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
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?