The Widower (ITV) ***
Reece Shearsmith’s on TV again, and here he’s worryingly convincing as a wife killing psychopath. As with much of his darkly comic work, The Widower sees him play a crawling creeper. Specifically, he’s playing Malcolm Webster – whom, on Wikipedia, is placed in the category of ‘murderer’. It’s written and produced by Jeff Pope, who’s managed to develop a specialty in the serial killer genre, having previously covered the Yorkshire Ripper, the Moors Murders and Fred and Rose West. The Webster case was a more recent one – he was only caught in the past ten years – but no less disturbing. The Widower did manage to get that; it was a disturbing watch, the sort of sly disturbance that chills under the skin.
Shearsmith was impressive in his performance – the stand out moment being his cold transition from tears to indifference when practicing in the mirror. His first wife was played by Sheridan Smith, which was a shame. Don’t get me wrong, she’s wonderful – a smashing actor – but she was wasted here. Her role was to be put to sleep as Shearsmith plotted and crawled. The second wife was given much the same task. There’s the problem: temazepam is not a thrilling weapon (in TV drama terms) and the car explosion just raised questions of how he could possibly have gotten away with the crime. If it weren’t for the fact that it actually happened, we’d be questioning the believability.
Despite this limited dramatic power then, why should you watch it? Shearsmith, of course. He’s marvelous.
W1A (BBC2) ****
Not every programme hits its stride from the off. In fact, some of the best have to grow to get there, while others only disappoint following their debut success. Take The Thick of It, which grew year on year, and who would’ve predicted just how good Fresh Meat would become from it’s beginning. Twenty Twelve had a good debut and a wonderful conclusion over its two series, and the good news is that its spin off, W1A, could be in line to maintain the trajectory. The dialogue is so intricate, so meticulous, that it’s a crafted art form, the characters are so devastatingly real and, above all, it is very funny. It’s also practically impossible to quote. Every hysterical line is peppered with a dozen ‘um’s and ‘right-very-good-so-yes’s that to quote some would fill the column. Digging deeper, this could also be seen as a potential holdback, as the episode buzzed through – a lot was said, leaving it a little manic. Of course, it needs time to bed in.
Whereas Twenty Twelve mocked the Olympic organisers, here John Morton turns inward to take on the BBC itself – although it could be any management team, minus the celebrity cameos. Hugh Bonneville returned, alongside (eventually) Jessica Hynes, whose absence didn’t seem of great significance until she appeared towards the end and took it to a higher level. It’s a fantastic character, so well played. She delivered the biggest lines of course with her fast talk nonsense – a modern Edward Lear perhaps. Other highlights included ‘Sally Wingate’, who was interviewed on her own experience of Cornish discrimination (despite the fact she’s ‘never had a West Country accent and [is] not actually from Cornwall’), the wildly off-presentation subtitles, and newbies Jason Watkins and Sarah Parish – who were both excellent. Although there were no huge laugh out loud moments necessarily, the constant chuckles and chortles were good enough for me. So that’s all good.
In other TV, it was Sport Relief week. Davina McCall and Nick Grimshaw were amongst those slogging it out for money, whilst David Beckham joined the return of Only Fools and Horses, paralympians tackled Strictly and Andy Murray joined Mock the Week. Overall it was pretty good really. The ‘Clash of the Titans’ (John Bishop and Lord Coe et al.), which ran through the telethon, was fun, and an excellent use of this year’s location – the Olympic Park. Above all, the thing that got my mum overexcited was the reuniting of Kylie and Jason after 25 years to perform ‘Especially for You’. Her face lit right up – and if that’s not worth donating for, I don’t know what is!