“To find a child’s hand in yours is one of the most moving things that can happen to you,” sighs Zina, 77. It might sound innocuous but in the context of this lovely programme, where pre-school children arrive to brighten the lives of pensioners, it sums things up nicely.
The joy of physical contact – a hug, a walk hand-in-hand – is just one of the things the four-year-olds bring to the retirement home in Bristol where 11 pensioners have volunteered for an experiment modelled on schemes that are common in the US. Will spending time with youngsters improve their health and happiness in measureable ways?
We’ll find out in tomorrow night’s conclusion, but the heartening scenes of volunteers such as depressed Zina and sceptical Hamish, 88, opening up tell their own story. In one, we see Hamish sitting apart from the group, reading the business pages in an armchair, whereupon little Amaya goes over to offer him an imaginary cup of tea and a carrot, instantly melting his reserve. It speaks volumes.
If the yardstick for TV monologues is bound to be Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, then these pub-based mini-dramas measure up to it. Each does that excellent monologue trick of sketching a character with a few light strokes and taking us straight into their world, with the tautness you get from stories told straight to camera.
The first has Russell Tovey as a rueful 1980s actor, talking through the kinds of gay characters he ended up playing in dramas of the time – “I’m getting quite good at dying,” he notes, drily. The second is even better. It has Rebecca Front as Alice, sitting with her glass of sherry in 1957 and relating how she wound up in a lavender marriage. It’s touching, funny, deftly written (by newcomer Jon Bradfield) and you could watch Front’s performance all day long.
In The Dark is set in Manchester, so inevitably the heroine is menaced by Jez Quigley from Coronation Street (Lee Boardman, always reliably beetle-browed and sinister).
But he’s just a messenger. Someone unseen is determined to stop Helen (MyAnna Buring) discovering the truth about that bizarre bus-shelter incident. Though you’ll perhaps have a good idea of your own who was behind it.
As this dreary crime drama concludes, Helen faces one last major hurdle as she moves on with her life, while all around her young men are dying in a gangland turf war.
You’ll probably be glad to reach the end, where there’s a little treat, a Grey’s Anatomy indie ballad to send you on your way.
The rapper turned documentarist continues to draw usefully on his own past. Green, who knows what it’s like to grow up poor, here meets teenagers living in insecure accommodation, whose families’ destitution threatens to ruin their lives tragically early.
It’s a rare comedy that with just a few tweaks could easily be a heavy drama, but Force Majeure is exactly that. Dealing with the serious issue of adult responsibility, it starts with near disaster – while lunching at a restaurant in the French Alps with his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and two children, tourist Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) watches with bemusement as what seems to be a controlled explosion sends a cascade of snow pouring down the mountains towards them. As it gets closer, panic sets in around him and Tomas bolts, pausing only to pick up his iPhone. The avalanche peters out and is soon forgotten, but Tomas is not so lucky – his cowardice weighs heavy on Ebba’s mind and hasn’t escaped the kids’ attention either. What follows is a very subtle, deadpan black comedy that raises some very uncomfortable issues of the “what would you do” kind. Couples, be warned: this isn’t date-night material.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news