As Brexit Britain prepares to draw up new rules on who is welcome in the UK, Ian Hislop explores the decades from the Victorian era to the First World War, when modern Britain introduced its first peacetime restrictions on immigration. Until then, the Victorians had an open door to foreigners, but rising numbers in the late 19th-century triggered a fierce disagreement over who should be allowed in, mirroring the ongoing modern-day debate.
OK, so this hasn’t been the ratings hit the BBC would perhaps have liked. Scheduling has been an issue: putting it up against an on-form Emmerdale and the Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals was definitely a problem. And I do wonder whether the picturesque Irish setting had a Sunday-night rather than Thursday-night feel.
But, for whatever reason, Kat and Alfie’s spin-off hasn’t inherited the soap audience in the way it was hoped it would. Which is a real shame because it’s been a classy, atmospheric drama that’s built towards a terrific last episode. In fact, the final ten minutes seem to demand a second series rather than, say, a cursory explanation in an upcoming episode of EastEnders. So, come on BBC, let’s allow the Moons some more time in Redwater. There are too many unanswered questions to leave things here.
You can tell this has been created by the production company behind BBC3’s improv-sitcom Murder in Successville: it takes the same (very good) idea and transplants it to an entertainment format. Gogglebox star and comedy natural Scarlett Moffatt is the first guinea pig, asked to act in topical sketches, present a chat show, front a satirical news programme and helm a game show with members of the public as contestants – the twist being that Moffatt hasn’t rehearsed or seen a script for any of it, but the show’s resident actors have.
Filmed “as live”, it also promises musical guests and surprise celebrity cameos. If Host the Week can capture some of the warm anarchy of Successville, and if it doesn’t just collapse before our eyes, it could be a riot.
Emma Donoghue skilfully adapts her own acclaimed novel Room, a claustrophobic thriller inspired by the case of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who incarcerated his daughter in a basement for 24 years and systematically raped and impregnated her.
Both book and film avoid lurid true-crime trappings by telling their fictional story from the innocent point of view of five-year-old Jack (preternaturally assured newcomer Jacob Tremblay), born into the cramped captivity he shares with his mother (Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe-winning Brie Larson), abducted seven years ago.
Directed with tactile, close-up empathy by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), Room establishes an almost mundane routine of home-education, exercise and co-dependence, punctuated by the nocturnal visitations of “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers), their anonymous captor.
A moving, heartbreaking portrait of the mother-son bond,Room also explores the complexity of the “real” world, something Jack has never experienced. Though the book’s readers will know the outcome, seeing this almost unbearable nightmare realised with such care and restraint is an ultimately uplifting experience.
A drama that gripped the nation is available in all three seasons. Time to revisit that maligned second run, perhaps, or just examine the subtleties beneath the addictive whodunnits of those first and last seasons. David Tennant and Olivia Colman are a sleuthing duo who won’t be quickly forgotten.