Beecham House

9pm, STV

But wait. Who is this mysterious lone stranger who’s just come riding into view dressed like he’s en route to play the lead in a moody am-dram production of Jesus Of Nazareth?

You’re not the only one who wants to know. “Who are you, stranger?” asks an understandably awestruck local, after Jesus guy has just saved his life by single-handedly seeing off a bunch of murderous rampaging bandits. “John Beecham,” the stranger who isn’t Jesus declares, soulfully. And so, because this programme is called Beecham House – although not, it must be said, on the basis of any evidence actually presented during it – this must be our hero.

In recent weeks, Beecham House, ITV’s new Sunday night hairy pants period howler, has been relentlessly trailed as a spiritual successor to Downton Abbey, chiefly because not only does it feature a big house, it’s actually been called after it. But even as someone who reckons Downton was all downhill after the dog’s bum in the opening credits, I have to say Beecham House isn’t in its class. What makes the Downton comparisons all the more baffling, however, is that it doesn’t want to be – because what Beecham House really wants to be is Poldark. Although, to be clear: it’s not in that league, either.

As with the BBC’s galloping romance, Beecham House is set in the late 1700s and focuses on a solitary ex-soldier who is a sex machine to all the chicks, and thus viewed with suspicion by his neighbouring evil male villains. Just like Ross Poldark, Beecham is a man of action, but looking to put his adventurous past behind him, and settle down to honest hard work. And, like Ross again, sometimes this means whipping his shirt off and hacking into foliage topless for no clear reason, swinging his mighty tool slapdash through the shrubbery.

Rather than the brooding Cornish coast, however, the action here unfolds around what the ITV press notes amazingly describe as the “exotic woods” of Delhi. It is 1795 and Beecham, played by a generally confused-looking Tom Bateman, has just arrived to set up home in his magnificent mansion.

The house is abuzz with the gossip of his servants, which is perhaps where the allegations of Downton similarities spring from, but the show has surprisingly little interest in them. Instead, it’s all eyes on the mystery of Beecham, which is unfortunate, as there’s no mystery about him at all.

To a large degree, this is the fault of writer-director Gurinder Chadha, whose script largely consists of characters endlessly telling each other who they are and what they’re doing. But some of the blame for Beecham House’s fundamental dullness is down to Bateman. Where Aidan Turner unfailingly brings dark, glinting wit and drive to Poldark, Bateman’s performance has all the spark of a puzzlingly leftover dowelling pin from a flatpack shelving kit.

The combination of poor writing and underwhelming acting can lead to accidental comedy, and I particularly relished the delicate confectionary-as-sexual-euphemism interplay of the first meeting between Beecham and winsome English teacher Miss Osbourne (Dakota Blue Richards): “The raspberry creams, I long for,” she gushes. “My chef considers himself an expert in the culinary arts of England,” he growls shyly back. “I’m certain he’d be delighted to present you with cakes from Devon.”

Sadly, though, such pleasures are fleeting. Beecham House is pleasant enough to look at, sumptuous in the same way Aldi’s Christmas adverts are. But Beecham himself is no Kevin The Carrot. And I suspect that, when it comes down to it, his cakes from Devon aren’t all that, either.



The Unwanted: The Windrush Files

9pm, BBC Two

When it broke in 2018, the Windrush scandal, which saw generations of black British citizens suddenly being told to prove they had the right to stay in the UK after having been settled here legally for decades, was rightly seen as one of the current government’s most shameful episodes. But, as historian David Olusoga explores in this excellent documentary, the roots of the scandal and the infamous “hostile environment” actually run back to 1948, when the first Caribbean migrants arrived. Examining declassified secret files, Olusoga exposes persistent campaigns of racism by successive governments – including Clem Atlee’s celebrated progressive post-war Labour administration – seeking both to prevent the arrival of a “coloured element,” and to insidiously turn national opinion against non-whites. The Orwellian language and hypocrisy of the official documents is fascinating. But it’s the personal stories from people directly affected that give the film its power.


