Damien Love gives his verdict on TV Sunday, June 22, - Saturday, June 28
Sunday, June 22
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From Scotland With Love
10pm, BBC Two
Back in January, the BBC broadcast The Big Melt, a mesmerising meld of sound and vision about steelmaking in Britain that Jarvis Cocker and Martin Wallace put together using old film footage and new music. Mischievous, slightly heroic and defiantly poetic, it was the kind of thing that leapt out partly because it was so good in itself, and partly because there isn't anything else like it being allowed to sneak on to TV today.
Except, now there is. If you caught The Big Melt, you'll recognise that From Scotland With Love occupies much the same territory, but it does it in its own way. The film, commissioned to celebrate the Commonwealth Games, is similarly assembled from a comprehensive trawl of the archives, in this case footage held by the National Library of Scotland and the excellent Scottish Screen Archive. (If you've never visited the latter's site, check it out: it's possible to lose entire days watching the video material they've made available. Do a search on "Cumbernauld Hit" and your life may never be the same.)
And, again, there is no narration, at least not in the traditional sense. The hundreds of clips, dating roughly from the early 1900s to the early 1970s, have been woven together by director Virginia Heath with a specially composed new soundtrack by the wide-ranging Fife singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote, whose songs, in responding to the pictures and the suggestions he's found lurking in them, are pushed a little outside his previous territory. (The 11 tracks are being released as the new King Creosote album next month.)
Anderson and Heath are faced with a tougher job than Cocker and Wallace. The Big Melt had a specific, tangible subject - making steel - and while they took it as a springboard to go spinning off into associated matters (drinking, dancing, snogging in the long grass), that hard spine was always there to return to; a larger narrative emerged from all the little moments bouncing and echoing.
From Scotland With Love, on the other hand, is built around something more elusive - Scotland, whatever that is - and, even though the montage breaks down into identifiable sections (Love, Loss, War, Resistance, Migration, Work, Play) the focus can blur. Then again, the sheer spot-the-location pleasure of watching old footage should not be underestimated. Often, individual clips are so striking, so charming, so strange or so stunning you wish you could stop and see the rest of the footage they came from, a situation exemplified by one particularly breathtaking shipbuilding sequence, apparently captured by a flying camera; but also by footage of milk-bottle peely-wally people just horsing around at the sandy seaside. (Splendidly, Anderson provides a song called Largs here.)
When it really comes together, though, it works wonderfully. the Play section - footage of nights out in various towns - is a joy, and inspires the best of Anderson's new songs, One Night Only, motoring along on an optimistic motorik beat. He reprises the tune late in the film, to underscore dreamy footage shot at Glasgow School of Art in the beatnik 1960s, especially poignant given recent events. Fine as it is pumping out of the TV, From Scotland With Love will really come into its own as a live experience, shared by strangers bringing their own memories and associations. It will be screened on Glasgow Green on July 31st, as part of the Commonwealth Games Culture programme, with King Creosote and associates playing the soundtrack live. That will be the night to see it.
Monday, June 23
Murdered By My Boyfriend
9pm, BBC Three
Based on a real-life case, this is a tough, plain-speaking little drama, made as a cautionary tale to set alarm bells ringing and get people talking. It's the story of Ashley, only 17 years old as we begin, who falls for an older guy, Reece. When they start going out, she begins to realise he's very possessive: his jealousy flares easily and he begins checking her phone messages. At first, she thinks it's a sign of how much he cares. When he starts hitting her, she sees how sorry he is afterwards and reckons it must be her fault. From here, it goes down and down, across four years that lead to the moment described in the title. Carefully written and nicely performed, particularly in Ashley's relationship with her friends, the film makes it very easy to understand how someone can get trapped and isolated in this situation, while telling themselves it will get better. It's been made with one shocking statistic in mind: in the UK today, two women die each week as a result of domestic abuse. A documentary on the issue, The Truth About Domestic Violence, follows on Thursday at 9pm.
Tuesday, June 24
Shopgirls: The True Story Of Life Behind The Counter
9pm, BBC Two
For fans of the heroines of Lark Rise To Candleford, The Paradise and Selfridges, this three-part documentary from social historian Dr Pamela Cox makes for a worthwhile companion piece. Strange as it might seem, there was once a time when women just didn't work in shops: Victorian stores were stark affairs, staffed by starchy men, and shopping itself a solemn business. To explain how this started to change, Cox looks back to the 1850s, when shop work was still an exclusively male domain. But as more factories sprang up around the country, the supply of young male apprentices began to dwindle; simultaneously, progressive women's groups were promoting the idea of women's employment as a way of empowerment; and female customers with money to spend were seeking a more pleasurable shopping experience, and much preferred the idea of being served by other women when it came to certain things. Cox charts how the arrival of the shopgirls - young women with independence and a little money to spend - spearheaded social change, with the effects rippling into the wider culture. Be she also explores the darker side of poor wages, workhouse conditions and arising scandal.
