Come Home

9pm, BBC One

For anyone planning to watch this three-part drama, a forewarning is in order – especially if, like me, you are drawn in the first instance chiefly because it stars

Christopher Eccleston, a member for life in the club of British television actors I will always check out in anything.

The thing to know is the series is set in Northern Ireland, and Eccleston plays his character, Greg, owner of a neighbourhood garage, as a local. For the first five minutes, this torpedoed anything else that was happening on screen for me, lifting me out of the story

– Eccleston’s Northern Irish accent is good, but to begin with, it’s just jarring to hear it coming out his mouth.

What might make the casting all the more galling to a generation of actors actually from the place is that the series, written by Danny Brocklehurst, is that still-rare beast: a drama set in Northern Ireland that’s not about “Northern Ireland”. Across three hours, The Troubles and other tensions go unmentioned, as Brocklehurst picks away at a family story that could happen on any street, but happens to be set in Belfast – progress that is great to see, but which left me scratching my head even more about why they felt the need to give Eccleston his new voice.

It’s a curious bump, but I was soon drawn back in, because, whatever accent he’s doing, whatever character he’s playing – even someone like this Greg, a fundamentally decent soul, but somehow fundamentally weak – Eccleston is magnificent, and Brocklehurst crafts a script that’s interesting and careful, and leaves the edges rough.

The basic story seems simple. Greg has three children, 17-year-old Liam (Anthony Boyle), 14-year-old Laura (Lola Petticrew) and Molly, about six. But there is no wife on the scene. Someone asks if he’s a widower, but no – it’s just that, around 11 months ago, his wife of 19 years, Marie (the incredible Paula Malcomson, once of Deadwood) walked out. She now lives

not far away, getting on with her new life, with apparently no real desire to even see

the kids much.

Brocklehurst snags the audience with two hooks. First, the fascination of this faintly taboo figure in society – a mother who would choose to leave her children – and then the mystery of why she made her choice. Fragmented flashbacks offer apparent clues, suggesting Greg and Marie had very different perspectives on their marriage, and life in general. Meanwhile, we watch them trying to navigate the uncertain new landscapes of their lives, including dating, trying to have fun.

Despite some unfortunate wig work in flashbacks, the acting is brilliant – playing Greg and Marie’s teenage children, Boyle and Petticrew are especially good – and the piece is peppered with odd, unexpected details: Gregg fumbles to put an LP on, and it turns out to be the Cocteau Twins. Still, I found the first two parts, which respectively favour Greg’s then Marie’s viewpoint, much more involving and convincing than the final episode – it finally all winds up in a way that’s at once too neat, and too inconsequential, and in some ways seems a cop-out from the initial portrait of Marie.

For a long stretch, though, dealing with

desires, regrets, guilt, bad decisions and determination and the way they all swirl together while time marches on, Brocklehurst has the courage to leave his script in a fittingly ragged, unfinished state. He offers answers about many of the questions his characters inspire. But things are much more interesting when they don’t really know the answers themselves, and leave us wondering alongside them.


Reggie Yates: Searching For Grenfell’s Lost Lives

9pm, BBC Two

For this film, the DJ and broadcaster sets

out to get closer to the people who died

in the disaster, and those who survived,

but have been left devastated by the

tragedy. Speaking with the families

and friends of victims, he learns about

some of the individuals who lost their lives: Yasin El-Wahabi, a young British Moroccan, who

was believed to have run back into the tower to

save his family; Ligaya Moore, a Filipino woman,

whose niece arrives in London to get answers about how her aunt died; Mohammad Alhajali, who escaped the war in Syria with his brother, only to lose his

life in the London fire; Tony Disson, a well-known

local figure whose family had lived in the area

for generations; and Jessica Urbano Ramirez, a

12-year-old girl who was one of 18 children to lose

their lives. Piecing together pictures of some of the

lives that were cut short – now generally accepted

as totalling 71 – we begin to glimpse the story of

a wounded community.



9pm, BBC Two

The BBC’s exceptional fly-on-the-ward documentary returns. Filmed across January and February at Nottingham University Hospitals, one of the country’s biggest Trusts, it offers a detailed picture of a service stretched to breaking point as demands on the NHS continue to grow: from the longest waiting times on record, to the historic decision by NHS bosses to cancel all routine operations in January. In tonight’s episode, a huge influx of patients into the emergency department results in dozens left lying on trolleys waiting to be admitted. Cancelling all routine operations doesn’t solve the problem: the hospital is still full. Across the Trust, there are many patients who are fit enough to be discharged, but can’t be, because they need supported care in the community. Among them is 86-year-old Mavis. Admitted to hospital after a fall, she no longer needs medical treatment, but her dementia means only certain nursing homes can look after her, and so she remains in a hospital bed, until a suitable place can be found.


American Crime Story:

The Assassination Of Gianni Versace

9pm, BBC Two

As this great series winds back again, tonight’s episode follows the events leading up to the murders we witnessed last week. It’s April 1997, and Andrew Cunanan – a desperate fantasist, but not yet a killer – arrives in Minneapolis, planning to hook up with friends Jeff Trail and David Madison. However, as becomes clear, neither consider Cunanan a friend, and things grow excruciating, then deeply disturbing as they try to avoid him, and he discovers a gun, and a hammer. Around this, a framing section jumps back to 1995, when Trail was a young US Navy officer, increasingly suffering and

conflicted as a closeted gay in the homophobic atmosphere of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” era in the American military. About to crack, he finds some solace and friendship when he encounters a sympathetic stranger: Andrew Cunanan. In the same time setting, Trail’s story is paralleled with that of Gianni Versace, as the designer decides to come out publicly in a magazine interview.


