A gritty drama set in Hovis country? Sounds like a recipe for twee time. Or so Lucy Bellerby thought…
The Village (BBC1) is a drama based on the life of Bert, the second oldest man in Britain, and sees him telling his story. The first episode begins in 1914, when Bert is 12 years old and living on a farm in a rural Derbyshire village.
If you think of the Hovis advert you’ve got the right idea; it’s the kind of setting my Grandma told us she was brought up in (even though she lived in the middle of Leeds). There’s flat caps aplenty, buxom rosy-cheeked washer women, and cheeky young ne’er-do-wells getting the cane.
There’s also the standard “angry father” which no period drama can do without; Bert’s dad goes round drinking too much ale, furiously kicking over wheelbarrows, seething about “t’respect” and locking his kids in cupboards.
Maxine Peake, who is brilliant in every part she plays, is comfortable in her recurring role as put-upon wife from yesteryear (see Room At The Top and The Devil’s Whore). If you close your eyes and imagine a slightly grubby and tragic woman scrubbing stone steps with only bare hands and some vinegar, it’s her face that you see.
And would you believe it, this is the second column in which Newt from Hollyoaks makes an appearance! He plays Bert’s older brother, although we see him sprinting off happily to join up when WW1 breaks out, so I doubt things will end well for him.
I’m not usually one for over-sentimentality, but The Village is so well acted that it feels real and not at all twee. When the lads of the village all leave to an uncertain future as soldiers they tumble down the cobbled streets, proposing to their sweethearts at the last minute.
There’s even a bloody brass band playing Jerusalem. I tried to keep it together but in the end I was sobbing into a load of bunting and shouting at the screen ‘COME THA BACK NEWT FROM T’HOLLYOAKS! A’LL MARRY THEE!’.
Quite possibly the most annoying character of the past 10 years is back on E4 – Zooey Deschanel’s Jessica Day in New Girl (E4). If you haven’t seen the show before let me paint you a picture; a giant woman-child who favours zany cardigans, emitting high pitched noises for no reason, and playing a ukulele. Yep.
I have the same drug-addled recently-bereaved Bambi eyes as Deschanel, and used to have the same haircut as her too. That was until this show started and I was bombarded by drunk girls in Fibbers’ toilets screeching “OMG you look well like that lass out of New Girl!”, leading to me cutting it all off. That is how annoying she is.
Except… I’m still watching. Why? The sight of Miss Day pouting and giggling and baking cupcakes (no doubt enlisting a man to help her take them out of the oven lest she burn her little hands) is like nails down a blackboard to me. But yet, I’m still watching. And, sometimes, even laughing.
I used to be invited on lads’ nights out as an honorary bloke, but I think this is the final nail in that coffin. It’s a slippery slope to having a spa day before going out wearing fancy dress and drinking pink cocktails in Vodka Revolution.
The thing is, some of New Girl is really, really funny. Schmidt, Jess’s perfectionist idiot roommate, is comedy gold. And her love interest Nick is all tall and lacking in ambition and emotionally useless, which is like a red rag to a bull for me; I think I may be in love with him. Plus, I’m not sure if it’s Stockholm syndrome, but I think Jess may be getting slightly less irritating.
However, if I see even a whiff of cutesy bow hairclips or polka-dot encased kittens then I reserve the right to switch off indefinitely. Or just until next week.
- Read all Lucy’s TV columns here