TV review: One Night; A Very British Holiday; Angels of Mersey

One Night is a low-key British version of Falling Down

It takes some confidence to use the title One Night (BBC1), with its direct echoes of David Nicholls' global bestselling book One Day. Even if the Hollywood spin-off movie was rather less successful. But One Night is no bitter-sweet rom-com. If anything, the first episode of this four-part drama to be screened throughout the week, most resembled a low-key British version of Joel Schumacher's Falling Down.

After a brief opening scene of a young boy handing in a gun at the local nick to establish that something really bad has happened, we cut back in time to Ted – a struggling kitchen salesman – doing the shopping for a dinner party he's having for his boss. His phone rings. He keeps losing a signal but the message is clear; a deal he thought was done has just been cancelled. He goes home to find a group of schoolgirls dropping a crisp packet outside his front door. He loses his rag, they laugh and he decides it's "about time somebody did something". He goes to their school and complains.

He returns home to find a used condom has been pushed through his letterbox. He then remembers that when his phone rang in the supermarket he forgot to buy the charcoal for the barbecue. "Everything is so uphill," he shouts as he walks up the stairs. I think we all got the point. But in case you didn't, the charcoal has sold out by the time he returns and he has to settle for a rubbish disposable barbie. He gets home to find his wife has marinated the fish in the wrong pre-prepared sauce, it has started raining and the school has suspended Rachelle, the littering schoolgirl.

Midway through dinner, a stone is thrown through the kitchen window, Ted rushes out and assaults a young black kid – who just happens to be both Rachelle's brother and, more importantly, the brother of a local gang member – locks him in the shed and launches into a tirade against his boss about how he hates his job, hates being a failure and is quitting. At which point, One Night unexpectedly started to improve.

It could have been that I had been bludgeoned into submission by the lack of subtlety in the script. It could also have had something to do with the performances of Douglas Hodge as Ted, Saskia Reeves as his wife and Neil Stuke as his boss, who could all find some nuance and empathy in a sledgehammer. But mainly it was because the writing and plotting became more layered and intricate, with changes of pace and perspective. By then end, I found myself caring about what happened to everyone. All – except why the BBC scheduled the series for the post-news graveyard slot of 10.35 – will probably be revealed over the next three episodes, each of which is written from a different character's viewpoint, and I will stay watching till the end. No mean feat for me these days.

Except when it comes to factual programming for which I have a seemingly endless appetite. As I have something of a phobia about Brits en masse on holiday as well as a complete loathing for camping, I wouldn't have expected A Very British Holiday (BBC2) to have much to recommend it to me. But it was so well observed, if it was aversion therapy then it was a particularly painless variety. It came billed as the new holiday for our cash-strapped, austerity age but it felt rather more like a wry workout in gentle nostalgia.

From the Enfield Boys Brigade being woken by a bugle and marshalled for tent inspection by Alan, the RSM manque, to the Christian get together, the heavily overcast skies, the crap talent contests and the bickering family groups, the Whitecliff camp site on the Isle of Wight looked much as I would have expected in the 1950s. Rarely has relaxing looked so stressful. "We're having a good time," said Vicky and Gregg. "No we're not," their children interrupted.

Less rewarding was Angels of Mersey (BBC2) a new series about chaplains in – you've guessed it – Liverpool. It had its moments, with James the heavily tattooed university chaplain, failing hopelessly to bribe students at freshers' fair with bacon butties to come to church, but it failed to answer the central question of what drives someone to become a chaplain. It's not an everyday calling.

It was easier to see what was in it for Caroline, as hospital is where you tend to find people in extremis. I can understand the need for hope, for something to hold on to at such times, but praying for individual help seems like a minefield. What happens if your child doesn't survive? Does it mean that God didn't reckon he was worth saving or had better plans for him? Still, I'm not planning to give up on the programme just yet. As the chaplains would no doubt say of me: "There's still time for redemption."


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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