THAT WAS THE BOX – February 2016 (Week Four) | TV Reviews
‘THE NIGHT MANAGER‘ (BBC1 – BBC IPLAYER)
The Beeb have filled the Sunday night ‘War and Peace‘ slot with a bit of espionage and I’m more than happy about this. ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘ is one of my favourite films ever, and so, on learning ‘The Night Manager‘ was written by John Le Carre, I sort of knew it would be a good’un. Starring Loki…sorry Tom Hiddleston, it tells the story of Jonathan Pine, a former solider, who, whilst working as a night manager at an Egyptian hotel during the 2011 Arab Spring, is given some papers to photocopy by the obligatory beautiful mysterious woman (come on, the opening had diamonds and speedboats in it, this has Bond written all over it). To Pine’s horror, the papers are a sort of invoice for the sale of enough weapons to start World War Three, and it all appears to be linked to philanthropist Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). Sophie, the woman, is the mistress of Freddie Hamid, a very dangerous man who is part of an even more dangerous family. Naturally, the moment Pine shows the papers to his associate Simon Ogilvy (Russell Tovey playing someone posh!) Sophie is murdered horribly, resulting in her little dog getting covered in blood (unless of course he did it!).
The drama then moves on four years and Pine is living in Zermatt in Switzerland, managing a hotel which appears to be stuck in the middle of snow drift. Who comes to stay at the hotel? Only Richard Roper, his model girlfriend and his camp lacky (hilariously played by Tom Hollander). It’s not clear if Roper is just being horrible or he actually suspects Pine knows the sort of person he really is; but he keeps giving him strange looks and making funny comments. When he deposits some SIM cards into a champagne bottle, Pine rescues them and sends them to London and the International Enforcement Agency which seems to consist of Olivia Colman playing Angela Burr, a gobby northerner, and the guy who got blown up by a crow in ‘Four Lions‘.
The episode ended abruptly with Angela asking Pine what he was going to do about it, and that was it. But I have to say it’s done the job because I’m hooked. You just know Colman is going to deliver. Hiddleston is not only easy on the eye, but his character has a warmth about him that makes you instantly root for him, and of course we have to find out who the mole is that told the Hamid family about Sophie giving away theirs and Roper’s secrets. Old Le Carre loves a mole doesn’t he? But then again, it taps into our paranoia. Along with this and ‘Deutschland 83‘ I’m in spy heaven!
‘THE PROSECUTORS – REAL CRIME AND PUNISHMENT‘ (BBC4 – BBC IPLAYER)
Remember the last part of ‘Law and Order UK‘? When the defendant goes to court and is prosecuted by impossibly attractive barristers acting on behalf of the CPS? Well this series is the real life version of that. Except that the trials aren’t at the Old Bailey and the prosecutors work in an ordinary office somewhere in Cheshire, and they all pretty much look….well, ordinary. Every year the Crown Prosecution Service handles over a half a million cases. To those not in the know, the CPS do not prosecute on behalf of the victim of the crime, but rather the state, but they are the victim’s only representative and so it becomes personal on the part of those looking for justice.
In the first episode, we followed the team at Mersey Cheshire CPS as they tried to secure convictions for a man accused of killing an eleven year old boy in a road accident, and a team of rather inept robbers who blew ATM machines out of banks in order to steal the money, in the process forgetting things like disguises, and not doing enough research to discover that some of the money cassettes have tracking devices attached to them.
We also saw the human side to the process, and met Nicky, the mother of Flynn, the little boy who was killed. There was a clip of the interview she gave shortly after the driver, Mr Maan, ploughed his Porsche into her Ford Focus. She admits she wants to die to be with her son, but she has to go on and your heart goes out to her. Several months on, she is slowly coming to terms with his death, living for her husband and two remaining sons, and buying some really cute bunny rabbits, I’m guessing, for something to focus on. Nicky is brave and formidable, refusing to be a victim, but you can tell under the surface she is about to crack at any moment. For a mother to witness her son dying beside her must be terrible and it showed great restraint not to want to swing for Mr Maan.
The job of the CPS was to determine if it was a case of Death by Dangerous Driving, or the lesser charge of Death by Careless Driving. With no evidence of drugs or alcohol and no trace of him using his phone whilst the accident happened, they decide to go for Careless Driving. He claims the car aqua-planed and moved him onto the other side of the road, but the police accident experts are adamant that if he’d let the car turn itself round, the accident would have been completely different. He then claims there was a suddenly deluge of rain, which none of the other witnesses can vouch for. Nicky is adamant that she saw him overtaking, which seems like the most likely scenario, but proof is difficult to obtain. Whatever it was, in all fairness, it seems he made an error any driver could, after a lapse in concentration, which ended in the most horrific way.
