Channel 4, Monday-Thursday

TV review: Run - Abandon all hope – here comes Olivia Colman

2.00

Her brutal performance set the tone for a quartet of dramas about life at its hardest

Good grief, it's Olivia Colman – drop everything and run, you fools! Wonderful actress she may be, but as a harbinger of doom, Colman is right up there with two-headed frogs and yolkless scotch eggs. Her appearance in a serious drama usually means death, mayhem and much rending of garments. So it proved in Run, the quartet of linked dramas on Channel 4 last week. Colman, mistress of despair, was only in the first one, playing Carol, downtrodden single mum to two louts. But she made her hour count, misery swirling around her like a turd in a blender. Her boys beat a stranger to death, her ex takes decisive action by punching her in the stomach, and she drinks herself to sleep every night after a bit of quality swearing.

The misery spread. Successive episodes took their cues from Monday night's opener: the stranger who Carol's boys killed was a Pole involved in arranging illegal marriages, whose wife is left broke; Carol sold stolen mobile phones on to a young Chinese illegal immigrant who is forced to do anything to pay off her debt to the gangster who smuggled her into the country, from enduring rape to selling pirate DVDs; one of her DVD customers is a recovering junkie who is desperate to maintain contact with his estranged daughter.

As sociology, I imagine that it was impeccable on the utter shittiness of life on the margins and the fact that in those shadows women are forever trapped by the god-awful agendas of men. I learned something, too: to my shame, I hadn't given much thought to the DVD sellers who drift in and out of pubs and shops, and the bloody economics that often drive them there.

But, like the opening credits footage, an anonymous tract of urban hinterland shot from a moving train, the tales in Run mostly just rolled past, a diorama of life in the underclass. Such character as could be glimpsed was down to some good performances, in particular from Neil Maskell as Carol's terrifying ex, and from Lennie James too, who brought dignity as well as pathos to Richard the ex-junkie, and, of course, from Colman (cursed be her name!).

But blimey, Run was an unremittingly bleak view of society. The most vulnerable citizens seemed bound to one another by little more than sleazy obligations, debts and the necessity to try to look unhappier than the other poor blighter in the room. The writing was undercooked and the direction too quick to lean on the soundtrack's strings section for emotion.

Perhaps the scheduling was also to blame for Run's one-eyed vision. It was, as they say, "stripped" across the 10pm slot on four consecutive nights, and perhaps meant to be regarded as four acts of a single drama. The presumption on the part of schedulers would seem to be that this is must-watch telly; the reaction of viewers – okay, the reaction of me – is "What, again? Tomorrow night, and the night after and the night after that!?"

I'm not sure why Christopher Guest is making sitcoms for the BBC – I hope it's not because he can't get any money to make the sweet and funny films that invented the "mockumentary", Spinal Tap, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind. Either way, Family Tree (BBC, Tuesday ***) didn't get off to a convincing start on Tuesday. Again, it's a mockumentary. This time the idea is that we're following Tom (Chris O'Dowd), recently dumped and newly unemployed, as he, um, becomes interested in his family's genealogy. Yes, it's quite slight. Among the virtues of Guest's films is the authenticity of the sub-cultures under scrutiny. Here, the pretext for Tom's mild odyssey was pretty flimsy.

There were some customarily silly names: Glenn Pfister, Pete Stupples. There were some nice lines, too: Tom's best friend says of him, "I'm a man who enjoys PlayStation in his pants, but five days is, like, two days too long". There was also the wonderful ventriloquist Nina Conti, complete with monkey puppet throughout (even if she did play an annoyingly twee version of herself). Yet finally there was the question as to how Tom, an affable, sensible former civil servant in his thirties with an ex-Beefeater for a father – rather than, say, an indulgent investment banker – was content to gad about happily looking for his ancestors? But I judge too early, it is the first episode after all.

And what is Christopher Guest if not a harbinger of fun?

 

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser