacey, with a second series arriving to general huzzahs and the waving of palm fronds. I might as well confess that I'm the bloke at the back of the throng grumbling because I was on my way somewhere else and the street has now been blocked by ululating maniacs. Yes, it's lovely that two relative unknowns should have scored such a success with comedy so good-hearted. And, yes, the series does have funny lines and a terrific cast. But I can't help but wonder about the weird way in which Gavin and Stacey continue to be stalked by their respective families, which seems less like a slice of life than a sitcom contrivance. And the very public way in which Smithy exposes his pining dependency on Gavin just looks psychologically implausible to me, as if he's obediently filling out one of his character notes.

Still, I'm wedged in by the crowd for the moment and the performances mean that some gags are very funny. I enjoyed Rob Brydon's performance as Bryn who struggled to get to grips with the concept of parascending, and Nessa's confession that she was still pregnant because she'd watched Vera Drake at the wrong moment struck me as ruefully truthful. Perhaps that other errand wasn't all that urgent after all.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
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.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015