TV: Inside Man and Make Me Prime Minister

Inside Man 1/4, Monday 26 September, 9pm, BBC One

We are all capable of murder. That’s the idea of ​​this fabulously imaginative new four-part drama. I think it’s meant to be some kind of revelation for the viewer, but I for one am aware that I can kill at least five times a day. It’s 8:31 am right now, and I’ve already wanted to murder my kids today – by walking around feeling hopeless and looking at their phones while we try to push them out the door to school.

Nonetheless, this drama is nothing but thought-provoking – and smart and funny and utterly captivating from a delightfully tense and triumphant opening scene. One journalist, Beth Davenport (Lydia West, from last year’s Notable It’s a sin) is harassed underground by a predatory man. Everyone stands by and does nothing… until he receives glorious compensation from Janice Fife (Dolly Wells).

In the episode, Beth wants to interview Janice, who is against it. She’s more interested in getting to her next job – she’s a math tutor and coaches the local vicar’s son, Harry, played by the ever-visible David Tennant. Harry is a fine man, happily married with a job he loves and a son he loves. Everything in Harry’s life is going well – which, in the context of television drama, means something terrible is about to happen to him.

Halfway around the world, in America, a convicted murderer on death row gets a visitor. Jefferson Grieff (Stanley Tucci), professor of criminology, was convicted of murdering his wife. While awaiting his cruel fate, he spends his time helping people with their criminal cases. There is one criterion for his help – it must be in the name of moral worth. He is assisted by Dillon, a serial killer with a photographic memory.

Well, if that all sounds a bit far-fetched and silly – well, it is. The series is penned by Steven Moffatt, whose dramas are from Doctor Who to sherlock to Dracula, are always a bit far-fetched and silly. And absolutely, convincingly brilliant. All you have to do is suspend a little disbelief.

The requirement to suspend disbelief becomes necessary fairly early in this opening episode. What is essentially a misunderstanding turns into something much, much worse, simply because Vicar Harry doesn’t sit down and calmly explain something. The behavior is, one strongly suspects, not what would happen in real life.

But if you want real life, there’s plenty of dark, depressing drama and soap operas out there to get bogged down in. Moffatt’s works are of a different kind – escapist, fast-moving and enormously inventive – and insider is no exception.

As always, Tennant delivers a compelling performance – charismatic, desperate and with a hint of menace – while Stanley Tucci has absolute ball as Grieff, a torn Sherlock Holmes character who seeks redemption for his horrific crime. Atkins Estimond plays Dillon, his mass-murdering friend, with equal enjoyment, and there’s a satisfyingly dark vein of comedy in their exchange.

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But it’s Dolly Wells as a math teacher who’s on the verge of a very nasty surprise that really heightens this drama. In the past, Moffatt has been accused of writing female characters that lack depth and believability, but Janice Fife is a triumphant character with strength and power and a solid moral core masked by a suave, demure middle-class veneer.

The result is an extremely entertaining story, written by a writer at the top of his game, and with a great cast that lives up to every word. We recommend.

Make Me Prime Minister 1/6, Tuesday 27 September 21:15 Channel 4

Whatever your political colors, it’s pretty clear that politics in this country is in quite a mess right now. With prime ministers being forced to resign, murderous leadership disputes, divisive rhetoric, a public still divided by the Brexit argument and the Kulturkampf, and a heated debate taking place on social media, it’s all a bit depressing.

As the country reels from the Covid disaster, the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine, it seems we spend more time at each other’s throats than working together on constructive progress.

This brand new, highly original, competitive format reality show seeks to look at politics from a different angle. The concept is this: Twelve members of the public from diverse backgrounds and political viewpoints compete to be the next prime minister. Obviously they are not actually appointed prime minister – although the current incumbent was elected by around 0.2% of the population, he could be just as democratic.

Instead, the winner of the show will receive a prize of £25,000 – and presumably the opportunity to decorate their home with gold leaf wallpaper.

Each week the candidates are divided into two groups and one of them is appointed Prime Minister. They are then given a policy that they can formulate and sell to the press and the public. At the end of the task, the public will vote for one of the policies, and the losing group will eliminate one of its members.

Alastair Campbell and Sayeeda Warsi oversee the whole process, adding a degree of gravitas and nous to the process by helping, advising, cajoling and ultimately passing judgment on the candidates.

First of all, education. The two groups must develop policies to change primary education. Neither Alastair nor Sayeeda are particularly impressed with the proposed guidelines, much less when they are presented to the press. One group seems to think the best way to highlight their politics is to have the PM disguised as a robot, the other by having their PM dance awkwardly around a maypole. As if the dignity of the Prime Minister’s office wasn’t already compromised enough…

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The wannabe PMs are put through their paces by seasoned political hacks (this show did an excellent job of getting the right people involved) and it’s like watching confused fawns get attacked by wolves.

