Below The Surface

– 9pm, BBC Four

Hitchcock’s Shower Scene: 78/52

– 9pm, BBC Two

Walter Matthau, it need hardly be said, casts a long shadow. Add to that the equally long, slightly more terrifying, shadow of Robert Shaw, dialogue that crackles with sharp, weary humour, and the scuzzy, humming sense of New York in the 1970s, and, in The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, you have a movie that’s hard to forget.

Simply put, if you want to come at me with a thriller involving the hijacking of a subway train in the tunnels under a city, you are first going to have to get past Matthau, Shaw and Martin Balsam with a bad cold. Tony Scott didn’t manage it with his updated remake in 2009. And, after watching the first two episodes of Below The Surface, a drama about the hijacking of an underground train beneath contemporary Copenhagen, I was left not with a desire to binge the remaining six, but with a new appreciation for just how much life Joseph Sargent, the director of the 1974 Pelham, managed to cram into 100 minutes – especially when you contrast it with how little life so many TV series seem content to spread thin across eight hours or more.

Created for Danish television by Søren Sveistrup and Adam Price, BBC Four’s latest Saturday night import isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as either Sveistrup’s The Killing or Price’s Borgen. Of course, the driving incident – armed men suddenly taking over a subway train, holding passengers hostage while making demands of the city – has a bleak resonance and nightmarish currency today it didn’t in 1974. Back then, it was a smart what-if scenario that tapped urban paranoia to produce cracking pulp. Today, with the terror alert always running at amber somewhere at the back of our minds, it feels less what-if, and more when-will-something-like-this-happen-again?

The series foregrounds this, opening with a prologue that stirs heavy memories of Homeland’s first series. We see Philip Norgaard (Johannes Lassen), who will lead the Copenhagen terror taskforce devoted to handling the incident, several years earlier, when he was a soldier, and himself taken hostage during some unspecified conflict in the Middle East, held by a smiling torturer. As the story unfolds, Norgaard’s PTSD and his government’s strict policy on not paying ransoms come into play. The media frenzies, the relatives of the 15 hostages demand action, and society is split over how to handle the situation. Meanwhile, the kidnappers’ true motives remain mysterious.

It’s juicy material, but the handling is formulaic, particularly the decision to reveal the backstories of different hostages each episode through Lost-style flashbacks to their everyday lives. So much time is devoted to creating “characters” that none really register as human beings. It’s easy to watch, but it gets hard to care much.

For an example of how the best pulp can resonate forever, movie geeks should not miss Hitchcock’s Shower Scene: 78/52, partly a documentary on the making of Psycho, partly a sly meditation on its impact on cinema and the psychology of audiences. (The title refers to the famous murder: 78 camera set-ups and 52 cuts for one three-minute montage.) Psycho is so over-familiar that it’s easy to take it for granted, but, while Alexandre O Philippe’s documentary doesn’t quite get right down into the heart, soul and spirit, it’s an illuminating journey beneath the skin of the film. Few, if any, Hollywood movies today could provoke or support such analysis. You come away wanting to watch it yet again, confident there’s yet more to uncover, lurking in the dark.



9pm, BBC One

Concluding tonight, this two-part outing for JK Rowling’s private eye Cormoran Strike and his sleuthing partner Robin Ellacott is a bit daft (to recap: he was sent a severed leg, along with the lyrics to, eh, his dead mother’s favourite Blue Oyster Cult song), and, so far, not much has happened – they spent the first episode mostly driving around checking out various reprehensible suspects with grudges. But it’s a testament to Rowling’s conception and the performances of Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger that it remains hugely easy just to watch them knocking around together, as more about their characters comes out. Whoever’s behind the dastardly plan seems intent on ruining Strike, by implicating him in the murder of the young woman whose leg he was sent, and he goes against police orders to get to the root of the affair, a hunt that leads into the world of London’s strip clubs. Meanwhile, Robin has a decision to make about her relationship with fiancé Matthew.


Imagine ... Philip Pullman,

10.45pm, BBC One

In this film, Alan Yentob travels to Oxford to meet the master storyteller behind the His Dark Materials books, to explore the universe(s) he has conjured in his writing, and the story behind all those stories – of how a primary school teacher switched track and became a publishing phenomenon regarded equally as one of the greatest literary imaginations the UK has produced in the post-war period, and as “the most dangerous author in Britain.” The latter title was famously bestowed by Peter Hitchens, due to the anti-religion message in Pullman’s best-known series. But it didn’t prevent those books – which follow his young heroine, Lyra Belacqua, through a series of fantastical and perilous adventures into other worlds – from selling over 20 million copies and being translated into over 40 languages. Pullman’s most recent title, La Belle Sauvage, a prequel to the series that also became an instant bestseller, seems set to continue the trend. Pullman discusses his work, his controversies and his core belief: “The things we need most in the world are stories.”


The Great Celebrity Bake Off For Stand Up To Cancer, 8pm, Channel 4

Harry Hill needs to stop mucking around making programmes that are quite like it but aren’t really it, accept his destiny in the universe, and come back to ITV to make more episodes of TV Burp for Saturday teatimes, thereby increasing the amount of things worth watching on ITV on a Saturday by 100 per cent. Please, Harry. In the meantime, though, if you’ve been missing the man and his relentless commitment to being daft, here he is as one of the celebrities in the first episode of this special series for charity. The other contestants this week are Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp, comedian Roisin Conaty, and breakfast news guy Bill Turnbull, while Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding scurry around, egging everyone on. After the tension surrounding the show’s astonishingly seamless and successful move to Channel 4, there’s an enjoyable end-of-term feeling about it all – and Hill’s showstopper “biscuit scene” is one for the ages.


