Remember the first run of this series in January? It showed doctors and nurses facing painful choices each day at one London NHS trust. The subtext of every case study was the same: overstretch – and the heroic efforts needed to keep a hospital running at 99 per cent capacity nonstop.
For something so potentially downbeat, Hospital made gripping TV and drew audiences of more than three million. Now it’s back, and although there were no previews for this opener of series two, it looks unmissable. Cameras follow what happens when St Mary’s receives victims from the Westminster Bridge terror attack. Staff have minutes to implement the trust’s Major Incident Protocol, putting the hospital in lockdown.
In A&E, specialist trauma teams are assembled, ready to receive the casualties as they start to arrive. They include students from a French school trip, and British victim Stephen – who needs immediate surgery to save his leg.
This is from the same American network that brought us The Handmaid’s Tale and it has the same sense of tracing something really evil through a slowburn story with an art-house feel to it. It’s not quite as enthralling as The Handmaid’s Tale but it’s got Hugh Laurie in it and that’s more than enough reason to watch.
Laurie plays Eldon Chance, a careworn psychiatrist at the lower end of his profession. “I spend my days in the company of those mutilated by life,” he says. When he gets too involved in the problems of one of them (played by Gretchen Mol), things take a turn for the Hitchcockian.
Laurie is excellent, with an air of priestly weariness and a rougher, sadder version of his House growl. The shape of the story – adapted from a novel by Kem Nunn – takes a while to emerge, but it could run and run.
Jimmy McGovern’s highly charged, probing drama shifts its focus each week, bringing us a different troubled soul for Father Michael (Sean Bean) to help – or try to. This time the spotlight falls on Roz, the middle-aged mother of three who has confessed she plans to kill herself.
She is a woman who can cope with anything except the shame she knows is about to break over her head. Addicted to gambling machines in betting shops, she has embezzled huge sums from her boss.
The scene where he confronts her (she knew it was coming) is powerful and sadly plausible, like much else here. Watching Roz try to prepare her teenage kids for life without her – to cook and clean for themselves – is heartbreaking.
Like Breaking Bad, the thrill here is in rooting for someone who’s making their way against the odds, but plying an unforgivable trade: drug-dealing. In Breaking Bad it was a mild-mannered schmuck; here it’s a woman in a man’s world, ably played by Alica Braga. She starts out as a Mexican dealer’s innocent other half, but is soon put in a position where her inner tiger can roar. It’s a wild and unashamedly slightly trashy action thriller that’s willing to play with our expectations of its gender-flip format.
Following on from his art house experiment Punch-Drunk Love, Adam Sandler again gives a relatively restrained performance in this mainstream comedy. He plays mild-mannered businessman Dave Buznik who, after a misunderstanding regarding some in-flight headphones, is ordered into anger management under the counsel of spirited shrink Dr Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson). Rydell’s methods are unusual, to say the least – he moves in with Sandler while making a move on his girlfriend Marisa Tomei – but director Peter Segal never really mines the comedy that this pairing and premise deserve. However, this gets by on sheer star power, Nicholson being one of the very few Hollywood actors who can out-shout Sandler.