The Weekend's Viewing: Wallander: the Fifth Woman, Sat, BBC 4 The Angelos Epithemiou Show, Fri, Channel 4


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

"This film shows events that took place over a 14-day period in the south of Sweden," claimed the title card at the beginning of Wallander: the Fifth Woman.

Oh no it doesn't, you big fibbers. I think we might just have read about it if a string of elderly men had been murdered in increasingly baroque fashion by… well, perhaps I'd better not say just in case there are readers who still have to catch up with Saturday's double bill of what, for convenience's sake, we might call Wallander: the One with Subtitles (though, inconveniently, there are more than one of those). I know what they meant to say, of course. They meant to say treat this as real, a plea that is underscored by the grainy rhetoric of the direction here. Where Wallander: the One without Subtitles often glories in the crisp light of the Baltic, and the transparency of those Scandinavian colours, the Swedish-language version speaks a language of surveillance and existential murk. When they're outside it absolutely chucks it down and when they're inside they might as well be shooting in sepia.

The other big difference is the Kurts, Rolf Lassgard's version of Henning Mankell's detective being a good deal more raddled and puffy than Branagh's. They share the bristles, but what lies underneath them is significantly different in tone. With Branagh you frequently get the sense that the world has let Wallander down. With Lassgard you feel that it's the character who has fallen short of what the world might have hoped for, a transgressive quality that trembles on the edge of alienating us completely. It's difficult to imagine Branagh slapping two young girls hard in the face, as Lassgard's Wallander did, after he'd caught them shoplifting and they ventured the paedo defence ("We'll say you groped us").

Having said which, Wallander was in an unusually sunny mood this time round, just back from a holiday with his dad in Rome and sniffing out the romantic possibilities with his attractive new colleague. He still gets grumpy, naturally, it being difficult to keep the mood upbeat when you're called to a murder scene at which the dead man has been pierced through by sharpened bamboo stakes and then partially eaten by birds. After which another body turned up, strung up in cruciform fashion between two trees. "There's nothing to suggest a connection," said Wallander furiously, rather overlooking the fact that both were elderly loners with fastidious hobbies (ornithology and orchids). He latched on when the killer got the hat trick.

I've steered clear of The Angelos Epithemiou Show because it looked bullying in the pre-publicity, one of those performances in which a comic apes a slow-witted character and in doing so licenses cruelty to those who actually are. It's not quite that (though it definitely hovers dangerously close at times). But it isn't easy to pigeonhole what it is instead. The format is cod interview show, but on the evidence of Friday's show at least Renton Skinner isn't quite nimble enough to take advantage of the liberties his mouth-breathing alter ego gives him. Tellingly, Theo Paphitis got in the sharpest line in his appearance, with Skinner reduced to rather feeble ad libs ("I bought a new bow the other day," said Paphitis when he was asked how he spent his money. "All right, Robin Hood," replied Angelos).

It also owes a considerable debt to Reeves and Mortimer-style mucking about (Skinner served an apprentice as guest clown on Shooting Stars) and these elements are more successful, even if they wildly overestimate the comic payload of stage explosives. Keying up the second half, Epithemiou announced that "for all you metrosexuals out there I will be showing you how to exfoliate", a promise illustrated with footage of him appearing, fully dressed, from between the rollers of a functioning carwash. That made me laugh and Adeel Akhtar is very funny too as Angelos's sidekick Gupta. If there was more of him, I might watch it again.