The week in TV: Rellik; Liar; The Other One; Static; Tribes; Predators and Me; The A-Z of Later… With Jools Holland

Two masterly thrillers by sibling co-writers battled it out, and a wry comedy about a bigamist’s daughters made for a wild half hour

Rellik (BBC1) | iPlayer
Liar (ITV) | ITV Hub
The Other One (BBC2) | iPlayer
Static (BBC1) iPlayer
Tribes, Predators and Me (BBC2) | iPlayer
The A-Z of Later... With Jools Holland (BBC2) | iPlayer

Those Williams brothers, Harry and Jack, just can’t seem to catch the breaks. Granted, they were always going to be globally thwarted as “most successful siblings with the surname Williams”, but it’s got to be a further cruel blow that two of their exquisitely plotted dramas, surely long in the chin-stroking ponder and either one of which deserves to garner success, were scheduled (with borderline-criminal stupidity, or ditto cynicism) against each other at the very same time on Monday night, chasing precisely the same ratings.

Rellik, the BBC’s, possibly deserves to succeed the most, but won’t. Chiefly because the overarching conceit behind the premise, a crime solved in reverse, is, with its fancy-footwork timeshifts and slo-mo reverse photography – bullets zipping back out of bodies, fags unsmoking themselves and the like – rather hard work for a Monday night. As someone who has spent long flights trying to work out why I’m so stupid at trying to work out the international date line and where the lost hours go/suddenly appear from, this was a … challenge. As a result I’ve rewatched it about eight times, my notepad is stuffed with feverish jottings about “dog, Queenie, must be about 15.47” and “copshop 10.36, clock on wall” and “right, but, but, but, gaaaah, am still moron”, and I can report a few things.

The timeline plotting is flawless: the more you watch, the more clever it turns out to be. There are turns of truly masterful acting by both Richard Dormer as DCI Gabriel Markham, and Rosalind Eleazar as the witchy Christine, both nastily disfigured through acid attacks. The prosthetic guys deserve a gong. An awful lot will pivot (will have pivoted? Will turn out to have pivoted/been going to pivot? As Douglas Adams pointed out, the major problem with time travel is simply one of grammar) on the sim card found in the cemetery. The premise, of finding out what happened, rather than what’s going to, is intriguing, and eventually more than rewarding: and the whole thing deserves care, attention, access to a decent watch-again system and not to have gone up against the one we’ll all be watching over on ITV.

Ioan Gruffud as the surgeon in Liar, standing making a phone call in a hospital car park.
Ioan Gruffud in Liar. Photograph: Patrick Smith/ITV

Liar, written by Jack and Harry Williams, I might have mentioned them – they were also responsible for The Missing – centres on the simpler, or at least time-running-normally, question of whose version of events to believe. What began as a promising date on Deal pier, all wine and sea and sunsets, ends in … what? Willowy teacher Joanne Froggatt says rape. Hunky surgeon Ioan Gruffudd, appalled, scoffs. Who’s the liar? I say “simpler”, but it’s a real head-scratcher: and also a true child of our times, with sharp exploration of febrile gender politics, the perils of rushing to the internet, and the hulking, if somnolent, social bias against any woman with any past whatsoever.

The grand news is that this, too, is meticulously plotted, with tiny clues thrown in throughout (and never by accident), and I suspect that it will both grip and, less happily, divide the nation over the next five weeks. And act as a reminder that, when you hear two versions of a road accident, you start to wonder about history. The even better news is that the brothers are seemingly in talks with Tchéky Karyo, Julien Baptiste of Missing fame, about a spin-off centred on the French flic. And that I’d watch any night of the week.

The Other One, assuredly a pilot looking for a commission, written by the fab comedian Holly Walsh, was an unlooked-for delight, a fresh and wildly enjoyable half-hour about a just-dead charmer of a bigamist who turns out to have fathered two very-alive daughters, Cathy and Cat. Middle-middle-class Cathy has already downloaded all the TED talks on coping with grief; decidedly non-posh Cat, who’s “this summer, finally completed Tinder”, decidedly hasn’t. They bond nevertheless, in new-found daughterdom and in wry grief.

Ellie White, Rebecca Front and Lauren Socha in The Other One.
New-found sisters: Ellie White and Lauren Socha as the two Catherines, with Rebecca Front, centre, in The Other One. Photograph: Matt Squires/BBC/Tiger Aspect Productions/Matt Squires

Siobhann Finneran as one of the mums displays an unexpected and gleeful surefootedness for comedy, but the breakout find is Ellie White (Beatrice in The Windsors) who, as Cathy, dominates every scene with her subtly tremendous mix of unspoken class-horror, and kindness, and just-naughty-enoughness. I’m already a little in love. Expect – hope for, fervently – that commission, and an (equally deserved) run on the back-catalogue of Supertramp.

In quite savage contrast, Static is about a chap called Rob who moves back in with his parents, except – they’ve moved house, and downsized to a caravan park! In Margate! The caravan is small, and he keeps bumping into the furniture! Cos the caravan’s small! And his dad’s got a fat belly!

Apologies to my neighbours if you heard loud clapping coming from this sofa. It wasn’t applause: I was looking to open a vein. Only the existence of a locked safe containing compromising evidence could possibly explain why Alison Steadman and Phil Davis lent their undoubted talents to this. Compromising evidence of black-mass sex with long-dead jackals.

Gordon Buchanan deserves a statue. On Mull: a glorious marble statue, with big brass balls. He possibly wouldn’t thank you for it: I think he would die happy enough having hunted with golden eagles – they can catch wolves. Wolves. Eagles don’t catch wolves, even in Game of Thrones! – in the Altai mountains of western Mongolia. The filmed results were vouchsafed to us last week in Tribes, Predators and Me, and were possibly the highlight of my TV year.

Amy Winehouse and Jools Holland duet on Later With Jools Holland in 2006. Photograph: Andre Csillag/rex/Shutterstock

While we’re talking statues, so, argably, does Jools Holland, and I can’t fathom why so many folk have an itchy, “meh” look on their faces at the mention of his name. Last night BBC2 tried, yet somehow failed, to pay tribute to 25 years of his show with The A-Z of Later… With Jools Holland, but at least reminded us how crucial the series has been, not least for musicians, who tend to raise their game in that fat circular studio and the presence of other musicians. Amy Winehouse, Adele, Gregory Porter, Coldplay, even ubiquitous spud-faced strumster Ed bloody Sheeran, all have Jools to thank, and there were thrilling yet too-short duets with Jamie Cullum, Katie Webster, Hugh Laurie. I could have watched it for about 14 hours. He was also, incidentally, a highlight of the just-gone Proms, his Stax celebration a blitheringly good night in a Prom season not exactly short of them. Are you black or white? Are you male or female? Are you Harry or Jack? Never mind: just shut up and dance.


Euan Ferguson

The GuardianTramp

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