The Weekend's Viewing: Melancholy Isaacs prevents a case of cosiness

Case Histories, Sun, BBC1 / Sincerely, F Scott Fitzgerald: a Culture Show Special, Sat, BBC2

Never work with children or animals, said W C Fields.

Not much choice, though, for Jason Isaacs, who plays Kate Atkinson’s wounded Edinburgh detective Jackson Brodie in a new  run of Case Histories, which began with an adaptation of her novel Started Early, Took My Dog, a story preoccupied with parental yearnings and protective instinct. Brodie is a Chandleresque type, a walker of mean streets who is “not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid”. But whereas the tenderness  in Chandler is generally aimed at someone who can cast  a shapely and feminine shadow on a frosted door, Brodie usually displays his inner tenderness through paternity. Imagine Sam Spade with a daughter and you have the essential twist that Atkinson has given to an old archetype.

It gets another twist in this story because Brodie does actually begin in tarnished condition, at least in his own eyes, having been tricked into abducting a young girl  from her mother in a custody case (Brodie thought he was  returning her to the mother). And everything that follows seems to press on his buried feelings about his own daughter, now thousands of miles away in New Zealand with his estranged wife. One of the first cases he gets, after pushing through the piled-up bills and pizza leaflets behind his  front door, is that of an adopted woman looking for her birth mother, a story of proxy motherhood that is echoed by the other main narrative thread, in which a soft-hearted security guard (played by Victoria Wood) buys a little  girl to get her out of the hands of her abusive mother.

The animal is a blow-in, a Border terrier that attaches itself to Brodie after he’s stepped in to prevent it being thrashed by a skin-headed thug. And it makes you feel a little wary for a while. There is, after all, a consumer’s version of WC Fields’ remark, which would run, “Never watch children or animals”, on account of the way in which they can so easily lure narratives into cuteness or a deceptive sentiment. There’s  a bit of that with the dog, a hovering threat of cosiness.  But Peter Harness’s adaptation, and Isaacs’ melancholy  performance, kept it in check. There was a nice line at the end, too, when he met up with an old flame and she insisted on the superiority of her new man. “You’re not exciting,” she told him, “You’re boring. This is boring.” A bold line to have delivered to your hero, even if it’s made perfectly clear that she doesn’t fully believe what she’s saying. And refreshingly unusual, too, to end such a story with the consummation of parental yearnings, not romantic ones.

In Sincerely, F Scott Fitzgerald, Jay McInerney, laureate of one period of youthful New York hedonism, profiled his great predecessor in the field in a film surfing on the bow-wave of hype that has preceded the release of Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby, but fortunately not actually swamped by it. Once the obligatory film clip had been got out of the way at the beginning, it turned out to be a thoughtful literary profile, pointing up some illuminating cross-overs between Fitzgerald’s private and public writings. It was a writing life that made things hard for those who despise the biographical fallacy – the idea that a novel is just a disguised and repackaged form  of the author’s life – because in Fitzgerald’s case there  often wasn’t much of disguising going on.

McInerney’s script, quite apart from being more literate than is sometimes the case, was an object lesson in judicious quotation, full of telling selections from the letters. The most poignant? A hopeful line from a letter Fitzgerald wrote to his last love, Sheila Graham: “It is odd that the heart is one of the organs that does repair itself,” he wrote, a line that echoes the rueful, start-again spirit of the last page of Gatsby. His own heart didn’t, sadly.

twitter.com/tds153

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home