We flash back eight years to a traumatic incident that pitched Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal) into the kind of hell that we can only imagine. Maybe it explains the darkness that dogs her and the shadows in her soul. “Easy with your body, but dead behind the eyes,” says a sexual conquest.
But this is a Hugo Blick drama, so nothing is ever spelt out or made clear, we have to work hard to fathom why Nessa lives a life constantly under siege from her own fears. We must wonder, too (though the startling first episode probably gave us a big clue), why her brother (brilliant Andrew Buchan) seems so detached and remote, particularly from his febrile wife (Katherine Parkinson). The fact that she’s incredibly annoying can’t, surely, be the only reason.
Over at MI6, spy boss Julia Walsh (Janet McTeer) has words with prissy, sceptical spook Hugh Hayden-Doyle (scene-stealing Stephen Rea).
This new reality series starts, as they tend to do, with a preview montage of scandalously out-of-context excerpts that make it look far more dramatic than it really is. That said, it’s still an enjoyable tweak to the retail-rescue formula popularised by the likes of Mary Portas and Gordon Ramsay.
Here, dynamic young entrepreneur Gary works incognito at an ailing fancy-dress photography studio, using his hotshot business nose to sniff out potential improvements. At first he seems a bit cocky, but you soon warm to him as he reels off a procession of pragmatic, profit-boosting ideas, largely aimed at whipping the clueless sales team into shape. It’s formulaic, but fun.
This one-off film takes a peek beneath the fluffy towelling dressing gowns, seaweed wraps and calorie-counted meals at Champneys health spa as it undergoes a four-month refurbishment aimed at turning it into a “five-star destination”.
As always with these observational documentaries, it’s riveting when there are problems or friction between the staff. And sure enough, two of the new brooms brought in to sort out the housekeeping department and reception team (and boy did they need sorting) resign before the programme ends.
Among the long-serving staff are the obligatory characters, including flirty waiter Charles and products salesperson Audrey who shrugs off suggestions of change with, “Champneys is Champneys”.