TV preview: Andrew Marr: My Brain and Me (BBC2, Tuesday 9pm)

Plus The Moorside (BBC2, Tuesday 9pm), This Country (BBC3/iPlayer, Wednesday), Mafia Women with Trevor McDonald (ITV, Thursday 9pm), June Brown at 90: A Walford Legend (BBC1, Thursday 8.30pm)

Sean O'Grady
Friday 10 February 2017 12:18
Comments
The esteemed journalist and broadcaster recalls his stroke and slow return to health in ‘Andrew Marr: My Brain and Me’
The esteemed journalist and broadcaster recalls his stroke and slow return to health in ‘Andrew Marr: My Brain and Me’

In the modern, post-Leveson world, we hacks are requested and required by our bosses to declare any possible conflicts of interest that may arise from time to time. I, then, have to declare an interest, and an enormous debt of gratitude to one former boss, Andrew Marr, who, as editor of The Independent gave me my job. It is not (only) for that that I admire him and his journalism, across pretty much every medium and every possible subject – catch him on Radio 4’s Start the Week if you doubt his catholic abilities. So I thought I'd share that with you before I'd lay any more flattery down with my trowel.

Marr is fast approaching Grade I-listed status, and in Andrew Marr: My Brain and Me, we’re reminded about how close we came to losing him to a stroke. We also witness the strength of will anyone needs as a victim (I hope that is the right word) to deal with it, recover and, in this case, recount the story. With characteristic openness he talks about his health, and we follow him as he explores remarkable new treatments that offer at least some promise of further breakthroughs in care, though for the time being not available in Britain on the NHS (nor proven to work). One man’s resistance to self-pity is a rewarding, indeed inspirational watch. Thanks again, Andrew.

Natalie Brown (Sian Brooke), Julie Bushby (Sheridan Smith), and Karen Matthews (Gemma Whelan) star in ‘The Moorside’

I can also recommend the second and final instalment of The Moorside, the dramatisation of the disappearance of Shannon Matthews in 2008. Focusing on the role of community leader Julie Bushby, played with suitable vim by Sheridan Smith, the first episode closed with the realisation that little Shannon had not, in fact, been abducted by some evil predatory paedo, but had been hidden away by her mum, Karen, stepfather and stepuncle in order to get the reward money and generally benefit financially by the gruesome, and stupid, hoax – which, after all, was bound to be found out. Karen’s side of the story – and every journalist knows there are always two sides to any story – is also put, which is more than most of the newspapers did at the time, or since.

Now we witness the fallout as the whole community on the Moorside housing estate in Dewsbury come to realise that they have been used and duped by Karen Matthews and her accomplices. The mood turns from firework-display celebration at Shannon's discovery safe and sound, through bemusement about she was doing in her uncle's house, to realisation about the truth, and then raw hate towards Karen Matthews and the others, with the media getting a sideswipe for their lazy attacks on “council-house scum”.

The drama has been criticised by some in the family, and some in the press, but it remains a compelling story and one that is firmly in the public domain – there is no invasion of privacy possible here now. At the time there was a lot of commentary and political chatter about what the Shannon Matthews story “tells us about modern/broken/New Labour’s Britain”, or whatever. It didn't tell us much, is the truth, as it was such a bizarre crime. It does, though, prompt some thought about some timeless facets of human nature.

He’s seen it all, but now Sir Trev takes on mafia wives 

This Country, which you can find via the BBC iPlayer treats the “council-house scum” thing in a suitably parodic fashion, and continues to delight, in a foul-mouthed, arse-end of life in the Cotswolds mockumentary sort of way. This week: woman-child Kerry Mucklowe ponders having a tattoo of a badly-rendered pig plastered indelibly across her back. Funniest thing around, basically, along with People Just Do Nothing (now launched in the US), and W1A, coming back soon for a new series. Thank goodness for the mockumentary and the BBC’s knack for spotting and nurturing comedic talent.

Last, I’d urge you to make time for a couple of golden oldies. Sir Trevor McDonald has been getting out and about for longer than I've been alive, but there are always new frontiers, and here he meets a variety of mafia wives, of all people – proof, if ’twere needed, that the old boy can still do the journalism thing (Sir Trev is 77. Bong). I am also looking forward to the tribute to Dot Cotton, by which I mean actress June Brown (soap opera actors always have to accept the fact that their character’s name will be better known than their own). June/Dot is/are a thoroughly regal 90, and we still love both of ’em.

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