The Bridge

9pm, BBC Two

It’s one of the things they don’t tell you when you’re young, but there comes a time when, rather than being what you live for, the idea of having to go out at the weekend becomes what you dread most in life.

This is one of the reasons BBC Four’s Saturday night subtitles club became such a phenomenon back around 2011, when the arrival of The Killing hooked in more and more viewers, pushing what had first started in 2006 as a subterranean cult gathered around Spiral above ground.

It wasn’t just the novelty of new faces and voices, the hooky storylines, the glum cops, the killers with baroque imaginations and plenty of time on their hands, the sodium-soaked cityscapes, and the intriguing furniture and knitwear. These things helped.

But for a weary generation, what was truly welcome about this wave of novel-sized imports showing in comfortable, movie-length double bills, was that it meant there was actually something dependably halfway decent to watch on a Saturday night: something that treated you as if you had half a brain, and, crucially, that you didn’t have to make any effort planning in advance, or flipping through mysterious menus filled with endless garbage to find.

Sadly, a golden rule of TV scheduling is that, if something is showing signs of not being broke, the thing to do is fix it. So it is that the bewildered BBC Four Saturday Eurocrime faithful must now contend with the Beeb’s baffling decision to suddenly uproot The Bridge – the Danish-Swedish team-up that has been the most popular Scandinavian import after The Killing – from its natural habitat, and plonk its fourth and final series down in the strange foreign soil of Friday nights on BBC Two.

Sure, you might say: nobody cares. It doesn’t matter. We’re all time-shifting these days. Linear scheduled TV has gone the way of Ceefax, and if you want to watch it on Saturday, just fire up iPlayer. But, if it doesn’t matter, why do it? Anyway, even watching via iPlayer won’t work, because, instead of the usual double bills, they’re now only showing one episode a week.

This might be one of the reasons this final series feels such a long, lifeless, dragged-out drag. But it’s not the only one. Much of The Bridge’s heart and soul left with the departure after Series Two of Kim Bodnia who, as bear-like Danish cop Martin Rohde, formed such a great, human partnership with the pale, peculiar Swedish detective Saga Norén (Sofia Helin). When the third series began, it looked as if The Bridge might survive his absence, but it soon resorted to trying to paper over the cracks by becoming increasingly preposterously contrived. Or maybe it simply always had been, and Bodina’s shaggy performance stopped you noticing.

But there’s a chronic sense of going through the motions as the new story begins, the scent of a show going on a series too long. The obligatory hideously brutal Nordic-noir murder gets the ball rolling: a woman is buried up to her neck, then stoned to death. But, while it’s adequately horrible, nothing justifies it.

The plot offers a megamix of Bridge greatest hits, held together by implausibility (everything to do with Saga and her continuing employment), cliché (watch Mikael Birkkjær, formerly the Borgen husband, trying to breath life into the role of “politically incorrect unreconstructed bigot cop”), coincidence (will Henrik find his missing daughters?) and lack of consequence (the cliffhanger that closes episode one is particularly insulting).

Pah. These Friday Night BBC Two weirdoes are welcome to it.


Michael Clark’s To A Simple, Rock’n’Roll ... Song 10pm, BBC Four

Venturing from the ballet mainstream to shape bare, resonating, post-punk landscapes of his own, the iconoclastic dancer-turned-choreographer Michael Clark has always created his most memorable pieces in response to the music that moves him most on a personal level – his fabled 1988 collaboration with The Fall, I Am Curious Orange, for example, or 2009’s brilliant Come, Been And Gone, scored to the defining, lasting, inspirations of his teenage years, notably Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and David Bowie. Similar passion underpins this tremendous performance, as his company performs a trio of dances to music by Patti Smith (“Land”, the churning centrepiece of her seminal debut LP, Horses), Erik Satie (whose minimalism influenced Clark’s most important mentors), and Bowie again (paid tribute via a swarming, mournful, joyous piece built around his “Blackstar,” and a scintillating reprise of “Aladdin Sane”). Introducing tonight’s performance, Jarvis Cocker advises viewers not to try these moves at home, and to play it loud. Wise words.


Peter Kay’s Car Share Unscripted

10pm, BBC One

Built around the will-they-won’t-they of supermarket co-workers John (Peter Kay) and Kayleigh (Sian Gibson) after a company scheme threw them together to share the drive to and from work, Kay’s stripped-down series was one of the gems of recent British sitcom. But many were left dismayed when, just when it looked as if they

finally would get it together, the series abruptly ended with the pair arguing and splitting up, without ever admitting their feelings aloud. (It seemed an even stranger way to leave things, given the entire series always seemed to be pointing to a climax during the Christmas campaign John was arranging at work.) But Kay has relented and brought Car Share back for two final episodes. The actual finale follows at the end of May. First, though, there’s this: an entirely ad-libbed special, with our heroes making up their lines as they go. Previews weren’t available, but considering the amount of improvisation and genuine giggling that always seemed to underpin the show, it should be a sweet

high-wire act.


The Wizard Of Lies

9pm, Sky Atlantic

A quick repeat for this biopic of disgraced Wall Street financier Bernie Madoff, with Robert De Niro giving one of his most focused performances in years. The film as a whole, while never less than solid and interesting, is slightly underwhelming. The problem could be that director Barry Levinson largely chooses to forgo a detailed explanation of Madoff’s crimes (the massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of investors around the world), to offer a more interior study of Madoff’s character, and the impact the scandal had on his family. But De Niro is great, offering a fussy, sociopathic blank shell, while giving small hints of what’s churning inside him – which may well be only more blank space. With this, and with Al Pacino hitting form in Levinson’s other recent TV biopic, Paterno, there’s reason to hope that the pairing of the two actors in Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming Netflix project, The Irishman, due next year, might just turn out to be something worth the wait.


