Catching my eye last Sunday because his words caught the headlines was British rapper-turned-children’s author Akala, who used an interview with the BBC to highlight the dearth of period dramas examining the black working class experience. With that in mind it wasn’t the most auspicious day for the BBC to launch The Pursuit Of Love (Sunday, BBC One), a three-part period drama set in the 1920s examining the white upper class experience and adapted by actress Emily Mortimer from a novel by celebrated Bright Young Thing Nancy Mitford. Doesn’t quite tick Akala's diversity box, does it?

Still, it was rollicking good fun in a Brideshead-y kind of way, and it certainly benefitted from the presence of Lily James as Linda Radlett, second eldest in a brood of aristocratic children ruled over by tyrannical patriarch Matthew Radlett (Dominic West). Cloistered in the family pile and likely to stay there until a suitable husband was found, she was desperate to escape and find love, sex and excitement – all at once preferably and in London probably (though nearby Oxford University would do at a pinch). Emily Beecham played Fanny Logan, Linda’s beloved cousin and the drama’s narrator, while Andrew Scott was louche neighbour Lord Merlin. When he and his crew of costumed Bohemians turned up to dance sensuously at a stuffy ball thrown for Linda’s elder sister, the soundtrack switched to T-Rex’s Dandy In The Underworld. Among the other sonic intrusions upsetting the pure period feel were New Order’s Ceremony, and Deceptacon by shouty electro-punk feminists Le Tigre.

So on the one hand The Pursuit Of Love felt like an odd, out-of-step piece of commissioning by the BBC. On the other, perhaps its depiction of clever, spirited young women seeking to throw off the shackles of convention and live life to the max is entirely and serendipitously of the moment: as lockdown ends, thousands of British teenagers are going to be doing exactly the same – some of them to a soundtrack of shouty electro-punk, I hope.

Can’t ever decide if Jack Whitehall is too safe to be interesting or too interesting to be safe – which made him the perfect choice to host The BRIT Awards 2021 (STV, Tuesday). With his well-honed Withnail-meets-Jez-from-Peep-Show shtick he’s able to walk the line between respectable (Dad jokes) and edgy (did he just say that?) and do it, if not effortlessly, then with a modicum of skill. Dua Lipa made a vaguely political speech, there was a personal appearance by reigning queen of pop Taylor Swift and a filmed one from Michelle Obama, and with 4000 unmasked fans allowed in to the venue – all key workers, which was a nice touch – there was something of the old BRITS about the event. But the oddest bit was an opening segment in which Line Of Duty stars Martin Compston and Vicky McClure appeared on Zoom with Whitehall arguing about who would open the show only to be usurped by the arrival of Jackie Weaver. Well, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’ve always been deeply conflicted about Motherland (BBC Two, Monday), which has returned for a third series. I spent nearly a decade negotiating pick-ups and drop-offs in the primary school trenches so there was loads of hanging around chatting with other parents while we waited for bells to ring and stuff to happen. But I never met anyone as awful as Anna Maxwell Martin’s Julia or as wet and annoying as Paul Ready’s stay-at-home dad Kevin or as bitchy as Lucy Punch’s Alpha Mum Amanda. Sure, it has Diane Morgan in it and she’s fast on her way to National Treasure status which is why she has all the best lines. But even so the programme raises more questions than laughs in me. Like: are the characters meant to be so un-relatable? Or are they relatable but only if you live in some leafy enclave of North London? Am I missing something here?


Another returning comedy last week was Inside No 9 (BBC Two, Monday), though perhaps comedy is too restrictive a word for what this anthology series creates out of its grab-bag of genre influences – horror, mystery, Surrealism and, in this first episode of season six, that perennial favourite the heist movie and the Italian dramatic tradition of Commedia dell’arte (a masked drama, if you’re not up on your dramaturgy. Topical, eh?). And so in an episode titled Wuthering Heist writers Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton blended any number of Shakespeare’s mistaken identity comedies with that bit at the end of Reservoir Dogs where Tim Roth lies bleeding on the floor and everyone who’s still alive points a pistol at someone. The star turns were Gemma Whelan, as smart-talking fixer Columbina, and Paterson Joseph (picture above) as gang leader Pantalone, though the best line went to Joseph when he finally noticed that Whelan was breaking the fourth wall and addressing the viewer directly. “Stop Fleabagging,” he snapped.