TV review: STV debate; George Michael, out; The Bay

I’m happy to say that those times are largely over. Some viewers who hop over to DNA Journey (ITV1 Tuesday, now on STV Player) must have been disappointed not to find out straight away what the distant relatives of Hugh Bonneville and John Bishop were up to a few centuries ago.

But this time the nation was lucky. Regardless of Bonneville and Bishop’s DNA journey, we were about to venture into the heart of the darkness that is the SNP lead race. Get the burning torch, mother!

Scotland’s First Minister: The STV debate (STV, Tuesday) found the trio of hopefuls lined up at Plexiglas lecterns. Now we could go on and on about the brutalization and belittlement of politics as seen in televised debates, but sometimes it really pays to unleash politicians in a studio and let them bang one another’s bells. Sure enough, by the end of this debate, the plastic canopies weren’t the only thing viewers had seen through.

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Jeezo Kate Forbes is tiny. Also frightening. Tasked with cross-examining Humza Yousaf, she went straight to her feet. “When you were transport secretary trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were strained to the breaking point and now as health secretary we have record-breaking wait times. What makes you think you can do a better job as First Minister?” In this house, the dog whimpered and ran behind the sofa. Humza looked ready to do the same.

Ash Regan continued to look like a Hitchcock heroine trapped in a nightmare made by someone else. She spoke faster and faster, as if she wanted to end the bad dream faster, but there was no escape. As for Humza, he looked right at home with his podium. If the First Minister thing doesn’t work out, he can always apply to be a candidate at Catchphrase.

Independence crept in somewhere, but it was far too late in the day for any meaningful discussion of anything. An end at 10:10 p.m. on a school night? It wasn’t like the teachers went on strike the next day and we could sleep in. Not that the public sector strikes got much mention. Too busy with bloodshed to bother with such worldly affairs.

STV Political Editor Colin Mackay did an excellent job of holding the coats, realizing early on that the best tactic here was to step back and let your teeth and fur fly. There are two more of these tournaments next week unless the police kick down the door and stop the fun.

Unforgotten (STV, Monday) continues to embed itself well. I enjoy watching Sunny escalate his war against the new boss, Stressie Jessie, giving her the full sideways glance like a grumpy teenager. It’s easy though, buddy. Would Cassie agree? Probably.

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DS Jenn Townsend on The Bay (STV, Wednesday) was a more straightforward character, which came in handy as almost everyone else in the Morecambe crime drama seemed to be hiding something. From the builder whose house was set on fire to the police chief answering spongy phone calls, they were all there. Except of course Jenn (Marsha Thomason) who is as solid and dependable as The Bay. It’s a crowded market for female-led police drama, but Daragh Carville’s creation, which is back for a fourth series, still deserves its spot.

There was plenty of scandal and shame in George Michael: Outed (Channel 4, Monday-Tuesday), but not where you might have expected. The two-part documentary follows the singer’s 1998 arrest for indecent behavior in a Beverly Hills public bathroom. Wise minds predicted the end of Michael’s career. Only he didn’t see it that way. Instead of hiding, he came out on top, brought out his side of the story and played the media their own game. If the News of the World aired exclusively on Sunday, Michael would be speaking to CNN on Friday. His fight was seen as a turning point in the media’s previously toxic treatment of gay men.

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Outed was more of a cakewalk. It attempted to do too much over two hours than one would have, and it showed no mercy to the old tabloid warhorses who huffed and puffed at “shame” and “hypocrisy.” Some will think they deserve the insertion. As a former Sun editor put it, “It was nobody’s finest hour.” TV review: STV debate; George Michael, out; The Bay

Grace Reader

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