Britain's Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story 9pm, BBC Four With Sky Atlantic’s Chernobyl becoming a ratings hit, and the exciting games of footsie being played out between the US, North Korea, Iran and various others making nerve-jangling headlines, the ever-present danger of mankind wiping itself out in a horrendously awful blistering nuclear hellstorm has become fashionable again like it hasn’t been since the 1980s. A good time, then, to revisit this documentary, originally show in 2017, telling the story of how Britain got the bomb and was allowed to sit in the big boy chair as “a nuclear superpower.” Hearing from veterans and scientists who worked on the project – and featuring archive footage from the tests – the film charts the process of “Operation Grapple,” the amusingly-titled post-war mission of apocalypse that led to Blighty successfully detonating its first megaton hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean in 1957.



9pm, Sky Atlantic

The fourth series of the Italian crime drama continues, and is just as stunning as ever. Last week’s opening double bill saw the storyline split in two. One strand follows the attempts of young mob boss Genny Savastano (Salvatore Esposito) to escape his bloody past and go straight as a legitimate businessman, overseeing a project to build a huge new airport – although, it didn’t take long for him to resort to old methods. As we begin tonight, though, we return to Naples’s grim Secondigliano suburb, where Genny left Patrizia (Cristiana Dell’Anna) in place as boss of the clan. But as a woman in the violently macho patriarchy of the Camorra, she has to work doubly hard to keep up her image, leading to one of the show’s most poignant interludes, as she briefly escapes alone to Bologna, and momentarily lets her guard down.

Thursday 27


9pm, Channel 4

The naming of a character “Major Major” is one of the best known jokes in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 novel, but leave it to this surprisingly dull and cloth-eared TV adaptation to really drag it out and hammer it to death. Last week’s opener had a jaw-droppingly badly paced scene in which a bunch of soldiers stood around gurning “Hey, this guy’s name is Major Major, isn’t that funny? Isn’t it?” But in case you didn’t get it, there’s a lot more tonight, as Major Major is made a Major. Meanwhile, protagonist John Yossarian (Christopher Abbott) is sinking deeper into despair and depression as he seeks to avoid flying any more pointless, potentially fatal bombing missions. The handling of his slump into crisis is the most interesting thing in the series, but this thing is a shiny turkey.



7.30pm, BBC Two

Blimey, is it that time again already? Say what you might about the festival’s line-up, but the BBC’s coverage of the weekend’s events from Worthy Farm is peerless. Not only are there the traditional nightly TV broadcasts spread across BBC Two and BBC Four, but this year there will be five live streams from the Pyramid, Other, John Peel, West Holts and Park stages going out over iPlayer from Friday to closing time on Sunday. (The streams go live from 1.15pm today.) Back on proper telly, today’s broadcast begins with a brief half hour on BBC Two with bits and pieces from Jorja Smith, Sam Fender and Rosalia. BBC Four hops on between 10pm-midnight, featuring the set from Tame Impala. Meanwhile, there’s more on BBC Two again from 9.50pm–1.30am, including the headline set from Stormzy, as well as music from Cat Power and Interpol.


Glastonbury 2019

3.30pm, BBC Two

Wellies out as the Beeb’s multi-platform window into the festival continues. The iPlayer’s five-barrelled stream continues throughout the day, but if you’re sticking to old-school telly, Day 2’s coverage kicks off on BBC Two this afternoon with glimpses of Anne-Marie and Hozier in action on the Pyramid Stage, Lewis Capaldi on The Other Stage, plus an acoustic performance from James Morrison. BBC Two picks up again from 7.30pm, to catch the Pyramid Stage sets by Janet Jackson and today’s headliners, The Killers. Meanwhile, BBC Four jumps aboard from 7pm, to bring us the septuple whammy of Johnny Marr, Carrie Underwood, Neneh Cherry, Liam Gallagher, The Courteeners, The Chemical Brothers and Wu-Tang Clan…plus more. Elsewhere, there are other streams and repeats and, eh, stuff happening via the BBC’s Red Button service, too, so keep clicking.