KATHRYN FLETT’S My TV Week: Holiday hell! But Keeley had me on the edge of my seat

KATHRYN FLETT’S My TV Week: Holiday hell! But Keeley had me on the edge of my seat

CROSSFIRE, TUESDAY, BBC1 

Rating:

After a turbulent fortnight following the Queen’s death, TV audiences may well have been searching for potentially comforting combinations of consolation and distraction. So where to turn? 

The BBC’s three-part drama Crossfire, starring Keeley Hawes, was initially scheduled to run on consecutive nights from last Monday but was inevitably shunted around before finally starting last Tuesday. 

And if it was ‘escapism’ you were after then Crossfire delivered – not least because its shooters-on-the-loose plot was set inside a hotel in the Canaries, where former copper-turned-security consultant Jo (a compelling Hawes) was holidaying with her husband, their two young children and her older daughter from a previous marriage. So far, so Happy (modern, blended, mixed-race) Families.

Somewhat less plausibly, however, Jo and co were also on holiday with their closest friends. Personally, I find organising my own holidays hard enough without attempting to co-ordinate other people’s schedules, so the fact that a bunch of busy middle-aged people with careers and kids could pull it off in just a few weeks (via flashbacks, we discovered that the idea of an Easter holiday was conceived at New Year’s Eve) felt like dramatic sleight-of-hand by writer Louise Doughty.

The BBC’s three-part drama Crossfire, starring Keeley Hawes, was initially scheduled to run on consecutive nights from last Monday but was inevitably shunted around before finally starting last Tuesday

The BBC’s three-part drama Crossfire, starring Keeley Hawes, was initially scheduled to run on consecutive nights from last Monday but was inevitably shunted around before finally starting last Tuesday

The author of the novel Apple Tree Yard (a huge hit when adapted for the BBC in 2017), Doughty’s storytelling comfort-zone is exploring what happens when outwardly strong and capable women find themselves in situations during which events spiral out of their control. 

In Apple Tree Emily Watson’s Yvonne had a fling with Ben Chaplin’s Mark that got very dark, very fast, while in Crossfire it’s the unfolding of Jo’s relationship with one of her husband’s oldest friends (on the same holiday, with his family…) set against the backdrop of a couple of angry gunmen running around firing at holidaymakers.

As Jo was forced to refresh her policing skills, it fell to her to try to save her family, her relationship, the lives of her friends and the other hotel guests and staff. It was a big ask – and her journey was predictably edge-of-the-seat with inevitable twists; the excellent Hawes (who also co-produced) was the glue that successfully bound together some slightly frayed plot strands.

Kathryn Flett (pictured): The random-shooter-with-no-clear-motive also appeared in the otherwise entirely brilliant Sherwood – I hope it isn’t simply a trend deployed in order not to offend

Kathryn Flett (pictured): The random-shooter-with-no-clear-motive also appeared in the otherwise entirely brilliant Sherwood – I hope it isn’t simply a trend deployed in order not to offend

Lots of viewers will want to catch up with it on iPlayer, so I don’t want to give too much away. However, if there was anything about Crossfire that felt slightly jarring it was the BBC’s diversity-in-action checklist – ensuring Jo’s tight friendship group (great performances from Royal Shakespeare Company stalwart Josette Simon OBE, Line Of Duty star Anneika Rose and Shalisha James-Davis as Jo’s daughter) felt slightly forced, while the shooters’ own motives were so vague they felt less like a proper plot than a neat plot device. 

The random-shooter-with-no-clear-motive also appeared in the otherwise entirely brilliant Sherwood – I hope it isn’t simply a trend deployed in order not to offend.

However, while enjoying much of Crossfire’s welcome escapism it was the series’s final shot that pulled me up short. The close-up of a uniformed police officer adjusting their hat with its shiny ‘EIIR’ badge was – suddenly, unexpectedly – certainly far more emotionally emblematic than the show’s creators could ever have predicted.

Soothed by a sponge block of flats

While waiting to watch the procession from the Palace to Westminster Hall ahead of the Queen’s lying-in-state, I got chatting to PC Skinner of the Met – on duty across the barrier – who admitted that after several long shifts ‘all I was good for when I got home last night was Bake Off ’. 

Whether viewers were on duty or off, Syabira’s sumptuous Red Velvet cake and Janusz’s showstopping sponge interpretation of his mum’s block of flats in the first episode were so uplifting that I’m sure we’ll all be both entertained and soothed during this sixth season (Tuesday, Ch4, with judges Paul and Prue, above). 

Its broad fan-base is still far from soggy – the new Prince and Princess of Wales are known to be fans, after all. 

MICHAEL PALIN: INTO IRAQ TUESDAY, CHANNEL 5 

Rating:

Even though it was the birthplace of civilisation, there may well be many countries closer to the top of your holiday bucket list than Iraq. Thus it’s great to see the indomitable Michael Palin make the trip, if only so we don’t have to.

Having long been fascinated by the country, he had to get his doctor’s OK to travel there – for insurance purposes, presumably – and was clearly delighted to be told he could go ‘to see a country that has had a terrible present but an extraordinary past’. The still sprightly Sir Michael (below) – he turns 80 next year – set off by train, following the river Tigris south for 1,000 miles from its source in Turkey. 

While in the still-devastated city of Mosul, five years after fighting ended there, he chatted with kids playing among the ruins, before moving on to purchase a smart bespoke jacket in the shiny, high-rise city of Erbil, the booming capital of Iraqi Kurdistan 50 miles east. Then, somewhat nervously joining the torchlit (‘Glastonbury-meets-Apocalypse Now’) New Year procession in Akre, Palin admitted ‘the first days in Iraq really have been a baptism of fire’.

Sir Michael is still a dry, witty, amiable tour guide, just not as steady on his feet these days, so it’s fairly unlikely we’ll see him striding up too many more mountainsides while dodging tracer fire. His fans, then, will certainly want to make the most of his visit to a country about which many of us have more preconceptions than we do facts.

Source

Related posts