SUNDAY-WEDNESDAY, CHANNEL 4
It’s been a long time since a show gripped me as strongly as Somewhere Boy. I practically watched all eight half-hour episodes in one sitting, punctuated by the occasional walk of the dog to revive my weakened circulation.
Four hours of riveting drama, the kind you can really lose yourself in.
There was a surreal and magical quality to this story of a boy who was held captive by his mentally ill father for 18 years, and yet the fact that the characters and settings were so ordinary made it entirely believable. It was, in a way, a brilliant study of how madness exists in the most mundane of places, how a tortured mind can manifest itself anywhere.
Lewis Gribben (pictured) stars in the Channel 4 series Somewhere Boy. The premise is based on a man wracked with grief.
But it was also about so much more: father/son relationships, grief, families, friendships, young love – just life and the way nothing goes according to plan, but how, ultimately, there’s always a way to get ahead.
That was one of the aspects that I liked the most about it. The basic premise was truly heartbreaking, more than sad: a man wracked by grief, inflicting unimaginable harm on an innocent child, and yet through it all, there is a real sense of hope.
I don’t quite know how the writer, Pete Jackson, pulled it off, but he definitely pulled it off.
And that’s the beauty of Somewhere Boy: everything is so nuanced, so elegant and subtle, and yet not pretentious. Jackson is not just a class act, he is in a class of his own.
Not bad for a recovering alcoholic who only started writing as a way to stay on the bandwagon.
Sarah Vine (pictured) fell in love with all eight half-hour episodes of Somewhere Boy and watched them in one sitting
The acting is also excellent. Lewis Gribben, who plays the kid Danny (well, man: he’s 18 when he breaks free from his father), reminds me of a young Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting.
It has that same kind of intensity, that mixture of vulnerability and menace, that feeling that at any moment it could go in any direction. There’s also an alien quality to him, a certain otherworldly air that feeds into the story of his character.
Don’t we all wish we could lock our little ones away from danger?
His counterpart, Samuel Bottomley, who plays Danny’s cousin Aaron, is also brilliant. The dynamic between the two is a crucial part of what grabs the viewer’s attention, the contrast between the life of a ‘normal’ teenager and Danny’s strange existence is so striking.
Aaron comes from the real world, full of posturing and teenage profanity, aimlessly scrolling through social media, listening to loud, angry music; Danny leads a parallel existence from a different era: he grew up on old movies, he’s never encountered porn, he doesn’t swear.
Her teenage crush is a silent movie star from the 1920s. She lives in a bubble of old-fashioned innocence.
There are times when you find yourself wondering which of them is worse. Which is, of course, partly the point.
Because what father, like Danny’s father, hasn’t tried to protect his children from the ‘monsters’ of the modern age?
Don’t we all wish, to some extent, that we could lock our little ones away from the dangers of life? Isn’t that a bit of madness in all of us?
Honestly, drama this smart rarely makes it to the small screen these days. One not to miss.
All episodes of Somewhere Boy are available to stream on ALL4 now.
TRYING TOO HARD TO BE WEIRD
THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET
MONDAY TO TUESDAY, CHANNEL 5
Shirley Henderson (pictured) stars as Claudia, a school nurse who lives alone with her teenage son in a bleak cul-de-sac in The House Across The Street.
As someone who likes things weird and dark, I was looking forward to this. But he didn’t do it for me, maybe because he was trying too hard to be weird and dark.
Shirley Henderson stars as Claudia, a school nurse who lives alone with her teenage son in a bleak cul-de-sac. Recovering from breast cancer, her husband has left her for an ostentatiously fertile and healthy woman.
Claudia is alone and damaged. Her son keeps asking to move in with her father.
When a neighbor’s son goes missing, Claudia finds a strange pleasure in helping grieving parents. Soon, her kindness turns to obsession, and before you know it, she’s sneaking around the missing girl’s room, rummaging through her things.
Henderson is cast perfectly: her strange childlike face and birdlike body make her inherently creepy. She does a lot of weird and unconventional things for no apparent reason, which adds to her sense of foreboding.
If I were his son, I would probably like to go live with my dad. Especially since his neighbor has a shed full of creepy dolls.
It’s as subtle as a sledgehammer, which wouldn’t matter if it didn’t try so hard to be all dark and mysterious.
- The new series I Hate You (Thursday, Episode 4), which follows the lives of best friends Charlie and Becca (Tanya Reynolds and Melissa Saint), is written by Robert Popper, responsible for the brilliant Friday night dinner, and it has the same heady mix of embarrassing comedy and straightforward slapstick. If you’ve ever wondered what the heck is going on inside young people’s heads these days, this might come in handy. Let’s put it this way: I’ve never felt so relieved to be old.
How happily hammy
Joanna Scanlan and Bradley Walsh (both pictured) return for the second season of The Larkins
Season two of the revamped classic The Larkins (Sun, ITV) kicked off true to form, as gleefully funny and over-the-top as ever. Groundbreaking it isn’t, but it’s still immensely enjoyable, in the same way that slightly silly and nostalgic sitcoms about people and worlds that probably never existed are.
Lydia Page is adorable as Primrose Larkin, while Bradley Walsh plays Pop as a cross between Arthur Daley and a London cabbie with Joanna Scanlan keeping the show on the road, in every way, as Ma.
Theirs is a simple world: the countryside is beautiful, the dresses are flowery, and there’s a handsome new vicar for Primrose to fall in love with. The TV equivalent of cream tea.