Count Arthur Strong
Comedy’s a funny old game. When it’s not to some people’s taste, it seems to inspire disproportionate bile. And when it’s Count Arthur Strong, an inoffensive, character-driven sitcom that goes against the grain of today’s edgy, cynical, potty-mouthed fare, it’s even more mystifying.
His loyal fans won’t care. They are made up by the Count’s return for a third, utterly deserving series. As played by Steve Delaney, he’s a cross between Enid Blyton’s Mr Twiddle (bow tie, glasses, trilby) and Sheridan’s Mrs Malaprop (“I do have experience in the world of extra-sensory contraception”).
It’s a deceptively simple set-up: the delusional former music-hall star has mini-adventures with fellow frequenters of Bulent’s Café: neurotic Michael (the wonderful Rory Kinnear), shady John the Watch (Andy Linden), timid Eggy (Dave Plimmer), the volcanic Bulent himself (Chris Ryman), his sweet sister Sinem (Zahra Ahmadi) and now new customer Birdie (Bronagh Gallagher). But the stories are cunningly crafted by Delaney and Graham Linehan.
Arthur’s “psychic” skills are required in tonight’s Exorcist-flavoured fiasco that is so stupendously silly it possesses a kind of beauty. He may plough his own comedy furrow, but what a hilariously wonky furrow.
The Sun King is going through some very dark times as he stares, half-demented by lack of sleep, through a rain-streaked palace window.
Everyone, he thinks, is out to get him. Poisoning at court is rife and Louis is in thrall to overwhelming paranoia. He listens at doors and peeps through eyeholes in paintings. But we all know that prying eyes never read anything good about themselves, and eavesdropping ears are always disappointed.
Louis (George Blagden) thinks that to be a proper king he must fight battles, so he decides to go to war: “I cannot stay here any longer!” he tells brother Philippe.
The Versailles camp-ery is minimal in an episode that largely eschews the fluff and rumpy-pumpy, preferring politics and strategy. It’s a welcome change of pace, and a bit of existential despair from Louis doesn’t come amiss.
The final instalment of the French political drama threatens to be explosive, as it wades further and further into Homeland territory, and journalist Apolline finds herself the target of radicalised young woman Aïcha, whom she met in the Middle East.
President Marjorie’s decision to call a referendum on the voting system raises tensions – already at fever pitch – in the lead-up to the general election. Deleuvre’s switch in allegiances has a great impact on the results, while Desmeuze learns a lesson about loyalty, and Simon Kapita is forced to ask himself if it’s really worth dying for politics. Sharp, captivating and often genuinely thrilling, Spin will be missed.
9pm, Sony Movie Channel
Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll (or, in Ray Charles’s case, soul, gospel, blues and even a little bit of country) are the basic ingredients for a biopic of just about any popular singer from the last 50 years or so. Childhood poverty and tragedy are standard extras, and racial prejudice is not unfamiliar territory. Throw in blindness and you are in danger of producing an indigestible mixture of cliché and sentimentality. Taylor Hackford’s movie avoids that trap, beginning with the 17-year-old Ray setting out in search of fame and fortune and ending with him established as one of America’s most successful entertainers. Flashbacks fill in the gaps. Charles emerges as a hugely original talent (his recordings are used throughout the film) and a sympathetic human being, despite his heroin addiction and serial adultery. This is thanks to the assured script and direction, and to star Jamie Foxx – his Ray is not just an uncanny impersonation, but a great performance.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Having reconciled with her mother and received divorce papers from her kidnapper, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) enrols in college as the fast, sunny sitcom returns for a welcome third season. Meanwhile, best pal Titus (Tituss Burgess) is “Lemonading”…