The week on TV: Hollington Drive; Come and dance strictly; RuPaul Drag Race in UK; Do not exclude me | Television
Hollington Drive (ITV) | ITV Center
Come dance strictly (BBC One) | iPlayer
RuPaul Drag Race in UK (BBC One) | iPlayer
Don’t exclude me (BBC Two) | iPlayer
There were times I wasn’t sure what to do with Hollington Drive, the new four-part psychological thriller from ITV by Sophie Petzal (Some blood), starring Anna Maxwell Martin and Rachael Stirling as sisters living next to each other in a lavish cul-de-sac. At the start of the first episode, the well-heeled characters gather for a barbecue of burgers, firecrackers and blissful lifestyle (open kitchen: check; vast garden: check). This is one of those where one might wonder what terrible thing could happen in such a bourgeois romance – is a rag going to be revealed as from Primark?
It quickly becomes clear that the tranquil setting is only here to be interrupted, and that the lead agent will be Theresa (Maxwell Martin). A nervous and discordant presence from the start, she is assailed by flashbacks, ranging from the dreamy (an aerial photo of her lying in a rowing boat) to the disturbing (the hand of an assailant on her mouth). When her son and 10-year-old niece (Fraser Holmes and Amelie Bea Smith) return late from the nearby playground, she finds them miles away in the woods, bickering and hiding something in a trash can. Then a local child is reported missing.
At the risk of spreading spoilers like Halloween candy, Theresa has reason (warped reasons, but still reasons) to suspect that her child might be guilty of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Helen (Stirling) has her own secrets and isn’t shy about chatting about her sister’s wedding behind her back: “I thought she looked miserable – do you think they’ll be leaving the reader ?” In some ways, Hollington Drive is confusing and frustrating, and Stirling, so far, seems underemployed. There is a real sense of underlying threat, however, and Maxwell Martin is formidable – a study in a pinch of concern that’s a world away from his comic book. MotherEarth character. What an adaptable and compelling actress she is. At the end of the opening episode, I found myself meditating on some demon seeds, The turn of the screw and the miserable airlessness of dysfunctional families.
Will I die like I lived, lying on my couch watching Come dance strictly? Wouldn’t this be the most uniquely British death of all time? Found, staring straight ahead, clawlike hands holding a sparkling ball. “She overdosed on glitter.” “She started looking at it as a meta-joke about the heartwarming lameness of Saturday night TV and was sucked too deeply.” “A woman suffers a heart attack after watching Olympic swimming champion Adam Peaty industriously turn his groin against professional dancer Katya Jones in the 2021 series and remember that sex exists.”
Nineteen series in, Strictly isn’t exactly the opiate of the masses, but it’s still a decent slug of light entertainment foam. There are the judges, lined up like glittering voodoo dolls. Presenters Tess Daly (Style Palette: Resentful Bridesmaid, 1973) and beautifully masquerade Claudia Winkleman. In place of the eerily empty studio of the peak pandemic Strictly, there are a handful of socially distant tables with supportive parents. Did Emma Thompson cause a stir on the A List by cheering on her husband Greg Wise? From now on, stay home, Ms. Thompson – you’re upsetting the show’s carefully calibrated celebrity eco-tally.
This season presents the first deaf competitor, EastEnders‘Rose Ayling-Ellis (impressive). Also the first all-male couple, famous baker John Whaite and professional Johannes Radebe. Did this last coupling tear the very fabric of society? No, they’re just great. For “unnatural appearance” you should turn to the BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker (maybe the first to go?), who hangs out on the dance floor like rats gnaw at his kneecaps. Over the years, Strictly became the equivalent of a national television anthem. Like that other Saturday night Goliath The X factor, he can be shot, but only by the indifference of the spectator.
Will they ever stop producing the various incarnations of RuPaul’s Drag Race? It must be the most efficient television format in the neighborhood. I’m a huge fan, but even I feel like I’ve barely stopped watching Drag Race All Star 6 on Netflix, and already the third series of RuPaul Drag’s Race United Kingdom is upon us.
That said, the British BBC spin-off is fast becoming the crown jewel of the franchise: fresher, more scruffy, more punk than the flagship version of the United States, which too often borders on the showcase of the franchise. established queens rustling stiffly in expensive dresses. The British lot is trickier but funnier. I still laugh at the entry line of Choriza May: “Don’t hate me for being beautiful; hate me because I’m an immigrant.
In this series, they welcome the very first cis-female / lesbian queen, Victoria Scone, but otherwise it’s racing as usual: challenges, innuendos, snark, lip-syncs, chivvying from the judges, including Michelle Visage. and Graham Norton. The make-up room is where all the emotional stories pour in, sometimes forcibly, other times too tenderly real: River Medway’s mother recently passed away from Covid. RuPaul is an undisputed phenomenon, the transgressive Willy Wonka of his generation, but he must protect his brand from excess. Drag fatigue isn’t a thing yet, but at this rate, it could be.
As if to berate those who berated teachers during the lockdown, the BBC Two documentary Don’t exclude me reminds us how difficult it is to teach. Before the pandemic, permanent exclusions were on the increase, with nearly 30,000 primary-age children benefiting from fixed-term exclusions in 2018-19, and 500 children permanently excluded before their eighth birthday. Enter Marie Gentles, with a decade of experience as the leader of a student guidance unit, who visits Milton Hill Primary School in Southend, Essex, to help stop the flow of exclusions.
It seems far from easy to deal with struggling students known to punch, kick, throw furniture, and scare other children. Gentles refuses to write them off, sticking to his credo that exclusions leave vulnerable children rejected and angry, which then becomes their identity. In the first of these two parts, she and the staff at Milton Hill use her techniques (Calm, Containment, Praise, Validation, and Consequences) to turn things around in a fascinating and humbling way to watch. Anyone who watches who does not walk away with deep respect for educators has a solid soul.
What else am I looking at
A hit horror thriller series and the first Korean offering to reach number 1 on Netflix. Desperate competitors are drawn into survival challenges where defeat means death. Think: even hungrier games.
28 Up: Millennial Generation
From the same team as that of the late Michael Apted Seven !, this documentary series follows seven-year-olds at the turn of the millennium. Now 28, they are considered to embrace everything from hosting radio shows to moving to Australia.
Actually sex with Alice Levine
Continuing his examination of British sexual mores, Levine explores BDSM (bondage, domination and sadomasochism) and meets a professional dominatrix. Everything you ever wanted to know about ultra-eroticized / monetized Britain, but maybe were afraid to ask rightly.