CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Mrs Durrell turns Rambo in an all-inclusive holiday from hell
Cunk On Earth
Last time we saw Keeley Hawes at the beach, she was mumsy Louisa in pre-war Corfu, fussing over her four children and nursing a crush on the village taxi driver, in The Durrells.
Crossfire (BBC1) is not The Durrells. Keeley’s character Jo is with her children by the sea, it’s true, and she does have a crush on a taxi driver (well, nearly… he runs a limo hire firm). But instead of romantic muddles and amateur zoos, she’s embroiled in a terrorist attack on a tourist resort.
Corpses mount up by the pool. The secret boyfriend gets shot in the chest by a teenage psychopath. Then Jo turns out to be an ex-cop who goes hunting for the murderous fanatics with her shotgun.
Crossfire might as well be called My Family And Other Massacres. It’s an odd and awkward thriller, an action adventure bolted on to a domestic civil war.
Writer Louise Doughty is best known for Apple Tree Yard, the 2017 political drama with a sordid undercurrent. Clearly, her instinct is to depict jagged relationships.
When we first see Jo and husband Jason (Lee Ingleby), they seem relaxed and affectionate, on holiday in the Canary Islands with two other families.
One minute Jo (pictured) is posing like Rambo with a double-barrelled weapon, the next she’s wrestling with conflicted emotions about the sexy texts she sent to Chinar
But a boozy meal on the first evening ends in a vicious row, with Jason humiliating his wife in front of their friends, calling her ‘fundamentally dishonest and cowardly’.
The next morning they are cold but still talking to each other, competing for their children’s attention. It’s obvious the row was nothing out of the ordinary for them.
And if that’s not enough, we soon guess Jo’s lover Chinar is also on the holiday — with his wife Abhi and their three children.
Chinar and Abhi (Vikash Bhai and Anneika Rose) like to pose as Mr and Mrs Perfect. Chinar’s hypocrisy is bound to be exposed. Along with the breakfast buffet and the aqua-aerobics classes, this all-inclusive hotel might have to provide free marriage counselling.
Information is largely revealed in fragmented flashbacks, often inserted at bizarre moments, as the holidaymakers dodge the terrorists with automatic handguns.
One minute Jo is posing like Rambo with a double-barrelled weapon, the next she’s wrestling with conflicted emotions about the sexy texts she sent to Chinar.
More jarring still is Keeley’s sanctimonious voiceover, offering philosophical commentary on how the smallest choices can have catastrophic consequences. The result: as though Vanessa Redgrave was reading her Call The Midwife musings over scenes from Mission: Impossible.
Philomena Cunk, the vacuous telly presenter played by actress Diane Morgan, specialises in sanctimonious voiceovers. Her grandiose, meaningless proclamations, bellowed to camera from mountaintops and glaciers in Cunk On Earth (BBC2), are wickedly funny send-ups of a certain sort of TV egotist.
Philomena Cunk, the vacuous telly presenter played by actress Diane Morgan, (pictured) specialises in sanctimonious voiceovers
When Cunk first appeared on Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, some of her interviewees took her stupidity seriously, which made it all the funnier. Now everyone’s in on the joke, and instead we get the joy of watching Oxbridge historians trying to suppress fits of the giggles as they answer her magnificently dim-witted questions.
In this history of human civilisation, there’s a delightful cleverness about some of her idiocies. She described Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs as the earliest emojis and pointed out how incompetent humans have become, thanks to evolution.
‘Early men were pioneering inventorers,’ she wittered. ‘The first men to use tools, which is something most men have forgotten how to do today. Which is why they have to get someone in.’ Ouch.