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SARAH VINE’s My TV week: Dark and brooding or light and fluffy… TV crime pays

McDONALD & DODDS/SUSPECT SUNDAY, ITV/SUNDAY, CHANNEL 4

Rating: rating showbiz 4

Television shows are a dangerous place. Primetime is littered with corpses, mostly of attractive young women, and you can hardly turn on the television without encountering a crumpled, washed-up detective with personal problems.

And yet we can’t seem to get enough of it: when it comes to ratings, crime pays. This week offered two very different interpretations of the genre. The first, ITV’s McDonald & Dodds, is a very compelling mash-up in the tradition of classic British series such as Midsomer Murders.

The second, Channel 4’s Suspect, is a brooding affair reminiscent of Scandi-noir successes like Wallander and The Killing.

I must confess that I enjoyed both. Suspect is a hearty experience and McDonald & Dodds more of a wonderfully light-hearted tiramisu, but together they provided a satisfying dose of detective drama.

In Suspect, James Nesbitt (pictured) plays a man who is not so much broken as shattered to pieces.  The scene takes place in the end credits, as one by one the star cast - Joely Richardson, Ben Miller, Richard E Grant, Anne-Marie Duff - stare gloomily into the camera

In Suspect, James Nesbitt (pictured) plays a man who is not so much broken as shattered to pieces. The scene takes place in the end credits as one by one the star cast – Joely Richardson, Ben Miller, Richard E Grant, Anne-Marie Duff – stare gloomily into the camera

Sarah (pictured) says Suspect and McDonald and Dodds are a satisfying dose of detective drama

Sarah (pictured) says Suspect and McDonald and Dodds are a satisfying dose of detective drama

In Suspect, James Nesbitt plays a man who is not so much broken as shattered. The scene takes place in the opening credits, as the star cast – Joely Richardson, Ben Miller, Richard E Grant, Anne-Marie Duff – stare gloomily into the camera one by one.

The message is clear: no lorra is smiling here. Soon, Nesbitt is straining every emotion when his character, Detective Danny Frater (above), discovers his estranged daughter at the undertaker’s plate during a routine ID check.

Who knew that so many layers of pain could become visible on one man’s face at once: it’s a beautiful piece of acting. A slow unfolding of horror follows as the grieving father delves deeper into the life of his lost child.

It is tense, complex, confusing and the direction is intense. For example, the entire first episode takes place in one location, the undertaker’s lab, father and daughter trapped underground in a hell they created themselves.

Sarah said McDonald & Dodds is a very compelling mash-up in the tradition of classic British series such as Midsomer Murders

Sarah said McDonald & Dodds is a very compelling mash-up in the tradition of classic British series such as Midsomer Murders

So many layers of pain were visible on one man’s face at once

It’s smart and very convincing. I binge four episodes. Still, I needed something to take away the bitter aftertaste of Suspect, and McDonald & Dodds was just what I was looking for.

Now in the third series, Jason Watkins, an actor I’ve loved since he played an arrogant vampire on BBC3’s Being Human, stars as DS Dodds. His bookish personality is the perfect complement to Tala Gouveia’s dynamic DCI McDonald (far left, with Dodds).

Like Suspect, it’s cliche in its own way. “What has he done now?” tuts a suspect’s mother when the police arrive. “He’s definitely hiding something,” McDonald says, citing the bleeding as obvious. Still, I happily watched until the end, when the culprit was revealed in an Agatha Christie-style round-the-kitchen-table scenario. You know what they say, if it ain’t broke…

  • A few weeks ago, as always, I tuned in to watch Antiques Roadshow and was a little cranky when I was presented with Top Gear (Sunday, BBC1) instead. But I was pleasantly surprised. It turns out to be a lot of fun watching three guys – Paddy McGuinness, Andrew Flintoff and someone named Chris who seems to act like their mother – driving around in vintage police cars (the real Jaguar Mark 2 from Morse, Magnum PI’s Ferrari ). By the time Freddie Flintoff was bowling over hills in a Ford Raptor before he left for Norway to drive a Sinclair C5 over 60 mph, my inner drawer was hooked.

Go for it mud… at home!

Sarah Vine said she went to Glastonbury when it wasn't televised but says it can now be watched this weekend with wall-to-wall coverage from the BBC

Sarah Vine said she went to Glastonbury when it wasn’t televised but says it can now be watched this weekend with wall-to-wall coverage from the BBC

I went to Glastonbury once, about a million years ago. At the time, it was not televised and there was no media (probably a blessing, all things considered), so you really had to show up if you wanted to see your favorite bands. Now you can enjoy it from the comfort of your own couch, thanks in no small part to the BBC bringing wall-to-wall coverage this weekend – and upgrading it to BBC1 for the first time ever. All gain, no pain.

A SUNNY PIECE OF CARRINE CULTURE

LENNY HENRY’S CARIBBEAN BRITAIN WEDNESDAY, BBC 2

Rating: rating showbiz 4

Lenny Henry's new show taught Sarah about concepts such as the origins of the Notting Hill Carnival, rental parties, and ska

Lenny Henry’s new show taught Sarah about concepts such as the origins of the Notting Hill Carnival, rental parties, and ska

Like many people who grew up with Lenny Henry as a comedic staple on screen, I’ve had to get used to the new leaner – and much more serious – Henry over the years. And do you know anything? After seeing this I think I like him quite a bit.

I thought this was real education (or ‘heducation’, as Henry’s formidable mother would have put it, in the way she encouraged him to ‘integrate’ when he was growing up in Dudley in the 1970s), not least because it introduced me to so many wonderful characters and concepts that I had never heard of.

I knew people like Lord Kitchener, the calypsonian who sang “London is the place for me/London, this lovely city,” but I’d never heard of Cy Grant, who set current affairs to music in the 1950s Tonight- show, or Edric Connor, the first black actor to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

I learned about ska, rental parties, Lord Tropical the Soundmaster (a particularly cheeky sound system), the origins of the Notting Hill Carnival (left), Carmen Munroe, Prince Buster, Paul Dash and many more.

Inevitably there were some awkward moments for those of us of white persuasion – the Notting Hill race riots, images of skinhead thugs – but there was much more celebration here than rancor, and the whole thing was shot through with quintessentially Caribbean good humor – and of course that familiar raw laugh.

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