What I watched in March

Violas once upon a time in Portugal…

The ones I loved:

The Great Pottery Throwdown ***** (All4) I’m not always a fan of competitive programmes but I love the way we get to know all sorts about pottery whilst watching a group of really interesting people. I guessed the winner, but I imagine most viewers did.

This is going to hurt***** (BBC iplayer) Better than the book in many ways. Clever and tragic at both a personal level and re the state of the NHS, with flashes of black humour just to keep us on our toes. The main actors were brilliant – though I would probably watch Ben Wishaw in anything, anyway.

Brief Encounter***** This was on BBC but by now will have disappeared from iPlayer. A re-watch, of course. Sometimes, once you know a film well, the details have more impact than the ending. Anyway, of its kind, it’s probably perfect though with that cast and that production/writing team perfection was always going to be a given.

Vienna Blood seasons 2 and 3***** (BBC iplayer) Intriguing mysteries, fabulous settings (Vienna c1900) and lots of banter between the young Freudian doctor and the police Investigator he helps. Their family lives are interesting but don’t intrude too much on the cases. There are plenty of clever echoes of other shows e.g. The Third Man and various iterations of Sherlock Holmes. Our only criticism involved the replacement of one actor for season 3. I imagine it was something the producers couldn’t avoid but the new casting wasn’t, somehow, quite good enough. Still on iPlayer for another fortnight or so. I adored season 1 then somehow missed season 2 so we had to binge watch 2 and 3…)

The ones I enjoyed:

The Responder **** (BBC iplayer) Grim cop show set in Liverpool which gives it a sense of immediacy from where I live. Martin Freeman is quite good in his role as the overwhelmed policeman and I liked Rita Tushingham’s cameo appearance. Plenty of possibilities for another season.

Jeremy Kyle Show: Death on Daytime **** (All4) Documentary about the itv programme that led to a number of suicides. Chilling. I once watched an episode in the show’s early days but never returned to it because I found it distasteful (to me) in the extreme. I have no idea whether I sensed the problems that lay behind the production.

Holding**** (itv hub) Interesting crime story set in the Republic of Ireland in a rural community. Based on a novel by Graham Norton and produced by Kathy Burke. Very ‘different’ and held my interest right to the end. As usual, the NS film critic gave it a bad review and entirely missed the point of the story. Conleth Hill, who plays the main character (the village policeman) was brilliant. It’s hard to believe it’s the same actor as Varys in Game of Thrones, and Max’s father in Vienna Blood.

And the ones that were watchable:

The Promise*** (All4) Disappointing (especially from the makers of Spiral) but reasonably gripping French cop show set in an area we know quite well (the coast just north of Bayonne). A problem I had was that the actor playing one of the detectives is also a detective in Crimson Rivers (which has just started a new season) and that turned out to be vaguely confusing.

If Beale Street Could Talk*** This has probably also disappeared from iPlayer. The love story angle was moving. So was the plot (based on a novel by James Baldwin) with its condemnation of the American legal system. The filming, I thought, was nowhere near as good as the script.

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