Happy Valley, Secret Life of Babies, Amber – best TV on tonight

Sit back and prop your feet up for our top telly picks tonight Tuesday 3 June


Happy Valley – 9pm, BBC1


Tourism to the Dorset coast spiked in the aftermath of Broadchurch, but somehow I can’t see Happy Valley doing the same for West Yorkshire. However lovely the area looks, the events we’ve seen unfold in Sally Wainwright’s fictionalised Hebden Bridge – drugs, murder, rape, kidnap – would make any visitor think twice.

They’ve also made for one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching contemporary dramas BBC1 has shown. We’ve been riveted by the ordeals of police sergeant and grandmother Catherine Cawood, a wise and capable woman in a town full of nasty, clueless men. What a performance Sarah Lancashire has given – working with some of the best dialogue you’ll hear on TV.

Every minor character bursts with complicated, convincing life, but as the finale opens, many have reached rock-bottom. Catherine has to keep to her word and tell Nevison about the rape. Ashley is out on bail – and looks like a hunted animal. And if you’ve been wondering all along why Catherine is estranged from her grown-up son Daniel, we find out. But more important than all this: where is Tommy Lee Royce?

Secret Life of Babies – 9pm, ITV

The first two years of our life are critical in terms of our development. We grow to half our full height; we learn to walk, communicate, differentiate colours, understand danger; and we develop a sense of self. Yet we remember none of it. 

Some of the snippets of scientific information in this film are fairly well-known facts but there are some jaw-dropping ones lobbed in there, too. Such as that babies don’t have kneecaps when they are born; and that they have a natural aversion to green plants but are not scared of ferocious animals. 

Perhaps alarmingly for new parents with a tendency to swear we learn that they understand three times as many words as they can say. All this is accompanied by shot after shot after shot of gorgeous little babies crawling about and looking unbelievably cute.

Amber – 10pm, BBC4

Fourteen-year-old Amber is dropped off by her dad near a friend’s house in the suburbs of Dublin. Except she never turns up there. She just disappears. 

However, this small-budget Irish drama series is not yet another police procedural. Instead it’s a story of grief, loss and damage that explores the anguish felt by her recently separated parents Sarah and Ben as the days turn into weeks and then months. It uses the neat dramatic device of having each of the four episodes follow events chronologically as seen mainly from the perspective of one of the people involved, starting with Sarah; Waking the Dead’s Eva Birthistle gives an exceptionally harrowing performance as Amber’s mother.


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