Responsible Child

9pm, BBC Two/

Sticks And Stones

9pm, STV

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssssssmaaaaaaaassssss! Well, near as dammit, and, because it’s been an utterly hellish year, here come ITV and the BBC with two early festive presents to get us in the mood!

Ooh and they’re so nicely wrapped! Let’s start with the BBC one. I wonder what it is, it’s hard to tell from the shape. I’ll just give it a wee squeeze and shake and – oh, wait: it’s not the wild and fun adventure story told with tons of wit and style and thrills that I’ve been dropping hints about for ages, is it? Is it? I can’t wait, let me get this thing opened and…it’s a…it’s a…it’s a...

It’s a drama about a 12-year-old boy on trial for the brutal murder of his stepfather, who was stabbed 70 times in his sleep after attacking the kid’s older brother with an axe.

No. No, I mean, it’s lovely. It’s just what I wanted, really. No, I don’t have one already. It’s really. Nice.

Loosely based on a real case, Responsible Child is the story of Ray (a cherubic Billy Barratt), whose already troubled life falls apart when his mother’s unpredictable and abusive partner, Scott (Shaun Dingwall), is acquitted of trying to chop Ray’s beloved 23-year-old brother Nathan (James Tarpey) to pieces and returns home. When Scott makes noises about taking the axe to Nathan again, the brothers reach breaking point, snap, and kill him in a frenzied attack.

Arrested for murder, under English law young Ray will be tried as an adult – indeed, as things stand, children can be treated as adults for serious crimes from the age of 10. Detailing the traumas he goes through as the wheels of the legal system begin to grind around him, the drama, written by Sean Buckley, asks whether justice is truly served by placing children so young on trial. (Although, in the actual case the script is based on, the accused was 14 at the time of the killing.)

So, yeah, kids in court for murder: essentially, a bad thing. Think on. Uhm, can I open the present from ITV now?

Oooh. Oh, tell you what, this feels more like it. It’s got to be at least three episodes long, and the chances of anyone spending that amount of time and energy to drag out an overwrought message drama full of fake misery and emotion at this time of year are pretty remote, eh? Aren’t they? Tell me they are. Ach, I’ve got a bad feeling about this now. Let’s get it over with and rip the ribbon off.

Oh hey. It’s a series about an uninteresting guy being bullied at his uninteresting job by his horrible and uninteresting colleagues and suffering and cracking up. Yay.

Sticks And Stones is the new one from Doctor Foster writer Mike Bartlett, who, as the second series of Doctor Foster confirmed, isn’t sure what made the original series such a hit. Basically: we all loved watching Suranne Jones going totally loopy soap nuts, while he thought he was writing something meaningful about modern life.

An issue piece in a similar mode to Bartlett’s unconvincing Trauma, in this one Thomas (Ken Nwosu) is a nice guy salesman who fluffs a crucial and potentially lucrative presentation so badly he faints during his pitch. Subsequently, his previously pally colleagues turn backstabby and seem in a smiling conspiracy to get him. But his boss (played by Ben Miller in a manner that suggests he’s slowly mutating into Leonard Rossiter, not a bad idea) refuses to take his concerns seriously.

Presented like a dramatised reconstruction of The Apprentice, the key takeaway points are: Bullying is wrong. You shouldn’t do it. If you’re being bullied, tell someone. If someone tells you they’re being bullied, take it seriously. Happy Christmas.



The Blood Pact

11.30pm, Channel 4

Hugo (Barry Atsma), the protagonist of this new Dutch thriller, has a lot on his plate. A widower, since losing his wife he’s managed to keep the plates spinning: raising his two young daughters; rising in his career at the revenue and customs service; and, recently, dipping his toe back into the waters of dating. But his life grows complicated in ways he never imagined when he discovers his eight-year daughter Suus’s new best pal is actually the daughter of a gangster, Marius (Jacob Derwig), who’s just been released from prison – and has debts to pay. Hugo is deeply unsettled at the idea of his kid being anywhere near a criminal, but finds himself drawn into Marius’s orbit when a freak of fate throws the two fathers together. Following this intriguing opener, all ten episodes are available on All 4 from tonight.


