It’s not often we talk about the nation’s number one pastime, but it’s not just because I am launching a television channel (on 31 March if you are within the M25: Freeview 8, Sky 117, Virgin 159) that I thought we should discuss the goggle box.
Not just any old thing, mind; for that there already is a brilliant show named Gogglebox. No, this is specific. It’s not even a plug for a show really, although I love it; more to recommend a stunning performance that proved the only distraction from the moving-home-hell last week in the pouring rain.
You will know I have a thing for the Saturday night foreign drama slot on BBC Four: Inspector Montalbano – young or older – The Killing, Spiral, the magnificent Borgen, and now, the outstanding season two of The Bridge (recently adapted here as The Tunnel, starring that girl off the Harry Potter films all grown up).
The Bridge is the series in which Swedes and Danes work together to solve gruesome crimes at opposite ends of the giant Oresund bridge connecting them. It is as layered as a lasagne, with everyone’s back story being infinitely more fascinating than – say – the long “jumped the shark” Silent Witness.
The towering, mesmerising performance I’m talking about is Sofia Helin’s as Saga, the quite brilliant but entirely emotionally unintelligent, socially inept and personally detached detective.
Last Saturday’s watch-through-your-fingers Saga gems included dragging a shooting victim out of hospital for a re-enactment that led to a relapse; needing lessons from her work partner Martin in what to say to her boyfriend Jakob’s visiting mother; solving the mystery of the blood in Martin’s son’s pee by knowing mysteriously that it was Munchausen’s syndrome; staying at a hotel for “personal space”, and then, when returning to the apartment after his mother arrives, insisting on sex with Jakob, despite mum being nearby in the open plan flat. It is riveting writing and acting. She asks her junior colleague why he said he was “working on it”? “So, you are telling me you are doing your job?” She warns a young child that she does not know her well enough to decide whether she likes her. She fails to ask Martin how his sick son is, and then fails to understand why he wants to hug her for helping save the boy’s life. Saga then tells Jakob’s mother it’s good she lives so far away.
But the stunning moment is when she tears up unexpectedly, upset that no one could believe she could tear up at all; a heart-stopping moment of acting.
Wouldn’t it be liberating to ask your family, friends and colleagues those blunt, direct questions most of us refrain from asking for fear of causing offence? What questions? How about: why, Mr Plumber, do you say you are at my property when I am at my property and you are not there at all? Are you hiding under the stairs, or just plain LYING? There, I feel better now. Watch The Bridge. You will feel better too.
Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live