Finally, the PMs, supported and encouraged by their teams, must present their policies to a public audience and answer their questions. It’s a tense and high-spirited affair before the dreaded public vote rolls in. Then it’s time for Sayeeda and Alastair to decide whose head goes on the chopping block.

This is fascinating television that’s really trying to promote political discourse and do something different. This is Channel 4 at its finest. If it sounds a bit like that The Apprentice, which I loathe… well, yes, there are definite similarities, but this show has a heart where the other only has pound signs. It’s also funny, engaging and totally original and gets my vote without a moment’s hesitation.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 24 September

Strictly Come Dancing, 6.45pm, BBC One: It’s the first live show of Strictly Come Dancing 2022. Fifteen brand new celebrities will be making their live debut. There is no public vote, but the judges still have their paddles. Their results tonight will carry over to next week when viewers will have the chance to vote for their favorite couple.

Ukraine’s Musical Freedom Fighters with Clive Myrie, 7:35 p.m., BBC Two: The channel travels across Ukraine to meet musicians willing to leave their families in their war-torn country to form an orchestra and perform at the Royal Albert Hall. With only 10 days of rehearsals, can they fulfill their ambition to wage war with their music instead of weapons? And will the concerts touch the world as they hope?

Kylie on the BBC, 9:10 p.m., BBC Two: A selection of Kylie Minogue’s archival performances, from her Stock, Aitken & Waterman beginnings to the dance sounds of the 1990s, 2000s and beyond, including her collaborations with Robbie Williams, Nick Cave and Jason Donovan.

Blankety Blank 1/10, 9:10 p.m., BBC One: Bradley Walsh returns with a new series of the legendary Blankety Blank. Each week, a panel of six celebrities will fill in the missing blanks to help some very lucky entrants win some amazing prizes. Joining this week’s panel are reality TV legend Joey Essex, former professional boxer Chris Eubank, radio host Vick Hope, former Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, comedian Frank Skinner and actress Denise Van Outen.

Sunday 25 September

Karen Pirie, 8pm, ITV: 1996. Three drunk students are discovered at the scene of a murder in St. Andrews. Young barmaid Rosie Duff was assaulted, stabbed and left for dead. And the only suspects are the three young men, now stained with her blood, who claim to have met her on her way home from a party. 25 years later, Rosie’s unsolved murder has become the subject of a provocative true-crime podcast and Detective Sergeant Karen Pirie (Lauren Lyle) is tasked with investigating the cold case.

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Monday, September 26th

Trouble at Topshop 1/2, 9pm, BBC Two: Portraying the changing fortunes of the high street business through the testimonies of Topshop insiders and financial, investigative and fashion journalists. Examining how a group of young, talented and creative women transformed a dying teenage store into a mecca for fashion lovers, the program tells the story of an entrepreneur with aspirations to become king of the high street.

Tuesday, September 27th

Sensationalists: The Bad Girls and Boys of British Art 1/3, 9pm, BBC Two: Documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of Sensation – the iconoclastic exhibition of Charles Saatchi’s private collection, held in September 1997 at the heart of the Royal Academy’s facility. Featuring contributions from Underworld’s Goldie, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, Blur’s Alex James, Janet Street Porter, Dazed & Confused’s Jefferson Hack and restaurateur Oliver Peyton. Narrated by Keith Allen.

Wednesday 28 September

Nine Perfect Strangers 1/8, 10pm, Channel 4: Based on the New York Times bestseller by author Liane Moriarty, the drama Nine Perfect Strangers is set in a boutique health and wellness resort that promises healing and transformation as nine stressed-out townsfolk try to find a path to a better way of life. During this 10-day retreat, she is watched over by the resort’s director, Masha (Nicole Kidman), a woman on a mission to revitalize her weary mind and body. However, these nine “perfect” strangers have no idea what lies ahead.

Thursday, September 29th

Taskmaster 1/10, 9 p.m., Channel 4: Dara Ó Briain, Fern Brady, John Kearns, Munya Chawawa and Sarah Millican are the noble knights hoping to win this lavish tournament to become the 14th Taskmaster Champion. In the opening episode, contestants fiddle with frozen peas and yell about fish, all overseen under the watchful eye of Taskmaster Greg Davies and his trusty assistant, Alex Horne.

DNA Journey 1/4, 9pm, ITV: Return of ITV’s answer to Who Do You Think You Are? Comedians and best friends Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan embark on a road trip to use a hybrid of DNA and genealogy to uncover their family history and meet families they never knew existed.

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