The Pale Horse

9pm, BBC One

Based – more or less – on Agatha Christie’s 1961 novel, The Pale Horse is probably the most entertaining entry yet in the new wave of Christie adaptations that the BBC launched in 2015 with And Then There Were None. While all have been very easy to watch, packaging attractive casts with well-appointed, tourist-friendly British period detailing and clever scripts, the previous productions have sometimes suffered from straining too earnestly after some deep and meaningful modish darkness – a factor that practically killed last year’s Hercule Poirot adventure, The ABC Murders, stone dead, as the whodunit disappeared under heaps of misery.

In The Pale Horse, though, a crime mystery invaded by the supernatural, writer Sarah Phelps, who has written all five of these adaptations to date, allows in an odd black humour that is as sinister as it is dotty. Once again, she dices and slices Christie’s original story in a manner that will have purists spitting into their knitting, but what’s left is great Sunday night fun, striking a balance between the intriguing detective story stuff and uncanny, eccentric spooky shivers.

Set in the early 1960s, the two-part series centres on Mark Easterbrook (Rufus Sewell), an affluent antiques dealer who cuts as dapper a dash as Don Draper, but on closer inspection has something a little seedy, shifty and sad about him. The sadness stems perhaps from the death of his first wife, whose mysterious end we glimpse in fragments in a brief prologue, before the story proper picks up one year later. Mark has married again, to Hermia (Kaya Scodelario), whose demure Good Housekeeping front masks some raging issues. Meanwhile, he’s secretly having an affair with Thomasina Tuckerton (Poppy Gilbert), a rich girl slumming it as a hostess in a shady Soho nightclub.

The most significant woman in Mark’s life, however, turns out to be someone he has never met, and never will: Jessie Davis, whose corpse is found on a grimy East End street one night. She appears to have died from natural causes, but one detail puzzles Inspector Lejeune (Sean Pertwee), the detective on the case. Hidden inside the dead woman’s shoe is a mysterious list of names. And among them, as he discovers to his bafflement when Lejeune calls him in, is Mark’s.

Embarking on his own increasingly paranoid investigation, Mark uncovers a connection with his dead wife, and follows the trail out of London to the picture-postcard town of Much Deeping, a place of thatched roofs and lingering old customs hidden deep in the sunny Surrey countryside. It’s here things get good and strange, as, while inexplicable events start to pile up, Mark crosses the path of three extremely unsettling local women, and begins to wonder if what’s going on could really be…witchcraft. And whether he will be its next victim.

While no classic, this Pale Horse fits a long tradition of stories about modern rationalism under attack from ancient superstitions and folk-horror exemplified by films like Night Of The Demon. At its best, with its chic 1960s pastel shades in London and the picture-book look of the little country village, it’s like The Wicker Man redone as a Ladybird Book.

A splendid cast helps keep things kinky. The most unnerving of the witchy women is none other than the magnificent Rita Tushingham, and Sean Pertwee contributes such a lovely touch as Inspector Lejeune he practically demands a spin-off series. Most diabolic of all, however, is Bertie Carvel’s insidious turn as shabby shopkeeper Zachariah Osborne. Carvel is also currently being splendid in Baghdad Central on Monday nights on Channel 4, but he’s almost unrecognisable here – I’d actually seen him in three scenes before I even realised it was him. It’s something to do with his teeth. Either that, or black magic.



Inside No. 9

10pm, BBC Two

To paraphrase the Gump guy, Inside No 9 is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get – chocolate, or poison, a razor blade, or some exploding plastic dog poo. After last week’s excellent bantering mini-drama with the football officials, tonight’s episode veers off in another direction entirely, into the realms of claustrophobic, spine-tingling horror. Young couple Beattie and Sam (Jenna Coleman and Kadiff Kirwan) have just bought their first flat. As they move in, they have mixed feelings: pleased because they managed to knock £100,000 off the asking price; less happy because the place was formerly occupied by a killer who famously did something awful in the bathtub. On her first night, as Sam heads off to work a nightshift, Beattie is left alone in the place. And as darkness falls, things begin to go bump…


The Split

9pm, BBC One

Two years since it first appeared in a blaze of glossy soap, writer Abi Morgan’s drama returns for a second series. One again, we are in the slick, sleek and glitzy world of high-end London divorce lawyers, a milieu where the intense work-hard-play-hard stakes require the female characters to endlessly run around looking busy while holding massive cups of takeaway coffee and changing their shoes a lot. Front and centre is the great Nicola Walker, biding time until the next series of Unforgotten gives her something proper to do. As we begin, she’s back with useless husband Stephen Mangan, but still secretly having a fling with a Dutchman. Meanwhile, her firm has merged with the rival operation run by her mother and sister, and there’s divorce work to be done. The full series is available on iPlayer from tonight.


A Very British History

9pm, BBC Four

A second series for this valuable documentary strand, collecting stories of minority communities across the UK, as told by people with personal connections to the places and people under discussion. This series will feature programmes on British Bangladeshis, British Chinese and the Vietnamese refugees who moved to the UK fleeing the war in the 1970s. But it begins with a portrait of Birmingham’s Irish community, as presented by musician and historian Angela Moran, whose grandparents were amongst the thousands of Irish who moved to Britain’s second city in the 1950s. Drawing on the memories of locals and archive footage, among the topics are the impact of the terrorist pub bombings of 1974, and the repercussions the atrocity had on the community. Moran also looks back to her experience growing up in the 1990s, when being Irish was suddenly fashionable.


Inside Cinema: Meet The Family

10pm, BBC Four

The blessed Kathy Burke is on hand as narrator for this essay film from director Catherine Bray, who collages together clips from countless movies in an attempt to consider how various aspects of “family” have been portrayed on screen. As the variety of the films used to illustrate demonstrates – ranging from Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher through Robert Altman’s Gosford Park to The Addams Family movies, via Aliens – the topic is potentially endless. But Bray keeps it interesting, and some themes (the dysfunctional family) keep recurring. Amid some surprising choices, it’s great to see a section on David Cronenberg’s coolly berserk twin gynaecologist adventure Dead Ringers, starring Jeremy Irons and Jeremy Irons. For more of this kind of thing, thirty Inside Cinema shorts exploring other movie themes are now available to watch on the iPlayer.


Classic Albums: Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair 9.30pm, BBC Four Not everyone’s “classic albums” are the same, of course, but that’s what makes life so interesting. Tonight’s music documentary revisits Tears For Fears second album which, released in February 1985, saw them break through to arena levels of stardom with the international success of chantalong singles like “Shout” and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith are on hand in new interviews to discuss in detail how the duo expanded their sound from the more introspective goth-in-a-nice-woolly-jumper moping of their 1983 debut, The Hurting, and how they handled the shift in fortunes. Come back later tonight for another chance to see the pair playing live in 2017 with a repeat of Radio 2 In Concert (12 midnight), featuring plenty of tunes from this, plus other hits including “Mad World” and “Sowing The Seeds Of Love.”



9pm, BBC Four

“Hidden” is such a generic crime title that it might be difficult to instantly place this show, returning to BBC Four for a second six-part series. Is it the Norwegian one about…? The Danish one with…? The Swedish one that had the...? Nope, it’s actually the Welsh one, set in the bleak but ruggedly picturesque regions around Bangor and Snowdonia, with Sian Reese-Williams as the no-nonsense Detective Inspector Caid John, who, in the first series, reluctantly returned to the area to care for her ailing father, just in time to investigate a murder. This time out, she and her partner in crime-busting, DS Owen Vaughan (Sion Alun Davies), are called to investigate when the body of an eldery man is discovered in a house on the outskirts of the old mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.