Damien Love gives his verdict on the week's TV Sunday July 6 - Saturday July 12
Sunday, July 6
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9pm, BBC One
Jimmy McGovern is angry again, which is how we like him. But we all know this can go one of two ways. The best McGovern scripts tend to result when he's worked himself into a simmering stew, then keeps it boiling until something goes haywire in his brain, and it all comes foaming madly over the edge, spurting in hot, messy, unexpected directions. Then there is the other McGovern script, where he has "a point", and sets out to explain how you should feel about it, like a man nailing a 20-foot neon sign to a brick wall, using your head as a hammer.
Common, in which I detect slight annoyance on McGovern's part over the English legal doctrine of joint enterprise, shades into this latter category. In recent decades, the law has increasingly been used to prosecute "gang crime"; essentially, all participants around an assault or murder can be charged with the crime, whether or not they took part in the actual attack. (Scotland has a similar doctrine, "art and part.")
The wrong-time-wrong place example McGovern offers is of a 17-year-old boy sitting obliviously in a car outside a pizza shop. Inside, rather than ordering mushroom with anchovies, two of his pals are beating a guy up, while a third is stabbing another kid to death. When they come piling out and order him to get going, he becomes getaway driver, and, subsequently, is jointly charged with the murder.
The boy is innocent. We know this because McGovern paints his utter innocence with the same subtle brushstrokes Bond movies used to employ to point out the bad guy. Not only is he innocent, he's a haemophiliac. And not only is he an innocent haemophiliac, he's called Johnjo. Had the BBC struck a deal with Disney and managed to get Bambi in the role, with a broken leg, the point could not have been clearer.
McGovern's message is this, handily screamed by Johnjo's aunt: "This joint enterprise is not about innocent or guilty; it's about them getting working-class scum off the streets!" The drama's title is a pointed pun on Common Purpose, the other name by which the doctrine is known; although McGovern isn't above one-dimensional working-class stereotypes himself, particularly in his depiction of the guilty killer, a drooling troglodyte whose sole function is to stab people. Even he, though, is ultimately more convincing than the women. Look away if you don't want the ending spoiled, but Johnjo's mum (Jodhi May) and the murdered boy's mother (Susan Lynch), pictured left, are finally united as grieving, hugging Earth sisters. Both lose a son, see. May and Lynch sell this with great, soulful passion - if you want women in extremis, you could not ask for two better actors - but it rings false.
That joint enterprise is controversial, a catch-all without clarity that can lead to huge injustice, is not in doubt. There is huge concern about it: a select committee is currently examining its use. At the same time, it is the same law that finally brought convictions in the Stephen Lawrence murder, and I'd find Common easier to swallow if it wasn't so easy to imagine McGovern writing a drama about that case, charging from precisely the opposite direction.
Common is refreshing, even compelling as hard, old-fashioned agit-prop TV, and for the conviction with which it shouts "This is wrong!" But, as a dramatist, I prefer the McGovern who is haunted by grey shades, and admits he's as confused as the rest of us.
Monday, July 7
11.35pm, BBC One
The filmmaker Stephen Bennett shot this documentary over five years on the streets of Dalmarnock, capturing the impact of the looming Commonwealth Games as the area and its community went through "regeneration" for the event - or, in some cases, had "regeneration" steamroller over them. In the first of three episodes, we meet residents including Darren, above, a shop owner, at first content to accept the compensation offered for the demolition of his shops, planning on using the money to give his kids a better life. By the winter of 2010, however, four months after his shops have been flattened, and with still no sign of the promised money materialising, he's not so sure. The most extraordinary sequences, however, follow Margaret Jaconelli and husband Jack, who made headlines with their refusal to leave their tenement, and their fight to negotiate higher compensation than the £30,000 being offered for their flat which is earmarked for destruction. Elsewhere, young builders and local councillors have a more positive experience. But as that cold, hard winter of 2010 bites down, the dirty tricks pile up against them, and the final siege to evict them begins, it's the Jaconellis you'll remember.
Rebels Of Oz: Germaine, Clive, Barry And Bob
Tuesday, July 8
9pm, BBC Four
We haven't had much of a chance to see Clive James on TV for too many years, and it's wise to make the most of it while we still have any chance left at all. The great man is in fine form in the concluding episode of Howard Jacobson's affectionate portrait of four nonconformists from Down Under - James, Barry Humphries, Germaine Greer and the late Robert Hughes - who made a sizeable impact on the cultural life of the UK.