In The Long Run

10pm, Sky One

Idris Elba wrote this throwback comedy, drawing on his childhood in London as the son of couple from Sierra Leone. Set in the 1980s, Elba plays Walter, loosely based on his father, a factory worker living in an east end tower with his wife, Agnes (Madeline Appiah) and son Kobna (Sammy Kamara), whose quiet life is enlivened by the arrival of his younger brother from back home, Valentine (Jimmy Akingbola, reigniting the comic talent previously displayed in Rev). As comedy, it can be a little limp and predictable, and as a memory piece, it doesn’t always convince – given that part of the story is Kobna’s growing love affair with music, the compilation soundtrack seems sprayed on. (A good contrast would be Kathy Burke’s brilliant series about her adolescence, Walking And Talking, which was like reading someone’s teenage diary.) But, with Bill Bailey as “Bagpipes,” Walter’s friend and upstairs neighbour, it’s an amiable piece about being black and British, and about people rubbing along amid and despite the casual bigotry of UK society.


Arena: Bob Dylan – Trouble No More

10pm, BBC Four

God bless Arena for broadcasting this great concert film, documenting what now seems officially known as “Dylan’s Controversial Born Again Period”. As the 1970s ended, Dylan scandalised more fans than he had when he went electric by “going Christian,” releasing three albums with hellfire leanings. The trouble really started when he toured and performed only the new religious material (I once

interviewed Dylan’s guitarist, Fred Tackett, who recalled seeing placards in the audience reading: Jesus loves your old songs too). What was lost in the furore was these were some of the most amazing performances of Dylan’s career – intense but funky, rooted, raddled and ragged, with a great band and righteous gospel backing vocalists – and some great songs (such as Pressing On). To keep it weird, songs are intercut with new footage of actor Michael Shannon playing a weary preacher delivering unsettling sermons to an empty church, a nod to the between-song apocalyptic raps by Dylan at the time.



9pm, BBC Two

A real treat for theatre lovers tonight as BBC Two offers a front row seat for this three-hour-plus recording of the Almeida Theatre’s widely acclaimed 2017 production of Shakespeare’s play, filmed as-live on the stage of London’s Harold Pinter Theatre. Sherlock’s Moriarty, Andrew Scott, plays the troubled, guilt-wracked and famously indecisive Prince in this production by director Robert Icke, staged in a chilly modern-day Denmark that has all the sleek lines, glassy surfaces, and tasteful browns and greys of a regular Scandi noir. (Bit of a raw deal for fans of all things Danish tonight, though, as it’s going out at the same time as BBC Four’s Copenhagen-set thriller, Below The Surface.) The cast also includes Juliet Stevenson as Gertrude, Angus Wright as Claudius, Jessica Brown Findlay as Ophelia and David Rintoul in the dual role of the Ghost and the Player King.


This week’s big debut drama on BBC One, Come Home, is a show set in Belfast that could as easily have been set almost anywhere else. There are things wrong with the series, but one of the encouraging things about it is simply the universal ordinariness it feels able to bring to the setting: people away from the politics.

By contrast, last week’s most powerful and probing programme was a film about the Belfast of the late 1980s that was entirely about lives surrounded by, wounded by, and ended by politics, Troubles, conflict, killing, hate and division; a film that anyone who watched will surely remember for a long time; and which, for anyone who remembers the period it examined, brought all the memories boiling vividly back up, bubbling just beneath the fragile skin that has healed with the passing of the years.

Directed by Vanessa Engle, The Funeral Murders (BBC Two) looked back to the events of March 1988, an especially dark moment even by the brutally grim standards of the time. In rapid succession: three members of the IRA were killed on Gibraltar by the SAS; three more men were killed, and 60 more wounded, at their joint funeral, when a loyalist paramilitary launched an attack on the cemetery with grenades and a semi-automatic pistol; and, three days after that, during the funeral procession for one of the victims of that attack, two British soldiers were dragged from their car, stripped and killed on the street.

One of the British television’s best documentarians, in her previous work – the affectionate but hilarious Lefties, similarly intimate series like Jews and Women, and quizzical films on subjects from high-end cosmetic surgery to professional dog walking – Engle has been a constantly interested, sometimes slightly sly fly on the wall, building vivid, wry, detailed pictures by examining subjects from all angles. Her questioning curiosity remains as intense as ever, as does her commitment to trying to

capture the big picture by considering

all perspectives. But there was a new level of care here.

Her film marked the 30th anniversary of the killings by talking to people on all sides – republicans, loyalists, British Army, RUC – and, in this case, the big picture to emerge was one full of fractures: as one republican

commentator offered, “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter”. In this territory, Engle didn’t set out to find any “truth.” Instead, she offered a studiously balanced study of what participants neatly summed up as the “battle of the narratives” – the conflicting versions and interpretations of the past: “an ongoing battle to justify past actions.”

Moving, still hellishly raw, hearing these clashing voices felt especially timely as tensions grow around the potential impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement. If ever a documentary illustrated the truth of the famous William Faulkner line, here it was: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”