Wednesday, June 25
Jesus Town, USA
9pm, Sky Atlantic
Every Easter since 1927, the good people of Lawton, Oklahoma, have marked the date by mounting a Passion play, staged in a custom-built recreation of Jerusalem, situated in a dusty cow pasture on the outskirts of town. In the glory days, depending who you talk to, the production gathered audiences that numbered in the hundreds of thousands (or maybe it was 40,000; or maybe 20,000; or maybe…). These days, though, well, it's safe to say not as many peopleare coming as they used to. This documentary from directors Julian T Pinder and Billie Mintz follows the team who make up Lawton's Holy City Players as they attempt to mount their latest Passion, optimistic that, if they build it, the people will come. But the venture is fraught with tension and troubles, not least that the new Jesus, Zack, is hiding a secret. The film is offbeat, but the directors overegg the pudding: some scenes, like the splendid talking heads interviews with veteran locals (including "Virgin Mary 1948"), seem genuine enough, but others are clearly staged. It lends a curious, strained tone, but fans of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries will find things to enjoy.
Thursday, June 26
The football's on later, and the tennis all day, but there's not much else happening. A perfect excuse, then, to just give up and watch the old action TV repeats that are on a perpetual daytime cycle on ITV4. Today's Kojak isn't great: a throwaway about a killer stalking a hospital, it's drawn from the show's often lacklustre fifth and final season of 1978 (although Kojak got better again when it came back as TV movies a decade later). Still plenty to cherish though: this is the season they changed the theme tune (an unwise decision, but it's fairly disco); more importantly, it's also the year Telly Savalas started designing his own clothes, under the fantastic banner Telly Apparel For The Man. Top class. It's followed by a belting double bill of The Sweeney (4pm, with boss Haskins in the frame for corruption) and The Professionals (5pm, with Bodie held hostage by Baader-Meinhof-style German terrorists). If you enjoy pretending the past 35 years never happened, look out also for tonight's 1979 Top Of The Pops (7.30pm, BBC Four) which boasts a completely insane line-up, including Siouxsie And The Banshees, Public Image Ltd, Thin Lizzy, Tubeway Army
Friday, June 27
From 7pm, BBC Three
Pretty hard to grumble about the license fee when the Beeb is bringing the World Cup, Wimbledon and Glastonbury live into the living room at the same time (not to mention all those other programmes, the rolling news, the various orchestras, sprawling websites, downloadable archives, countless radio shows and a gazillion and one other things the 40p-per-day brings). This year's coverage from Worthy Farm kicks off on BBC Three with a triple whammy of Rudimental, Haim and Lily Allen. At 9pm, hardcore sing-along fans have the tough task of choosing between Paolo Nutini (BBC Three) or Elbow (BBC Four). There's a lot of flipping around to consider from 10pm, as BBC Two also gets in on the act, with highlights and further coverage of Kaiser Chiefs and Arcade Fire. Look out for the mysterious Red Button channel, too, where the likes of De La Soul, Billy Bragg and Chvrches might be found, among others. Laura Laverne, Marc Radcliffe and Jo Whiley are the presenters talking too much when you'd rather be listening to music.
From 7pm, BBC Three
There might be sets lurking online and via the Red Button before then, but TV coverage of the second day down Worthy Farm way kicks off at 7pm with Irish Coldplay soundalikes Kodaline, then wakes up a bit with the arrival soon after of "Milkshake" legend turned chef, Kelis, promoting the grits 'n' grind Soul Jazz sound of recent album Food. There's danger of remote control RSI as the rest of the packed schedule spreads and jumps around across BBC Two, Three and Four between 8pm-1.30am. There will be highlighted sets from earlier in the day, including Manic Street Preachers, Lana Del Ray and Robert Plant, and live coverage of Pixies, John Grant, Jack White, Jake Bugg, Metallica and others. Hopefully, Mogwai's headline performance on the Park Stage will get a look in somewhere. For all who prefer to stay free of the mud, meanwhile, polish your classiest slippers, and get your cocktails all lined up in a row for Bryan Ferry's hopefully Roxytastic set, due on BBC Four around 10.45pm.