The story picks up again in the early 1970s, with James recalling how he landed his legendary gig as TV critic for The Observer, and everyone else (Melvyn Bragg, Martin Amis) trying to articulate just how sharp, deep, funny, blindingly revolutionary and generally right he was in the role. There's other good stuff, to do with Greer, Humphries and Hughes, but, to be honest, I could have watched an hour of James simply reading his old TV columns aloud over old footage of the programmes he was writing about, as he does early on, wondering whether Harold Pinter's trousers are on fire.
Britain's Youngest Carers
Wednesday, July 9
11pm, Channel 4
It's reasonable to be wary, even groany, when celebrities put themselves at the front of issue-documentaries, but this film, fronted by former-JLS leader Oritse Williams is clear-eyed, sincere and moving, despite the syrupy music. Williams started caring for his mother when he was 12, and she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He takes that understanding as starting point for a film designed to help raise awareness of just how many young people are going through the hard, lonely job of caring for their parents in the UK today. To illustrate the problem, he meets several people who would deny it was a problem at all: Josh, aged 13,who is helping care for his terminally ill father; sisters Clare and Erin, who, at 16 and 14, spend 60 hours a week looking after their father, suffering the onslaught of vascular dementia; and Ty-Reece, already helping his ailing mother aged only six. (A sobering statistic: "The biggest increase in the number of carers is in children under seven.") The draining challenges they face are emotional and mental as much as physical. And, as well as caring for their parents, they also have raise and educate themselves. Not to mention find time for simply being young.
The Honourable Woman
Thursday, July 10
9pm, BBC Two
The second episode of Hugo Blick's strange, mazy thriller, and, as the plot grows denser, it continues to be light years ahead of almost every other drama British TV is producing these days. More of Nessa's (Maggie Gyllenhaal) backstory is revealed, along with hints of some of the secrets she's trying to hide, as we flash back eight years to the time she and Atika (Lubna Azabal) were kidnapped and held in Gaza. Meanwhile, in the here and now, a child is still missing, and, with her bodyguard, Nathaniel (Tobias Menzies), lingering in a coma in hospital, Nessa is testing the new man sent to take his place. Elsewhere, Hugh-Hayden Hoyle (a terrific Stephen Rea) is poking his suspicious nose further into the death of the Palestinian businessman, Meshal, refusing to take suicide as an answer. As CIA spooks begin to circle and warn MI6 off, his attention falls on Meshal's American mistress. Brilliant stuff, with layers of lies, twisting relationships, tense hotel room cat-and-mouse escapes, and a lovely scene that consists of nothing more than Rea chewing sweets while reading a restricted file.
Britain's Most Dangerous Songs: Listen To The Banned
Friday, July 11
9pm, BBC Four
Coverage of this year's T In The Park kicks off on BBC Three tonight at 8pm. But all the truly edgy rock'n'roll kids will be staying in for tonight's list show, telling the stories behind 10 songs that the BBC banned from its airwaves, including the Sex Pistols' monarchy-threatening "God Save The Queen," the catchy gender-blurring of The Kinks' "Lola," the grooving tick-tock synth rebellion of Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" and… well, Bing Crosby. And Munchkins from Oz shouting "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" after Thatcher snuffed it. Paul Morley, John Robb, angry Mike Read and Glen Matlock are among the contributors explaining and/or wondering why the tunes were deemed just too damn hot for British ears. A compilation featuring these and other hazardous songs follows, and will be worth watching if only to see Scott Walker belting out "Jackie." Dirty devil.
T in the Park
Saturday, July 12
8pm, BBC Three
Day Two of the festival that won't be coming from Balado any more sees sets on the Main Stage from Rudimental, Paolo Nutini, Pharrell Williams and Calvin Harris. Lurking elsewhere (remember to go hunting via the BBC's red button and online coverage) are the likes of John Newman and Katy B, as well as veterans of varying vintage, from Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Elbow, through to James, The Charlatans, Soul II Soul and Aberdeen FC tribute band, The Human League. Meanwhile, as part of the "BBC Introducing" strand, fingers crossed for a sighting tonight of Glasgow's recently reconfigured Amazing Snakeheads, the perfect accompaniment for getting your gallon drunk on.