Wednesday 21 August 2019

Footballers and sex: what's to tell?

Ben Whishaw in London Spy
Ben Whishaw in London Spy

Footballers, Sex, Money: What's Gone Wrong? (BBC3) seemed to take its cue from the famous story about late-career George Best drinking champagne in a hotel bed with Miss World and being plaintively asked by a room-service waiter: "Mr Best, where did it all go wrong?"

This was the question worrying fashion designer Amal Fashanu, whose parents divorced after her father, Wimbledon striker John, was caught playing away, and she spent an hour of television time trying to find an answer.

I could have saved her the trouble. When testosterone-fuelled young men with little educational or emotional grounding suddenly acquire bucket-loads of money and the female fan base that comes with footballing fame, there'll inevitably be bad behaviour and sex scandals. What more is there to be said?

I'm not sure what to say of London Spy (BBC2), which began last week as an enigmatic love story between two men but which this week took a distinct swerve into thriller territory.

Ben Whishaw plays the young man unconvinced that lover Alex has killed himself, an opinion confirmed by his older mentor and friend Scottie, arrestingly played by Jim Broadbent.

It's all very artily shot, and very slow, too, but the film-makers have conjured up a persuasive atmosphere of unease and uncertainty that makes you wonder what's going to happen next.

You wonder that all the time with Fargo (Channel 4), which this week continued to be ferociously unsettling, starting with a scene of slaughter in the Minnesota woods from which few of the combatants survived. Meanwhile, the hapless young couple's attempt to cover up a lethal hit-and-run is quickly unravelling. The first season of Fargo (which you'll find on Netflix) was the best drama of last winter, and this second season is even better, with characters you really care about, lots of very black humour and genuine thrills. I only hope that Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson survive the bloodletting, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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