Monday, January 30, 2023
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SARAH VINE's My TV Week: This Scots murder mystery is worth a wee watch


GRANITE HARBOUR

FRIDAY, BBC 1 

Rating:

At first glance this looked like it was going to be quite a dry week of TV watching – but in the end it turned out to be rather fun. Top of the list of things-that-looked-a-bitrubbish-on-paper-but-actuallyturned-out-to-be-quite-good was Granite Harbour, a three-part cop series set in Aberdeen.

I’ve always loved Aberdeen as a city – it’s a wonderful combination of raw grit and high culture – and it’s good to see it getting some airtime here. It also helps that the lead actor – up-and-coming Romario Simpson, who played the part of Lizard in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe – is absurdly handsome. But obviously I didn’t let any of that sway me.

Sarah Vine suggested the BBC programme Granite Harbour might just be  'the right balance of the familiar and the original to make it a very enjoyable watch'

Sarah Vine suggested the BBC programme Granite Harbour might just be  ‘the right balance of the familiar and the original to make it a very enjoyable watch’

The premise is a simple yet, in terms of cop shows, reliable one. Simpson is Lance Corporal Davis Lindo, a veteran of the Royal Military Police who arrives in Aberdeen as a rookie detective as part of a diversity scheme. Straight backed and formal, with an old school military bearing, he is assigned to DCI Bartlett, aka ‘Bart’ (Hannah Donaldson), who shows him the ropes.

As ever with these sorts of scenarios, his new colleagues are a fairly testy bunch, and it’s not long before Lindo’s put a few noses out of joint. Not unsurprising: he’s a terrible know-it-all.

Sarah (pictured) said the premise of Granite Harbour is a simple yet, in terms of cop shows, reliable one

Sarah (pictured) said the premise of Granite Harbour is a simple yet, in terms of cop shows, reliable one

The first episode is, in that respect, a little clichéd, as Lindo navigates the well-worn newbie detective path of being taken down a peg or two by the station’s alpha male, DI Mallick (Bhav Joshi, also absurdly handsome), himself a veteran of the same scheme as Lindo. He also clashes with his female boss Cora MacMillan – played by Dawn Steele, who readers might remember as Lexie in Monarch Of The Glen (an old favourite of mine).

There’s also quite a lot of staring off into the middle distance looking mysterious and wounded, as per the requirements of every troubled handsome young rookie cop since time immemorial. But once the action gets going, we find ourselves caught up in a really decent murder mystery, nicely plotted and with plenty of twists and turns to keep us guessing.

It’s not long before our hero is earning the trust – and grudging respect, of course – of his previously sceptical superiors as well as forming a bond with his mentor, Bart, whose no-frills demeanour is increasingly ruffled by his old-school charm and general air of mystery.

 Simpson’s absurdly handsome, but I didn’t let that sway me

When the boss of a local oil company is found dead in the woods, the murder investigation slowly starts to uncover a complex web of corruption and intrigue involving the deceased’s brother, a foxy Norwegian, a local barmaid, a tragic alcoholic and another ex-Army man, possibly with even more baggage than Lindo himself.

I don’t think this is going to change the world; but it’s just the right balance of the familiar and the original to make it a very enjoyable watch.

Fascinating, frightening history

Two decades ago, Simon Schama’s (pictured) epic 15-part BBC series A History Of Britain marked him out as a serious historian with popular reach

Two decades ago, Simon Schama’s (pictured) epic 15-part BBC series A History Of Britain marked him out as a serious historian with popular reach

His own voice is joined by others, including Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and Nadya Tolokonnikova (pictured), founding member of Russian feminist group Pussy Riot

His own voice is joined by others, including Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and Nadya Tolokonnikova (pictured), founding member of Russian feminist group Pussy Riot

Simon Schama’s History of Now 

Sunday, BBC2 

Rating:

Two decades ago, Simon Schama’s epic 15-part BBC series A History Of Britain marked him out as a serious historian with popular reach. Now Sir Simon, he brought a lot of himself to that series, and this new project is even more of a personal journey.

He is, as he says himself, ‘an old man’, and there is a strong sense here of someone who feels their time is running out, that this is perhaps the last chance to make a difference to the world.

That is of course not true – just look at Sir David Attenborough. But I was struck by Schama’s fragility here, not just physical but also emotional. He is clearly a person who feels the troubles of the world very deeply.

Intellectually, however, Schama is as robust as ever, as he takes the viewer on a cultural and artistic journey, examining the elements that form our modern world and the role artists and performers play in influencing those in power. His own voice is joined by others, including Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and Nadya Tolokonnikova, founding member of Russian feminist group Pussy Riot. Fascinating and frightening in equal measure.

Winkleman’s wickedly good!

Host Claudia Winkleman (above) is in full-on wicked mode, which she does brilliantly – and which Sarah much prefers than her Strictly sequin persona

Does the world need another reality TV gameshow? Probably not. But The Traitors (Tue-Thu, BBC1) is at least more honest than most in that it rewards ruthlessness above all other qualities. Also, host Claudia Winkleman is in full-on wicked mode, which she does brilliantly – and which I so much prefer to her Strictly sequin persona.

  • If Granite Harbour was a pleasant surprise, Trailblazers: A Rocky Mountain Road Trip (Monday, BBC2) was the opposite. Ostensibly an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Victorian explorer Isabella Bird on her visit to the Rocky Mountains, it was in fact just an excuse for Ruby Wax, Mel B and Emily Atack to show off while being snooty about the locals. Unwatchable.
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