Our House (ITV), The Ipcress File (ITV), The Witchfinder (BBC2)
The real estate shows on television are wall to wall. How to buy, how to sell, how to renovate, how to spot cowboy traders, how to read the Farrow & Ball color chart like it’s War and Peace – and how to go bankrupt trying to turn a nuclear bunker into your dream home in waiting for that must-have drink from Germany fortified with molten potassium salt that never arrives.
These programs are turning us into an acquisitive nation obsessed with wet rooms. We covet your neighbors’ folding doors. We spare no effort to keep up with the Joneses, then we dig even more of the garden to put them on the terrace.
What we need, I think, are dramas brave enough to challenge the proprietary porn mania. Which underline the dark side of the painting of the walls in nocturnal colours. And which prove beyond any doubt that no man is a kitchen island.
Our house (ITV), which could be the first of them, is far from perfect but it is there. Adapted from Louise Candlish’s thriller, it begins with Fi (Tuppence Middleton) returning home to find she’s been emptied of all her possessions with new owners in place. What a nightmare. But far-fetched? As the pre-publication for all four parties demonstrated, this happened for real.
The series then flashes back ten years, when Fi and her husband Bram (Martin Compston) were so happy they interrupted DIY to frolic in paint-splattered jumpsuits. Fi chose nocturnal colors. “My wife has one eye,” Bram remarks, and the dark blue certainly suits the overall vibe after she caught him fucking a neighbor in his cabana.
She intends to divorce but, rather than sell the house and maintain some continuity for their two young sons, they decide to “nest the birds”, each taking turns to live in an apartment opposite while the another takes care of the boys.
Video: First look at new ITV drama ‘Our House’ (Daily Record)
Click to enlarge
This is where the plot thickens. Bram causes a car accident and leaves the scene of the accident but is spotted. As he is blackmailed, our couple briefly reconciles – we’re still in flashback mode here – but when Bram, in need of money, offers to sell the house and leave for a year, Fi is dismayed: “The House prices are going to go up. We’ll never find another place like this. All the years we’ve put into it…” “It’s just a house,” he said. “No,” she moaned, ” this is the most perfect place!”
Weird name, Bram. It may be short for Bramble or Brahms or Brammer, good Scottish slang for something exceptional, which Our house unfortunately is not. Compston plays him as a Scotsman and he’s basically decent, a good dad, who does a few (very) stupid things and gets in over his head – literally in the tragic ending.
“I’m only interested in us,” he says when Fi is determined to keep the house. “It’s not that simple,” she retorts, and the thought arises: does she want to redecorate, go crazy with rattan? Later, she softens: “Maybe if I paid more attention to you, rather than to all that…” But by then, it’s too late.
The scariest scene from the 1965 film version of The Ipcress folder – at least for me as a boy, watching on TV later – Michael Caine was being brainwashed. Strapped to a chair as doomy psychedelic special effects swirled, he was told, “You’ll forget all about the Ipcress dossier.”
Well, I haven’t. Forgot the movie, that is. What might have presented a challenge for ITV’s remake of Len Deighton’s Cold War spy thriller, but, scripted by Glasgow-born John Hodge, who penned the Trainspotting scenarios, it makes a cracking start. Cool and sexy I’m addicted to the first scene of a boy absorbed in his Commando comic. That would have been me back then, even though I wouldn’t have known what ‘cool’ meant, much less ‘sexy’.
Another six-part challenge – looking at stills of him – could have been Joe Cole as Harry Palmer. What is he, 12 years old? Even younger than me when I saw the movie? You can’t take on the former Soviet Union with kids, and certainly not when they kidnap our top nuclear scientist and take him to East Berlin.
But Cole isn’t trying to outdo Caine, blow down the fucking doors or anything (and I know that’s a line from another movie). He’s cool even if I wouldn’t say sexy, even if for starters he enjoys a post-coital cigarette while his German girlfriend takes a bath. Everyone smokes. The air flight is provided by the BEA. And, best of all on the nostalgia front, the chloroform secures the Russkies the bomb boffin.
Palmer is recruited to find him by Tom Hollander’s spymaster who reasons, “We can’t trust 5 or 6 on this – too many commies.” (It’s MI5 and MI6 – come on, carry on). Hollander is excellent, as is Lucy Boynton as Palmer’s manager, who sounds like she’d like to do this literally. Well, the fiancé is a posh jerk who tells her he’ll get so rich she won’t have to work anymore. “But what if I want to?” she frowns.
As The Witch Hunter (BBC2) Alan Partridge punchbag Tim Key gets his own comedy, 17th century, but it doesn’t seem like an obvious way to improve his status. There are superstar witch hunters, but he’s not one of them. A rival sneers, “What’s the matter with you today – someone else covered in eczema?” A goat crying like a baby? And remember that fruit picker who had a demon in his hedge?