Monday 27 January 2020

What to watch: Television - the best of the box this week

A Touch of Cloth III: Too Cloth for Comfort
Saturday + Sunday, 9pm, Sky 1

The Sopranos
The Sopranos

You can't move on British TV for cop shows. Some of them are superb (Luther being one, plus I confess a soft spot based entirely on nostalgia for the occasional repeat of The Bill on one of the channels), but a large percentage of them are identikit procedurals.

Their repetitive and predictable nature - murder mystery investigated by a gruff detective with a tortured past - makes them ripe for parody and that's exactly what writer Charlie Brooker (yes, that one) goes for with A Touch of Cloth, a comedy that has as much admiration for the genre it's lampooning as it does disdain.

John Hannah stars as DCI Jack Cloth, who spent the first two series coming to terms with his wife's murder; this time out he barely remembers her name, only to be hit with the news that his brother Terry (also played by Hannah, wigged and bearded) has been killed. They weren't close, we learn, but, you know, it still hurts. So begins the investigation, and Cloth has to rely once again on his formidable investigators to solve the crime. There's his number two, DI Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones, brilliant casting seeing as she's the star of her own police drama Scott & Bailey). Oldman is nursing a broken heart and has developed a drinking problem. Then there's stats man DC Asap Qureshi, forensic expert Natasha and newcomer Kerry Newblood, played by the ubiquitous Karen Gillan. Following the clues, Cloth and his team are led to a quaint English town in which resides a bizarre rehab/spa treatment centre that may or may not be harbouring a terrifying secret.

Wordplay and slapstick are the order of the day in A Touch of Cloth; Brooker and co can only have spent endless hours coming up with as many cloth-based puns as they could. "You're coming apart at the seams, Cloth," warns one concerned colleague; later on under threat of betrayal by his seniors, Oldman tells them: "You can't hang Cloth out to dry!" It sounds juvenile (and it is), but combine lines like those with deadpan delivery and you've got a superb comedy that's probably even more clever than one realises. Often you might spot a gag within a gag, or a subtle pop culture reference that one in 100 viewers might pick up on. Word is that this is the final series so there's one last chance to join in the fun - and fun it is. The entire cast play it painfully straight but you just know they're all having the time of their lives sending up a genre that basically all British actors have been a part of during their career. It's an institution.

Stream it

The Sopranos

Seasons 1 - 6 available on Sky On Demand

The Sopranos has been available in its entirety for some time now, but in case you missed it, consider this your formal notice: the single greatest television series of them all is ready for streaming. Rewatching the series in its entirety is given extra poignancy following the sudden death of James Gandolfini last year. Fans of the series felt like they had lost a friend, and it's debatable whether we'll see a dramatic television performance of his calibre ever again. There are simply not enough good things that can be said about The Sopranos; the labyrinthine plot arcs, complex and startling performances as well as moving, magnificent use of metaphors and symbolism, they all came together over six series for flawless drama. Whether you've seen it all before or especially if you've never gotten involved - you know what to do.

Record it

Gomorrah

Monday, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

This summer, Game of Thrones is the only currently running drama series that can claim Champions' League status, so it's time to look a little further afield. Gomorrah has arrived on Sky Atlantic from Italy (of all places) with critical acclaim and one eye on the crime drama market. Based on the novel by Roberto Saviano (which was adapted in to a film in 2008), Gomorrah is set in Naples among the ruthless organised crime syndicates, told through the eyes of the foot soldiers and bosses who operate around and above the law. The first episode was gritty, violent and, given Italy's status as not-exactly purveyors of global TV exports, surprisingly polished. There's still time to get in on the ground floor - you never know, it could be the next big thing.

Watch it

Amazing Spaces: Shed of the Year

Tonight, 8pm, Channel 4

Like The Great British Bake Off last week, there's a certain retro charm about a show dedicated entirely to that most genteel of venues, the shed, that makes it irresistible. And if that great bastion of public opinion, Twitter, is anything to go by, this three-part series is unmissable viewing. So then, with the grand final taking place tonight, you can still get involved and say 'I was there'. These are no DIY sheds - the finalists include an upside down boat shed and a Dad's Army-themed shed.

Irish Independent

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