The week in TV: Dublin Murders; Living With Yourself; Giri/Haji and more – reviews

The BBC’s new cop hit brings brilliantly flawed humanity to familiar tropes, and Paul Rudd is literally at war with himself on Netflix

Dublin Murders BBC One | iPlayer
Living With Yourself Netflix
Giri/Haji BBC Two | iPlayer
Succession Sky Atlantic/Now TV
Why We Hate Discovery UK
Are Our Politicians Up to It?: The Debate Channel 5

Dublin Murders fell into a few traps, but rolled away from all of them, bloodily nicked but unbowed, to rise tall above ditches, below that grey perma-sky, and shine. It is, honestly, as good as everybody’s telling you.

The chief shining is being done so far by virtue of the two main police partners in this particular murder squad actually liking each other, shock. Cassie (Sarah Greene) and Rob (Killian Scott) actually get on, sharing just-so dark humour and cheeky nips from a flask on harbour walls in 2006, when the Celtic Tiger was still all agleam with hubristic promise of gimcrack dockside flats. It’s a rare thing, to see such onscreen chemistry, the chemistry of strong, flawed friendship, probably last witnessed between Cormoran and Robin in Strike.

The key word there was “flawed”: Rob Reilly is hugely compromised. Having been (it soon transpires) the child victim of unexplained savagery in 1985, he’s arguably the last murder-squad body on Earth who should be investigating another missing kid. Cassie’s also got her secrets; chiefly a buried stint undercover. By the third episode, a truly novel, exceptionally inspired, twist on the concept of “undercover identity” will emerge.

There are intermittent shocks throughout this triumphant eight-part adaptation (two episodes a week), by Sarah Phelps, of Tana French’s bestselling Dublin Murder Squad crime novel series. There are the usual ones – ravens, ravening; weird things found weirdly in woods; a pig-sexist boss – but one of the most unsettling we encounter is Scott, in the shower, in a life-or-death struggle to uncrick his neck.

No less terrifically human is Greene. Few others aside from perhaps Vera Stanhope could pull off her soft words over a dead child: “Oh sweetheart… your little face”.

One sizable trap was that, yes, yawn, the first body found was that of a 13-year-old girl, found in the woods on an ancient stone altar (the second that of a pretty, half-naked student) and I wonder when writers will grow weary. (At least the writers here are female.) Also, when a young girl disappears, even in 2006, it’s kind of a big thing. The last one I covered was in Soham (2002), and I can still recall vividly the international media caravanserai haring late that hot Saturday to RAF Lakenheath, then filing on the run at 5.40 and having too many slow hours after my burbled cliches to reflect on the true enormity. In Knocknaree, there’s only one local reporter/photographer. All I’m trying to say is: this sort of thing really, and thankfully, is not that common. Personal quibbles apart, it’s still a winner.

Paul Rudd and Paul Rudd in Living With Yourself.
‘Something of a tour de force’: Paul Rudd and… Paul Rudd in Living With Yourself. Photograph: Netflix

Living With Yourself is something of a tour de force for Paul Rudd. It’s the age-worn story of boy marries girl, boy becomes ground down by weary failures in lifelovework etc, boy clones self in dodgy Korean Top Happy Spa for $50k, happy best-he-can-be clone saunters home to impress wife, boss etc with newfound joie de vivre. And, of course, original boy wakes alive in grave, shakes shit from hair, walks eight miles in rain to join clone in pass-agg fight for career, wife, own life. Etc.

Much, perforce, goes on, yet nothing feels hurried. At first sight it’s like an old Hollywood double-identity romcom, albeit with very good, very modern humour: truly funny, often. Yet Aisling Bea, as Miles’s wife Kate – in fact both Mileses’ wife Kate – is no wifely cipher. As this series gallops onward, it becomes clear that Kate’s going to have to choose between loser Miles and Miles 2.0: and there are big, big existential questions raised about authenticity versus (perceived) perfection. Truly, one for both old-Hollwyood aficionados and, pertinently, the selfie, Instagram age. I loved pretty much every moment, and all performances (Bea has been quite the find this summer): roll on more seasons.

Will Sharpe and Takehiro Hira in Giri/Haji.
Will Sharpe and Takehiro Hira in Giri/Haji: ‘immensely promising’. Photograph: Luke Varley/BBC/Sister Pictures

Giri/Haji is an immensely promising thriller set between Tokyo and London, and with a fine lead in Takehiro Hira as Kenzo Mori, a (compromised, obviously) detective on a quest in the UK capital. It’s violent, uncompromising and squirrelly, and Kenzo will, despite his corseted persona, find redemption in the outliers: rent boy Rodney (Will Sharpe), douce Sarah (Kelly Macdonald). The stylish anime flashbacks are a welcome addition to primetime drama.

Succession ended with a gleeful setup for the third series. It was only afterwards that the downside struck: I’ll have months to wait before hearing, again, Nicholas Britell’s joyful and menacing theme music, arguably the song of the summer. Half of the concluding episode, on board Logan Roy’s (pointlessly huge, naturally, just cos he can) yacht, reminded me of little so much as a Poirot pre-unveiling, all the suspects gathered in the same space. If Poirot had been planning not to unveil a murder suspect but to throw a high-flying “blood sacrifice” of kith and kin to media and shareholders, and if those gathered had been encouraged to bitch and fornicate and swear with exuberant inventiveness throughout. Anyway: Logan threw son Kendall to the wolves. Kendall reciprocated. In style.

I wrote at least one moon ago that Logan Roy was the part Brian Cox (not the space one) was born to play. By dint of humour, heft and that old-fashioned Scottish dichotomy of blending artsy creativity with hard-boned financial viciousness, he has made Roy his own, and made us root for, care about, a family which, in usual circumstances, I wouldn’t stop in the rain to scrape off my boot. An utter triumph: after Chernobyl and Spiral, my biggie so far of the year.

In reviewing the big Channel 5 Wednesday-night Jeremy Vine thing – Live Brexit Debate: Deal or No Deal?, in which they’d polled 26,000 souls, biggest snapshot since June 2016 – I’d prepared the phrase “thick to the back teeth with Brexit”. Given the standard of most callers to Vine’s lively morning programme, I’d expected a concomitant studio audience.

In the event I was prettily surprised: producers had split the tiers into segregated sections (a tip for Question Time?) of open remainers, Brexit ultras, those who’d voted pro-Europe but insist the referendum result demands respect, and so on. And, by and large they didn’t screech with crazed tribal madness but showed each other faint respect and spoke (some) welcome sense, the last bunch in particular.

No, it was the guests who were the problem: Michael Howard, who tellingly spoke of the “1916 referendum”? Really? Howard?; and they’d dragged out, to arm-wave and get red-faced pro-Brexit business boss Tim Martin, who increasingly looks like a claymation dreamed up after too long in one of his Wetherspoon’s. Ann Widdecombe spat at Heidi Allen, Heidi spat at Widdy, and there was an intriguing spat, partly off camera, about the very poll itself. The SNP’s Joanna Cherry, a guest on the show, read out the overnight tweets of Prof John Curtice, who thought the ComRes poll used by the programme was flawed in allowing three options – leave with deal (30%), leave with no deal (20%), remain (42%) with the rest as don’t knows – to cloud the issue, rather than going for a simple rerun, to give a straight comparison with 2016.

It got quite heated, the head of ComRes arguing with the disembodied tweets of Curtice via the ever-impressive Cherry. She was right, as was the prof, but, as with the thing itself, pointing out “the wrong question was asked in the first place” seldom makes for a scented bower of unity.


Euan Ferguson

The GuardianTramp

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