Just when you think Happy Valley can’t get any bleaker, it takes a spectacularly dark and upsetting turn as a tragedy plays out in the gloomy folds of those picturesque moors.
It leaves empathetic copper Catherine Cawood (the excellent Sarah Lancashire) bereft and preoccupied with guilt – could she have said or done something differently? Who knows, but Catherine has to don her professional police officer’s mask – “we’re preserving evidence now” – as she and her colleagues begin a painful investigation.
Meanwhile, put-upon clerk and unlikely kidnapping mastermind Kevin Weatherill (Steve Pemberton, all twitches and jangling nerves) realises that his original plan has run away from his grasp; the sound of failure is cacophonous.
Though the central plot strains to be credible, Happy Valley hangs together because Sally Wainwright is the best writer of dialogue in the business and because Lancashire holds your heart in her hands. Alison Graham
“New and daring projects” were what comedy exec Shane Allen promised with this season of comedy pilots. This showcase doesn’t feel as daring as a sitcom set in a monastery might once have done – when, for instance, a previous version of this project appeared on Radio 2 in 2000 and in an unbroadcast pilot in 2008, long before viewers gave clerical sitcoms their blessing via Rev.
This is worlds away from Rev: it’s a traditional studio sitcom with broad characters and pleasantly cartoony storylines – a bell falling out of a bell tower, drunken monks, and so on.
Seann Walsh plays Brother Gary, who fled to the monastery to escape a conviction for benefit fraud. Mark Heap plays the monastery’s second-in-charge, a former air traffic controller fuming with pent-up anger, and Justin Edwards looks promising as Brother Bernard, who likes a tipple. David Butcher
This series keeps bringing us artists we haven’t heard new work from for years. Here it’s Natalie Merchant, once the frontwoman for 10,000 Maniacs. Her first songs in 11 years are brooding, reflective, oblique and a little menacing.
Other acts on the bill include George Ezra, a milky-skinned Bristol songwriter whose rich voice will surprise you, angular art-rocker St Vincent, and with the king of blue-sky noodling, Brian Eno.
Unit-shifting rock comes from Kasabian, who on garrulous new single Eez-Eh are, as usual, not taking themselves completely seriously, but still a lot more seriously than any sensible listener. Jack Seale
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