Wuthering Heights, ITV1
The Choir: Unsung Town, BBC2

Tom Hardy's demonic portrait of Brontë's anti-hero dominates the screen

As a rule, I avoid costume dramas so far as housemates and Sunday evenings allow. Too often, they've eviscerated my favourite authors, replacing emotional nuances with ponderous exposition and frou-frou nostalgia.

And then there's the utter predictability of the adaptation choices to contend with: this autumn, say hello to the umpteenth version of Emma. Nevertheless, I wanted to give Wuthering Heights a go for two reasons. First, it was written by Peter Bowker, the man behind June's exemplary Iraq War drama Occupation; and second, it starred Tom Hardy, the rising star with the pillow lips of Jolie, the quicksilver intensity of young Brando, and a fine record in playing the dangerously deranged.

So, did I eat my words? Well, chew on them a little, maybe. With its intricately detailed narrative, hopping back and forth through time, Emily Brontë's moorland saga is a difficult fit for the screen – indeed, the 1939 Olivier film avoided the issue only by paring it down to its melodramatic basics: the tragic relationship between gypsy orphan Heathcliff and his forbidden soulmate Cathy.

Bowker was less brutal in his changes – despite, quite literally, taking a knife to the book while re-ordering it. The opening, jumping forward to the fates of the star-crossed lovers' children, may have confused this reviewer, who briefly assumed he was watching episode two, but mostly the action flowed grippingly and coherently.

More importantly, Bowker remained faithful to Brontë's tone, not just to her story: hate was as sharply delineated as love, and its dramatic impetus was stoked as much by Heathcliff's cold-blooded vengefulness as it was by his and Cathy's hot-blooded passion. In this respect, Bowker was brilliantly served by Hardy, who refused to play the romantic hero card, notwithstanding his standard-issue tresses. One part smirking malevolence to two parts laser-eyed psychosis, he treated detestable step-brother Hindley to a full-throttle head-smashing that could have been an out-take from his other recent TV outing, gangland drama The Take.

Perhaps, though, Hardy was also part of the problem: his demonic magnetism left everyone else in the shade, not least Charlotte Riley's insipid Cathy, who lacked the heroine's infamous "double character" of untrammelled sensuality and social ambition. Meanwhile, as the drama drew to its conclusion, so Bowker increasingly struggled to cram in events: you have to feel sorry for the actor playing Heathcliff's son, Linton, in a hair's breadth of screentime, whose life and death passed without so much as a sentimental bedside exchange. The Hardy boy done good, then, but as a reflection of Brontë's novel, it was still too much like televisual York Notes.

From Gothic darkness into Gospel-inflected light, Tuesday saw the return of chipper choirmaster Gareth Malone. In The Choir, Malone inspired unruly schoolkids to locate their inner choristers; now in The Choir: Unsung Town, he's hoping to do the same with a deprived Watford estate. With X-Factor auditions in full swing, his proselytising mission appeared especially novel. Is he, you gasped, really suggesting that singing has value in itself? That vocal chords aren't just a God-given vehicle for public glorification/humiliation? And that wasn't the only turn up for the books. Viewers of the recent Duchess on the Estate will have been shocked to note that (a) not all estates are wholly mired in squalor and despair – some people were actually proud to live on this one – and (b) engaging with the working classes doesn't require a degree in insufferable patronage.

Hell, even the narrative arc was askew. At the end of this week's opener, Malone's new, 200-strong choir performed in the local shopping precinct. Afterwards, members appeared proud, bonded, and on a path to self-fulfilment; but where were the requisite disasters and disappointments, tears and tantrums, foreshadowing that miraculous final-act turnaround? In the reality TV bear pit, such unlaboured gentility is as radical a notion as Brian Blessed hitting high C.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
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.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most