Unless you’ve seen Ten Pound Poms (BBC1, Sunday), a new drama set amid a wave of migrants from Britain who bought cheap passage to Lucky Country in search of a better life. Far from paradise, this Australia was full of racist, rude drunks who loathed the ‘whining Poms’ who went there and took Australians’ jobs etc. Admittedly it was more than half a century ago, but still.
Blighty fared no better, it was a snowy hellscape where men after a week of hard work could do nothing but get drunk into oblivion.
Danny Brocklehurst’s drama favored the broad brush over a more detailed tool. As with a new soap opera trying to pull viewers in, characters and storylines were introduced at breakneck speed. Soon the place was full of mysteries. Nurse Kate (Michelle Keegan) had mysteriously abandoned her fiancé in Britain. A newly arrived teenager mysteriously kept holding on to his stomach. The camp foreman was mysteriously speaking to an English woman who was mysteriously wanting to return to the UK.
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If you didn’t mind the occasional bout of awkwardness (wife mopping up husband’s vomit, spies touting £10 tickets), the hour flew by. The main attraction was Keegan, who looked like a young Elizabeth Taylor who got caught up in a moderate-budget BBC drama, but I also liked the swagger of her friend Annie (Faye Marsay), a pioneering type like I’ve never seen before. She will fix the Australians.
In Steeltown Murders (BBC1, Monday), rural Wales and the 1970s in general were its turn to get it in the neck. Another crime drama based on real events and about the murder of three young women.
The first request was botched. One of the investigators, Paul Bethell, believed the killer evaded justice. Decades later, when new evidence emerges, he asks for the case to be reopened.
Steeltown Murders roamed back and forth from the 1970s through the ’00s, with Philip Glenister playing the older Bethell and Scott Arthur playing the long-haired, bell-bottomed younger version.
The presence of Glenister, the groovy wardrobe and the top songs of the time gave the play a Life on Mars atmosphere that was at odds with the seriousness of the story. But it struck the right tone about the sexism of the time.
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Matt Willis: Fighting Addiction (BBC1, Wednesday) was another in the now long line of celebrity-starred documentaries, this one starring one of the guys from the pop-punk band Busted (she says while frantically Googling ). Alcohol and drugs have historically been Matt’s poisons, which he often indulged in on tour. When he wanted to get back on the road, he feared a relapse. So he set out to see how other people stay sober.
There were five key people in the film: Matt, his wife Emma Willis, the TV presenter, and their three children. We didn’t see much of the children, but Emma slowly became the focus of the documentary, elevating it beyond the ordinary.
Matt did what so many other celebrities have done before him — talk to doctors, attend an addict meeting, revisit his childhood, and so on. There was the usual irritation, such as talking about rehabilitation centers as if they were an option accessible to many. In reality, you’re about as likely to find an NHS restaurant as you are to find a pub with free alcohol. Emma, meanwhile, slowly became the voice of those who are the collateral damage of addiction – wives, children, parents, siblings and others. It’s a voice that doesn’t draw as much attention as it should, but that wasn’t the case here.
The most revealing and moving part of the film was the couple’s visit to Glasgow to meet a group from the Scottish Families charity and support group. That came at the end when it might have been a better starting point.
Guilt (BBC Scotland, Tuesday/BBC2, Thursday) has reached the end of its journey. There were only 12 episodes in total. This, along with the great script and cast, made the film go by far too quickly, as good things often do.
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Creator Neil Forsyth chose a classic way to end, taking the story back to where it began and adding a touch of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (or was it Wacky Races?) as players pushed each other to get over finish line.
The good guys got what came their way, so did the bad guys, and somewhere in the middle was Max. I couldn’t imagine the final look, let alone how the dates would have worked, but like Guilt himself, it was a wonderful surprise. A tip to everyone.