Thursday 22 March 2018

Television: It's hard to Fall for the third season of this crime series

John Boland

Cat-and-mouse: Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan in The Fall
Cat-and-mouse: Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan in The Fall

So why didn't serial killer Paul Spector die of the gunshot wounds he incurred at the end of The Fall's second season? Silly question - there would have been no third season.

But why is there a third season (RTÉ1/BBC1)? Hadn't we had enough of this glum-faced family man and his murderous woman-hating other life by the time he got shot? What more did we need to know about him or about his cat-and-mouse games with detective Stella Gibson?

Quite a lot, evidently, because here we were again, the new season spending almost its entire opening episode in a Belfast hospital as a medical team tried to save Spector's life and Gibson paced the corridors like a distraught lover fearful that her man might die.

This was all rather brilliantly filmed and edited, the operating theatre awash with gore as doctors tried to remove Spector's spleen, and there was a career-making turn by Richard Coyle as the no-nonsense medic in charge, but it all belonged to a different series - 24 Hours in A&E, perhaps, or one of those blood-drenched docs about emergency surgery.

And beyond the hospital's confines, matters were less persuasive. Gibson asked a policewoman to get her a change of outfit from her hotel room, and this was followed by a scene of the policewoman going to the hotel room and getting the clothes. What was that about?

Meanwhile tedious teenager Katie, still hopelessly in love with Spector, was plotting his escape, though a final cliffhanger scene suggested that he might just get up from his life-support bed himself, strangle the attending nurse, and vanish into the Belfast night. Well, something has to happen, if only to justify the next few episodes.

It's unclear what will happen in National Treasure (Channel 4), whose second episode was less compelling than the first, partly because it sidelined Robbie Coltrane's central character, Paul Finchley, in favour of his troubled daughter, Dee, as she tried to recall whether she had suffered childhood abuse from her father or had witnessed his predations.

Matters weren't helped by flashback scenes in which the actor playing a younger Paul looked nothing like Coltrane, but there was a more general sense of the drama's urgency being lessened, though Coltrane was his usual arresting self and Julie Walters worked subtle wonders as wife Marie, whose dogged loyalty seemed increasingly undermined by her own suspicions - and, indeed, by her own knowledge of, and perhaps complicity in, his past behaviour.

The currently ubiquitous Keelin Shanley has now taken over the presenting of CrimeCall (RTÉ1), replacing not just Gráinne Seoige but Philip Boucher-Hayes as well. The message in a cost-cutting RTÉ seems to be that you don't need two presenters when you've got Keelin, and with that in mind, I look forward to her solo hosting of the RTÉ1 afternoon show (goodbye Maura and Daithí) and of the teatime news (farewell Bryan and Sharon). Needless to say, she handled CrimeCall with her usual authority, alertness and lack of fuss, and indeed it was hard not to wonder why this show had ever needed two presenters.

I'll withhold comment on Gogglebox Ireland (TV3) until I've seen a few more instalments, by which time I'll have become familiar with the quirks of the various couch potatoes, but though Cavan twins Fergal and Neal seem promising, nobody so far has registered as strongly as some of those in Channel 4's British version, especially the endearing Leon and June, the wacky Giles and Mary, and the droll Siddiqui father and sons.

Keith Richards took over the programming of BBC4 last weekend for Lost Weekend and a fine job he made of it, too, not just in his frequently droll reminiscences and observations, but also in the documentaries and feature film he selected.

I always liked Keith the best of the Stones, and I liked him even more for choosing Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past and John Huston's The Man Who Would be King. So not just a famous hell-raiser but someone of taste, too.

The third instalment of Can't Cope Won't Cope (RTE2), Stefanie Preissner's raucous comedy about two young Cork women behaving badly in Dublin, developed interestingly, with betrayal and humiliation among the ingredients added to the mix.

Once again Seána Kerslake commanded the screen as the nonchalantly amoral Aisling, but the prospect of her career disintegrating and the likelihood of her friendship with Danielle going down the drain added real substance to a series that hitherto seemed content to get by on implausible situations and easy laughs.

There were never any easy laughs in Fleabag (BBC2), which this week came to its six-episode end. Created, written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, this has been the year's best sitcom, though it's always been much more than that and never more so than in the final episode, its darkness only lightened at the very end.

There were brilliant cameos from Bill Paterson as Fleabag's weak and ineffectual father, Olivia Colman as her monstrous stepmother, Sian Clifford as her uptight sister and Hugh Dennis as her weird but sweet bank manager, but it was Waller-Bridge herself who held the whole thing together as the lonely, self-destructive and not always likeable main character.

A super series and, if you missed it, there'll be a DVD out any day now.

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