IT has been a funny old year everywhere (let no one say this column doesn’t do breaking news) and television has been caught in the chaos, nowhere more so than at ITV. The channel ran out of dramas pretty quickly, forcing it to rely on clip shows and repeats with the odd original offering, filmed under lockdown. Week after week would pass with little worth watching. The cupboard was bare, the field left clear for the BBC.

But what do you know, in the television equivalent of mum going to Iceland, the schedulers popped out to the shops and came back with the outstanding Des (STV, Monday-Wednesday). A portrait of the Scots serial killer Dennis Nilsen, Des was the sort of mainstream, intelligent drama the channel does so well when it has a mind to. Think Unforgotten, Flesh and Blood, Broadchurch. Only in this case the drama was based on the only too real murders, at least 15 of them, that took place in London between the late 1970s and 1983.

It was clear from the casting that we were travelling on a first class ticket: David Tennant as Nilsen, Daniel Mays as the detective in charge of the case, and Jason Watkins as Brian Masters, whose book, Killing for Company, was the main source for the piece.

The tale began with Nilsen’s arrest and took it from there. There were no recreations of the crimes, no gruesome shots of boiled heads, and the drama was all the more powerful for it. This was an examination of evil at one remove, a look at how Nilsen’s actions affected others, including the vulnerable, isolated victims and their families. Nilsen almost deserved to be pushed to one side, and he might have been had Tennant not been so superb in the role. Mimicking those flat, Fraserburgh tones, Tennant showed what an arrogant, manipulative, narcissistic creature Nilsen was. Nothing special. Nothing, really. The late Nilsen, looking up from wherever he is, would have hated it. I can think of no higher recommendation.

If Des showed “the other side” back at its popular best, The Singapore Grip (STV, Sunday) soon wiped a few thousand Brownie points off the chart. Whose mad idea was this? Opening just before the fall of Singapore, the first clue something was wrong was the relentlessly jaunty music smeared over everything. Yes, they really were trying to set a good old fashioned British farce against the backdrop of global war.

With David Morrissey hamming it up relentlessly as a rubber baron trying to marry his daughter off to a wealthy fellow Brit, The Singapore Grip creaked like a coffin lid. Bizarre scenes appeared out of nowhere, with no explanation, as when the mysterious Madame Chiang, amour of wealthy Mr Webb (Charles Dance), vaulted a gymnastic horse. A monkey came out of the bushes and stared, baffled. One knew how it felt. By the end of episode one we still hadn’t learned what the title meant. Henceforth, I name this drama The Singapore (Get A) Grip.

Much excitement among television types over The Third Day (Sky Atlantic, Tuesday). From Sky Studios, Plan B Entertainment (Brad Pitt’s firm) and Punchdrunk theatre company, it was a trippy piece with Jude Law as a harassed garden centre owner (really) who found himself marooned on an island off the British coast with a band of weirdos who were big on traditions and God. Gorgeously shot with intriguing turns from Law, plus Paddy Considine and Emily Watson as two of the locals, it would have been impressive if you had never seen The Wicker Man, Don’t Look Now or Midsommar.

Steph McGovern came back for another go at daytime telly after the plug was pulled on her at home in Harrogate efforts during lockdown. This time, in Steph’s Packed Lunch (Channel 4, Monday-Friday) the former BBC Breakfast presenter had been given a huge studio at Leeds Dock, which meant she and her guests could socially distance. It also meant the place looked half empty. Rather like the running order.

McGovern promised “100 minutes of positivity” which turned out to mean a rag bag of everything from how to look after houseplants to an item on the best way to pay off debt. It felt like a lot of padding because it was. The producers had even dug up Angus Deayton, ex-Have I Got News for You host, to do the “One O’Clock News”, a satirical take on the hot topics of the day that was as funny as food poisoning.

The likeable McGovern kept the show on the road, but even her gas seemed at a peep by the end, and it was only day one. Good luck filling all those minutes five days a week.

Also returning was Debate Night (BBC Scotland, Wednesday). I have a soft spot Scotland’s answer to Question Time. It’s unshowy, worthy and rather boring at times, but there are worse crimes. If only they would air it earlier than 10.30pm the general pep might pick up. No-one is at their best at that time of night. Not even David Tennant, I’ll wager.