Tuesday 12 December 2017

It's a wrong move as the King tries to take the White Queen

John Boland

The White Queen, which began its 10-part run on BBC One this week, is a quasi-historical drama like Game of Thrones – minus the compelling characters, extravagant bloodshed and in-your-face sex and minus, too, the visual splendour and addictive energy of the Sky Atlantic series.

So no, it's not like Game of Thrones at all, more like The Tudors, though with even clunkier dialogue. "I'm as lucky in battle as I am in love," new king Edward informs commoner Elizabeth as he eyes her up and down in her figure-hugging linen dress. Liz, though, has a problem as Ed's army had previously butchered her hubby, leaving her to bring up two young boys with no money.

Ed, she reckons, is her passport out of penury and as he's plainly gagging for her the future looks as rosy as can be during the War of the Roses, when the Yorks (Ed's crowd) are pitted against the Lancasters (Liz's lot) and history is in the making.

Actually, I'm a bit hazy about the War of the Roses and thus can't vouch for the historical accuracy of this £25m (€29m) drama, which is based on a series of novels by Philippa Gregory. Not accurate at all, according to some scholars, as if that mattered when the BBC is trying to snare a massive Downton Abbey-type audience who it hopes will thrill to escapades that, in truth, aren't thrilling at all.

Least thrilling is the budding romance between Ed and Liz, and not just because Liz insists on preserving her virtue until she gets the royal ring on her finger. "Your grace, I cannot be your mistress," she priggishly protests as he lunges at her in the garden, and the course of true love runs even less smoothly when she threatens to cut her throat if he advances any further.

Matters aren't helped by a complete absence of chemistry between Max Irons and Rebecca Ferguson (no, not the X Factor runner-up), who are as pretty as bedamned but who are quite incapable of conveying even a faint semblance of passion.

Meanwhile, Max's dad, Jeremy, is back for a new season of The Borgias (Sky Atlantic), which is a good deal more fun than The White Queen, mainly because it pulls out all the stops in its chronicle of skullduggery and because Jeremy chews the scenery very entertainingly.

Dates (Channel 4), a series of half-hour dramas about seeking relationships through the internet, began brightly last week but got rather arch with this Tuesday's tale of a lesbian encounter, though it was persuasively played by Gemma Chan and Katie McGrath and was a fitting prelude to the same channel's How to Find Love Online.

This was fronted by Dawn O'Porter, who added the Irishism to her name when she married Chris O'Dowd and established her credentials here by declaring "I actually met my husband on Facebook".

And she proved an engaging guide to the possibilities and perils of internet dating, addressing such matters as choosing the right site (there are 8,000 worldwide), writing a good profile ("It's your sales pitch") and avoiding predators and scammers.

Regarding the latter, she interviewed an elderly woman called Mary, who'd become so besotted by her virtual suitor that he managed to extract £80,000 from her before vanishing into cyberspace when she finally rumbled his true intentions.

Other stories ended more happily (apparently 25pc of online-generated relationships prove to be lasting) and the chirpily upbeat programme also featured a variety of love-seekers, some of whom were frank and funny both about their expectations and about their views of themselves.

Anyway, I'll take chirpiness any time over manipulative mawkishness, which was the default setting for Long Lost Family, ITV's latest celebration of the redemptive power of television in reuniting people who've been driven apart by time and circumstance.

I was biased against this show even before I sat down to watch it, simply because it was being fronted by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell, whom I've long thought among the most repellent presenters of our time. But the programme itself, which documented two cases of enforced adoption and then made a great fanfare of bringing parent and child together, was so intent on the feelgood factor that the viewer couldn't help wishing to be elsewhere.

RTÉ One, meanwhile, was being all dutiful and conscientious, devoting its Monday night primetime slot to Right of Way, which concerned the hardships facing the physically handicapped if their mobility allowances are taken away from them.

Apparently, 5,000 claimants are concerned at these cutbacks, which were announced by the Government last February and are due to take effect in the coming few days. Some of these claimants were profiled in Right of Way, including car-crash victim Sharon, whose current allowance covers the cost of transport into Wexford for treatment.

You felt for her plight and for those of others featured in the programme, but you also wondered why the issue couldn't have been adequately covered as an item on Prime Time rather than occupy a full hour that merely kept repeating the same basic stories and the same basic complaint.

Irish Independent

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