Vive La Revolution! Joan Bakewell on May ’68

10pm, BBC Four

One of Britain’s few female TV presenters at the time, Joan Bakewell looks back to the events of 50 years ago, when the currents of youth revolt already swirling in the US and UK exploded on the streets of France. While young people were marching against war and for civil rights elsewhere, France’s president of 10 years, General de Gaulle, might have thought his country was immune. But students were growing restive over his paternalistic regime, and conditions at France’s authoritarian, outmoded and crowded universities. With tensions mounting, a series of campus demonstrations led to confrontations with police, sparking a chain of events that, within two months, saw France practically closed down, as the students were joined by workers striking over their own grievances. Bakewell looks at the ideas that fuelled the moment – from the Situationist philosophy that inspired posters and slogans, to the widespread opposition to the Vietnam War– and the legacy of the events in France, especially the influence on the feminist movement.




The opening of this new thriller is unintentionally disconcerting: it’s on Netflix, where you often find American things; it stars an American (Dexter’s Michael C Hall); it’s been created by a famous American writer (Harlan Coben); and it has the regulation twangy-doomy Americana theme song. So it takes a minute to work out it’s actually set in summery British suburbia. Hall (sporting an impressive English accent) plays Tom, a widowed surgeon who lives in an exclusive gated community. One night, after attending a wild party, his slightly sulky daughter, Jenny (the terrific Amy James-Kelly, formerly Maddie in Corrie) goes missing. As Tom and the police begin investigating the mystery, it seems everybody inside the luxury estate has something to hide. It’s essentially a glossier reworking of the familiar Broadchurch/The Killing model, but there’s a lively cast to keep you watching (including Marc Warren and Spiral’s Audrey Fleurot), and some slightly jarring black comedy courtesy of the great Nigel Lindsay and Laila Rouass, as a couple with a little more to hide than most.


Eurovision Song Contest 2018

8pm, BBC One

And so to Lisbon, for the 63rd endless Eurovision endgame. Following the knock-out semis broadcast earlier this week (Tuesday and Thursday, 8pm, BBC Four), 26 countries assemble for tonight’s shuddering climax, although, at the time of writing, only the “Big Five” that form Eurovision’s shadowy founding Nato pact – UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy – have spots confirmed in the final alongside hosts Portugal. All of these entries are in the currently popular style of turgid non-song dirges performed by people trying to sound like they’re about to start crying and have a pain in their throat, so fingers crossed for some of the wild cards for signs of life. But there are disappointingly slim crazy pickings this year: in such company, Hungary’s terrible sub-metal entry, Norway’s so-so sub-disco entry, and the Netherlands’ strange sub-country entry, somehow stand out. But Moldova’s DoReDos sound like they’re having fun, and Denmark’s Rasmussen looks most like a Game Of Thrones extra. Graham Norton is your guide.

Last week's highlights ...

You might have thought that, by now, the BBC would have begun to accept it had lost The Great British Bake Off to Channel 4, and finally, tentatively, started picking up the fragments of its shattered existence, lift its head, and begin trying to find a way to go on. But the arrival of its latest woeful not-The-Bake-Off surrogate, Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC One), proves the broadcaster remains stuck wretchedly deep in the denial stage.

I had hoped the situation couldn’t have got much worse than the undignified moment last year when, shortly before Channel 4 stepped out with the new Bake Off on its arm, the BBC rushed out its first woeful not-The-Bake-Off surrogate, The Big Family Cooking Showdown, the ungainly series that saw families weirdly cooking meals together against other families weirdly cooking meals together, in essence the TV equivalent of waking to find yourself trapped in the isolated compound of an obscure semi-religious cult where everyone seemed very happy all the time, and you increasingly worried about the approach of night.

While literally nothing interesting happened, The Big Family Cooking Showdown attempted to hypnotise its stunned and woozy viewers into believing we were somehow watching Bake Off through subtle tricks of ambience – such as having a title that sort of sounded vaguely almost faintly something like The Great British Bake Off if you squinted your ears and drank enough of the spiked warm Ribena, and by having Bake Off faces Nadiya Hussain and Zoë Ball as the nice presenters urging you to chug it down.

Similarly, Britain’s Best Home Cook (A) sneaks “Britain” into its title and (B) goes Bake Off nuclear by landing as head judge Mary Berry, or at least one of the many doubles she uses for security reasons, flying into the kitchen like one of the mighty stone godheads from Zardoz. Meanwhile, as host, the nicest of all presenters, Claudia Winkleman, sets aside her usual task of performing miracles on Strictly to reactivate the Bake Offesque strategies she previously employed for The Great British Sewing Bee, one of the first of the Beeb’s countless cosy Bake Off carbon copies.

Catastrophically, though, having taken such care in crafting all these subliminal blipvert Bake Off reminders, the programme’s creators realised too late they forgot to actually think up an excuse for a show to slip them into. To judge by the evidence, at the last moment, possibly during a kamikaze brainstorming session the night before filming was due to commence, someone simply shouted: “People… a room!” Perhaps another voice cried, “Okay. That’s good. But cooking what? And why?” And, after a straining silence, the answer came: “People cooking. That’s as much as I’ve got.”

So there we have it. Britain’s Best Home Cook. It’s not The Great British Bake Off. But it is people cooking. In a room.