For Nicky, understandably, the wheels of justice were grindingly slow, but when you consider that one of the prosecutors, Gary, had ninety cases on the go at once, it is easy to see why things take so long to get to court. Not like in the soaps, when you murder someone one week and a fortnight later you’re up in front of the beak. It also makes me laugh how Judges always pass sentence on the same day, on TV. Having worked in the Criminal Justice System for a very long time, I know darn well Judges have to ponder on reams of evidence before making up their mind what sentence fits the crime.
The sentences were rather telling. The Stoopid Gang all got around 17 years in prison for stealing money (admittedly part of their sentence was attributed to the fact they had driven at speed with explosives in their cars), but at the end of the day, no one was hurt and I’m sure the bank’s insurance covered any losses. Mr Maan was found guilty of killing a young boy and received a 12 month community order, banned from driving for a year and had to pay costs of several thousands. Nicky kindly met him to reassure him that she was satisfied justice had been done, and did not want her son’s death to result in someone else’s life being ruined, which was admirable; but there is something strange about a world where sentencing guidelines state that stealing thousands of pounds from a bank is worthy of a harsher sentence than robbing a young man of his life and devastating his family forever.
‘PHONE SHOP IDOL‘ (BBC2 – BBC IPLAYER)
And so we come to the end of what has been a highly entertaining series. We have our final twelve candidates for ‘Phone Shop Idol‘ and their last challenge is to come up against an actor called Darren playing an angry customer. Roland mumbled a lot which surprised me because I thought he was good with people, but it seems he’s only good with people who are being nice to him. As much as I like him, that isn’t the attitude, because in any job you’re always going to come up against someone who isn’t happy. Next up was Gemma who handled the customer well, but didn’t make anything of the fact he mentioned his daughter was in hospital. Her colleague Mark ‘The Brand’ Davis handled it well in his own, slick, annoying way. I laughed when big Andy from Fonehouse went up against the actor. In real life the actor would have whimpered and scarpered. I almost wanted Andy to hold onto his head and the actors arms and legs to go flailing, like they do in the cartoons.
We had a VT of Clare from Carphone Warehouse, dealing with a customer and I swear it was Vic Reeves in a disguise (watch it back on iPlayer and make your own mind up!).
Anyway, we were left with our final six – Andy (it was worth him missing his nanna’s funeral), Nick, Henry, Clare, Roland and Mark. Natually Mark was delighted he had beaten colleague Gemma, and Jake was characteristically cocky about it all.
The final six then headed down to London for the award ceremony. It was heartening to see Andy’s plus one was ‘best friend’ Danny, who is clearly in love with him. On meeting Clare’s geeky boyfriend, it was obvious who had got her interested in the Occulus Rift and Virtual Reality. No doubt he stopped her watching ‘Take Me Out‘ and study ‘Doctor Who‘ instead (that is terribly sexist and I don’t mean it). On heading to the ceremony, in her lovely silver frock and followed by the five guys, Clare did look a bit like a star who was followed by her bodyguards in Moss Bros suits. At the ceremony itself Roland found it hard to mingle with the industry bigwigs, while others took to it with great ease, making the most of the networking opportunities.
When it came to the final three being announced – Henry, Clare and Nick, I wanted Clare to win. Girl Power and all that, and she did. The judges decided they loved her technical know how and the fact that she was changing the perceptions of mobile phone sellers, and I’m inclined to agree. We all visualise wide-boys like Jerwayne and Ashley from Phoneshop, fleecing people and blinding them with technical babble, whereas Clare is an attractive young woman who shows empathy and yet great knowledge at the same time. I actually cried a little bit when she won because she did deserve it and it was good to see a woman beat all those men in such a male dominated world.
Roland was a bit of a spoilt baby because he didn’t make it to the final three, unable to see what an achievement it was to make it to the final six, and as we found out at the end, it has all worked out well for him because he is now on a programme to become assistant manager. Andy was given the confidence to branch out and we discover he now sells solar panels instead of mobile phones. Not sure if there is as much of a demand, but good for him for trying something different.
I’ve really enjoyed ‘Phone Shop Idol‘. We pass these shops every day, not giving much thought for the people inside and the jobs they do. It was also interesting to see that the winner worked for Carphone Warehouse, one of the oldest companies on the high street. Good advertising for them, but I’m still getting my mobile phone online. Sorry!