Anyone who’s anyone from the world of comedy is on BBC1 (and briefly on BBC2) this evening and, according to the trails featuring the lot at W1A, it’s actually going to be funny.
Of course the joke is it’s always funny. How could it not be with sketches from Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, a return to our screens for Miranda Hart (who’s promised to hold Rob Beckett’s hand throughout), and an attempt by Johnny Vegas and Joe Lycett to run a pizza restaurant?
Among the absolutely-must-not-miss moments is the short sequel to Love Actually featuring most of the original cast. As Richard Curtis recently revealed, “Someone’s died, someone’s got lots of kids, someone’s been voted out of office and voted back into office.” Then there’s Take That doing Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. If you remember the singing in When Corden Met Barlow in 2014, you’ll know what a treat this is going to be.
In between all the hilarity are sobering film clips to remind us what it’s all about – and that’s donating money to help those in need in the UK and Africa.
It’s the best instalment yet of the buddy cop-show as stick-in-the-mud Murtaugh and death-wish Riggs have their first serious falling-out. It comes about because Murtaugh’s teenage son gets himself into a tight spot and Riggs reluctantly helps him out… without telling his dad. That leads to a confrontation where Murtaugh touches on Riggs’s sorest nerve and says the unsayable: “You have nothing to love in this world – but yourself.”
This sudden shaft of real, raw drama comes in the context of a solid burglary case that manages to work in some social commentary on how hard it is for young black men in rough neighbourhoods to avoid crime – not as clunking as it sounds. And there’s room for a spot of slapstick, of course. Look out for the fight scene where our partners try to apprehend an absolutely colossal suspect in a gym shower-room. It goes swimmingly.
Some Russian citizens are taking their country’s expansionist intentions literally. Father Osyak, an Orthodox priest, and his wife have produced 18 children – and been awarded a medal for their “exemplary fertility” by President Putin. He’s also been rewarded with donations from wealthy people who are keen to associate themselves with his conservative values of family, God and country. Which explains why his luxurious home boasts a swimming pool and games room.
But to Western eyes the rise of Orthodox views has a very dark side. Gay people are persecuted, women denied abortions, while a bill decriminalising domestic violence has just been passed. Marcel Theroux (brother of Louis) reports on this resurgence of traditional conservatism.
Writer/director David Ayer specialises in ride-around cop dramas – from Training Day (which he wrote) to End of Watch. And the same macho politics apply in this heart-pounding drama about a tank, commanded by Brad Pitt, rolling through Germany in the brutal dying days of the Second World War.
Shia LaBeouf gives a studied turn as a bible-basher, Michael Peña is the loudmouth, and Jon Bernthal the cynical member of the crew. But it’s through the eyes of Percy Jackson star Logan Lerman’s replacement driver that the reality of conflict hits home. He is the heart and soul along with Pitt, who is on towering form schooling the kid into attaining the machine-like mindset of a hardened soldier, yet anguished at having to do so.
There are no bad guys, only men running on adrenaline and working under extreme pressure, negotiating explosions on and off the battlefield. Even the Nazis seem tragic, with only pride left to fight for. While there are archetypes and Hollywoodisms, Ayer probes for what makes a man beneath the brutality and the bluster, resulting in a film that burns into the memory.