American Crime Story: The Assassination Of Gianni Versace

9pm, BBC Two

Mesmerising and unsettling in roughly equal measure, with this second episode the series begins revealing its backwards running, Chinese-box structure. Flipping back in time, the bulk is devoted to what happened just before the events of last week’s instalment, as Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss), the young killer we’ve already seen murder the fashion designer (Edgar Ramirez), first arrives in Miami to begin stalking his famous victim. And as he travels toward his destination, it slowly becomes clear, through half-heard radio news reports, that he’s just left another killing behind him. Mostly, though, we stick with Cunanan as he learns the ropes of Miami’s seamier side, using his fake, calculated charm to win friends, influence people and make some cash, showing a few terrifying glimpses of the blank sickness raging behind his mask. It’s a brilliantly unsettling performance by Criss.


Still Game

9.30pm, BBC One

The creaking Craiglang gang return, and the terrible scent of change is in the air. “This is a pub,” declares Boabby, surveying The Clansman’s aging clientele as they nurse single pints for hours on end while shoving dominos around. “Not a care home.” With these words, lives are ruined, as the landlord resolves to try and attract a better class of punter by giving his place a hipster makeover, and reopening as a chi-chi eatery modelled after the Finnieston joints favoured by “west-end wankers”. This new Clansman is filled with bottled beers, and dishes featuring rosemary and asparagus – but old faces are no longer wanted or welcome. It’s bad enough for Jack and Victor as they try to find an alternative haunt, but even worse for Winston, who is left doubly homeless, as the council has ordered him out of his flat due to an asbestos problem, and nobody wants to take him in. Meanwhile, Isa’s birthday is looming, and she’s desperate to work out who’s throwing her a “surprise” party …


The Magic Of Minimalism

BBC Four

To conclude his excellent two-part primer on “the last big idea in classical music,” conductor Charles Hazlewood turns to New York, and the revolutionary work of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. If the work of La Monte Young and Terry Riley, the titans who forged the style, seemed imbued with a meditative West Coat vibe, the music of Reich and Glass felt like it grew out of the patterns and noise of their city in the 1970s, its ceaseless movement, and its hard, repeating, interlocking grids of streets and windows. Hazlewood interviews Reich and Glass, with the latter reminiscing on his days supporting his composing by driving a cab in the dangerous Taxi Driver era. Hazelwood also explores and explains the music, gathering musicians to perform and dissect pieces like Reich’s 1979 “Variations For Strings, Winds And Keyboards.” He also considers how the influence spread into the mainstream, with a jam session through Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. A documentary on the making of Oldfield’s album follows at 10pm.


He is a bulky, slightly lumbering private eye: a likeable, shabby, big guy with soulful eyes, a mysterious history in law enforcement and maybe a buried wound or two. She’s a sparkier soul: a woman who hasn’t yet found her place, with an eye for detail, a quick mind, a fearless nature and a dodgy fiancé. When they met, it was murder, and soon they had joined forces, going sleuthing together as unlikely partners in crime busting, with just a tiny wee hint of a romantic click in the air.

If that sounds like I’m describing Strike, the well-appointed adaptation of JK Rowling’s detective novels that’s currently occupying BBC One’s prime time Sunday night shop window, well, that’s because I kind of am. But I actually meant it as a description of Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators, an undemanding, pleasantly daft BBC One daytime comedy-drama with a lower budget, but more plots, that popped up quietly last week, running every day Monday-Friday at 2:15pm.

Curious as it is for the BBC to stick the two shows on practically back-to-back, I don’t think Shakespeare & Hathaway is actually intended as a thinly veiled parody of the clichés that pile up – very satisfyingly – in Strike. This unlikely him-and-her oddball detective duo stuff runs, with varying degrees of success and fluctuating levels of will-they-won’t-they, back through Dempsey And Makepeace to Moonlighting to Hart To Hart, all the way to the great originators, Nick and Nora Charles, who definitely did, in Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. Although, in saying this, it’s imperative to add that comparing any of the shows mentioned above to The Thin Man is like comparing a branch of the Halifax built from brown bricks in 1982 to The Chrysler Building.

But Shakespeare & Hathaway is decent fun, despite the way the writers insist on piling up the Shakespeare gags. Set in a sunny Stratford-Upon Avon, not only are the leads named after The Bard and his missus (except in reverse: she’s the Shakespeare, he’s the Hathaway), but the cop who becomes their rival/aide on cases is named Marlowe, they have an assistant who’s an out-of-work actor/ Shakespearean tour guide, and on it goes. The crimes they face are in the Midsomer Murders mould, except never as gritty or realistic. The cosy vibe, in fact, most strongly recalls another of the BBC’s bright, sneaky daytime shows, Father Brown, the sleuthing 1950s vicar adapted from GK Chesterton – perhaps not surprising, as Shakespeare & Hathaway was created by the Father Brown team.

But the sun shines, the landscapes are pretty, Shakespeare drives a shiny red Mini, and, at 45 minutes per episode, it clips by fast. Best of all, Shakespeare and Hathaway themselves are good company, as easily played by EastEnders escapee Jo Joyner and the great Mark Benton, of Catterick and Early Doors legend. If you happen to find yourself snowed in at home during the day, it’s just the ticket. Nothing wrong with being cosy.