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?

 

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
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

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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).
books
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
film
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’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

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
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
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.

    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?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London