The TV shows you need to watch this week: Veep to Alan Partridge

Satire is on belly-laughing form this week, skewering US politics and early evening magazine shows. Enjoy the humour while you can, advises Sean O’Grady, for elsewhere lies the grim spectre of unsolved murder cases and unresolved Brexits...

Sean O'Grady
Friday 29 March 2019 16:42 GMT
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Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) with ‘Veep’ number cruncher Kent Davison (Gary Cole) – ‘the Pol Pot of pie charts’
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) with ‘Veep’ number cruncher Kent Davison (Gary Cole) – ‘the Pol Pot of pie charts’ (Sky Atlantic)

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Louise Thomas

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The seventh and final season of the fine political satire Veep arrives on Sky Atlantic on Wednesday. It is a curious thing; when the show was launched in 2012 some of the plot lines about the hapless female vice president Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) were thought far-fetched, even by the bizarre standards of American politics at that time. Now, with the arrival of Donald Trump, there isn’t much that the show’s scriptwriters can come up with that can beat The Donald’s real-life talent for invention and drama.

Created by our very own Armando Iannucci, it has been a reliably amusing watch, and the last series seems set to live up the high reputation enjoyed by the award-winning series. Now a “private citizen” as they say, former president Meyer decides to run once again for the presidency, and secure a mandate of her own. So we, like she, will have to go through the grind of fundraising from the super-rich, primaries in the New Hampshire snow and wonder why her team is quite as dysfunctional as it is. No word on the Russians, though.

Hamish Campbell was lead officer on the Jill Dando murder investigation
Hamish Campbell was lead officer on the Jill Dando murder investigation (BBC Studios)

The Murder of Jill Dando marks the 20th anniversary of her death. The newsreader and presenter was shot on the doorstep of her London home on 26 April 1999, and the authorities seem no closer to solving this high-profile case today. With the initial conviction, retrial and subsequent acquittal of suspect Barry George, this sensitively made documentary asks whether the mystery can ever be resolved, and includes interviews with the original senior investigating officer, Hamish Campbell, Dando’s brother Nigel and colleagues Martyn Lewis and Jennie Bond.

The only reason I hesitate to recommend The Brexit Storm: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story is the obvious one – you might have had too much Brexit already. Given the speed at which events can move it was perhaps a little risky for Ms Kuenssberg to devote much time to this particular project, the most moving of moving stories. Then again, as the whole strange Brexit odyssey looks increasingly doomed you might think of this as the first draft of the history of Brexit. It’s not as funny as Matt Berry’s The Road to Brexit, mind you, which you should find on the BBC iPlayer. That’s the one to watch if you really have had a surfeit of Article 50, Canada Plus Plus Plus, and the Common Fisheries Policy.

Take it or leave it: Laura Kuenssberg on the B-word
Take it or leave it: Laura Kuenssberg on the B-word (BBC)

On anecdotal evidence – TV shows, journalism, and books – our collective fascination with grisly serial killers seems to have grown in intensity in recent years, for reasons that are not immediately apparent. None is more grisly, infamous or endlessly, morbidly fascinating than Jack the Ripper, with stories about his identity having been ascertained at last running only last week (the Polish barber Kosminski, apparently, based on DNA analysis).

What’s new is the way modern forensic and other techniques can be brought to bear on the facts as they are known and what little genuine evidence there is, and Jack the Ripper – The Case Reopened promises to shed new light on it via Anatomage, the world’s first virtual reality dissection table. I’m a bit sceptical, given that the nature and extent of the women’s wounds are one of the few areas where the efforts of the police in 1888 bear modern scrutiny. There’s also the casually overlooked issue of the dignity of the Ripper’s victims, who often as not appear as almost pornographic, macabre details rather than real human beings whose lives mattered.

Emilia Fox examines the Whitechapel murders of 1888-1891
Emilia Fox examines the Whitechapel murders of 1888-1891 (BBC)

Emilia Fox, star of Silent Witness, gives it the cold case treatment, though we might do well to try to remember that she is in fact an actor, and not a pathologist.

Sooner or later I imagine that ITV’s Victoria will catch up with the Ripper case, and possibly toss in a few of the more racy rumours about the involvement members of her family and household in the killings. For now, though, you’ll have to make do with the Chartists, Lord Palmerston and Her Majesty giving birth to another of what became a total of nine children, born between 1841 and 1857 – quite a productivity record. No wonder we were the workshop of the world. Victoria is undemanding, sumptuous costume drama with a very light sprinkling of history.

Behind every good presenter there’s a... long-suffering underpaid assistant. Lynn and Alan on the ‘This Time’ set
Behind every good presenter there’s a... long-suffering underpaid assistant. Lynn and Alan on the ‘This Time’ set (BBC)

I am also looking forward to the near-regal presence of David Dimbleby as chair of Have I Got News for You, proof that although he may have given up Question Time, he is not exactly retired. His reign over BBC current affairs shows has been almost as long as Victoria’s was over her own empire. His subjects, Ian Hislop, Paul Merton, Stacey Dooley and Henning Wehn, pay homage to their liege lord on Friday night.

I can scarce bring self to write these words, but This Time with Alan Partridge completes its superlative run on Tuesday. I for one feel that Alan’s return to primetime BBC television has been an overwhelming success, almost obliterating the stain of his accidental on-air shooting of food bore Forbes McAllister back in 1994 (and most of the literal stains have now faded from the studio floor). But, as so often with Alan, the question hangs in the air like one of his involuntary burps – will he get a second series?

Veep (Sky Atlantic, Wednesday 10.05pm); The Murder of Jill Dando (BBC1, Tuesday 9pm); The Brexit Storm: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story (BBC2, Monday 9pm); The Road to Brexit (BBC iPlayer); Jack the Ripper – The Case Reopened (BBC1, Thursday 9pm); Victoria (ITV, Sunday 9pm); Have I Got News For You (BBC1, Friday 9pm); This Time with Alan Partridge (BBC1, Tuesday 9.30pm)

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