The Brexit Storm Continues: Laura Kuenssberg's Inside Story

9pm, BBC Two

In case you’ve been sitting wishing you could hear more about Brexit, Laura Kuenssberg returns with a follow-up to Brexit Storm, her illuminating documentary of a few month ago. Picking up where she left off, this sequel charts the twists and turns of various knives in various backs since Boris Johnson became leader of the Tory party. All the classic sketches are featured, including “Dead In A Ditch,” “Proroguing Parliament,” “You’ve Lied To The Queen, Now,” “Backstop” and “Funny Walks.” Kuenssberg sketches the unfolding picture as seen from her beat as the BBC’s political editor, and uses her access to gain comment from key players. For depressing matters related, look out tonight for the latest fiery documentary from veteran reporter Jon Pilger, The Dirty War On The NHS (11.05pm, STV) – the title sums it up.




No preview episodes were made available for this new musical drama, but, to judge by the trailers that have been released, it looks like being a full on love it or hate it kind of a show. Created by Josh Safran (the writer behind the thriller Quantico, and a veteran of Gossip Girl), the series follows the lives of a group of people in present day Los Angeles through the mesh of the love stories that connect them, with the cast regularly bursting into song and dance routines about their thoughts and feelings and troubles and big dreams along the way. The snippets available suggest a blend of La La Land, Glee and last week’s top-trending music video. There are some fine actors featured in the ensemble cast, including Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Madeleine Stowe, Campbell Scott and La La Land veteran Callie Hernandez.


The Cure

9pm, Channel 4

This one-off drama reconstructs events surrounding the UK’s worst hospital care controversy of recent years, the “Mid-Staffs scandal” that came to light in 2008, revealing unbelievable conditions of neglect including patients being left unattended and even ignored for hours in soiled beds, with no pain relief, and dehydrated. The piece focuses on the experiences of Julie Bailey (Sian Brooke), who admitted her elderly mother, Bella (the great Sue Johnston), to the Stafford Hospital in 2007 for a treatable hernia condition. Eight weeks later, Bella was dead. Based on what she had witnessed in the filthy wards, Julie was in no doubt medical neglect was the cause, and the root lay in the failures of a system more concerned with ticking boxes and hitting targets than caring for patients. Determined to prevent others suffering, she launched her campaign “Cure The NHS,” but it would prove a hard battle.


The Witcher


From the music to the battle scenes, via many of the characters, this new series, based on the series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski, is the latest entry in the crowded race to fill the fantasy hit gap left by Game Of Thrones. Set long ago, in a grey and wooded elven world overrun with vicious generic stereotypes, merciless exposition and marauding bands of CGI, Geralt Of Rivia (Henry Cavill) roams the war-torn continent as a “witcher,” a fighter gifted with supernatural skills, who hunts the various monsters that plague that land to earn his bread – like freelance pest controller with a sword and plenty of Timotei. Elsewhere, we learn of the troubled royal clan that hold rule, and of a child princess with an unsettling gift, who might hold the key to destiny. All eight episodes of the first series are released today.


Judi Dench Night

7pm, BBC Four

Get completely Denched as BBC Four devotes an evening to the great woman. The programme includes an episode from her much-loved BBC sitcom partnership with Geoffrey Palmer, As Time Goes By (8.15pm), and a chance to watch her lauded performance as the grieving Queen Victoria opposite Billy Connolly’s plain speaking highlander in Mrs Brown (9.15pm). Later, she takes the title role in Philomena, Stephen Frear’s moving, fact-based film about a mother’s 50-year-search for the child she was forced to give up for adoption, with Steve Coogan as the journalist offering help. But the night opens with the real highlight, 2018’s documentary Nothing Like A Dame (7pm), a sheer delight that sees Dench and fellow dames Eileen Atkins, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith meeting up for a wicked old blether. “Do I have a carer? F**k off! I’ve just done eight weeks in The Winter’s Tale!”