Even Morse would struggle to figure out this muddled mess
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Even Morse would struggle to figure out this muddled mess
The Following Events Are Based On A Pack Of Lies
So Help Me Todd
Good luck making sense of this one, Morse. We’re in Oxford, and a crime has been committed… but whatever’s going on, it’s more confusing than a cryptic crossword in Chinese.
For the first ten minutes, The Following Events Are Based On A Pack Of Lies (BBC1) made me feel as though I was flicking through cable channels and finding nothing that caught my attention.
Multiple TV screens showed us a man in a black polo neck spouting about karma. A wannabe dress designer psyched herself up for an haute couture sales event. A beer-sodden redneck American sat grouching outside his caravan.
Gradually, the focus settled on Alice (Rebekah Staton), the dressmaker, who spotted a man she recognised as they both talked on their phones in the street. At first they appeared to be calling each other — but that was misdirection, like almost everything else in this first of five episodes.
To cut a long and exasperating story short: Alice used to be married to this man, Rob (Alistair Petrie). He conned her and her parents out of all their money, and vanished. Now he claims to be a climate scientist, running a foundation to save the melting polar ice caps.
Alice used to be married to this man, Rob (Alistair Petrie, pictured). He conned her and her parents out of all their money, and vanished. Now he claims to be a climate scientist…
…In reality, Rob is still preying on gullible women, and has local author Cheryl (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) in his sights
In reality, he’s still preying on gullible women, and has local author Cheryl (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) in his sights. She seems to be falling for his self-deprecating charm and spiritual waffle, but abruptly drops him.
Pick of today’s TV
Ballroom to building site
DIY SOS Strictly Special, 9pm, BBC1
Nick Knowles and the team — plus an army of volunteers — get busy transforming a derelict building for a performing arts charity in North Tyneside. Strictly judge Anton Du Beke brings along pro dancers Katya Jones (pictured), Luba Mushtuk, Graziano Di Prima and Nancy Xu to add some sparkle to the building site as they get to know the young people who will reap the benefits when the new dance school opens its doors.
Secret Headquarters, 6.55pm, Film4
The lovable Owen Wilson is Jack, the dad whose son and friends find his hidden headquarters and discover that Jack is a superhero known as The Guard. With an evil weapons company after The Guard’s alien technology, the kids end up on save-the-world duties, and zany high jinks ensue.
The reason for this reversal isn’t clear, but nor is so much else. Why is conservationist Sir Ralph Unwin (Derek Jacobi) so smitten with Rob, when his ‘foundation’ is obviously a sham? And how does Rob stage a lavish lecture, with his face projected across an Oxford mansion, when he’s so penniless that he has to pedal round the city to promote the event, handing out flyers to students?
The setting, the criss-crossing secrets and the sense that Rob is making fresh enemies at every turn make all this feel like the set-up for an Endeavour mystery. But, so far, the only violence has involved a poodle called Goblin, kidnapped and then rescued after an implausible car chase.
The pity is that a well-told tale about a con artist, breaking his victims’ hearts as he empties their bank accounts, would be welcome. It’s a crime that has become shockingly common, as social media makes it easier for swindlers to invent new identities.
But this attempt by sisters Penelope and Ginny Skinner is too muddled, too arty and too clever for its own good. DCI Thursday used to say much the same, of course, about his protege, young Sergeant Morse. This concoction falls far short of that standard.
The formulaic So Help Me Todd (Alibi) also crams a complex set-up into its opening episode, introducing us to deadbeat private detective Todd (Skylar Astin) and his mother, high-powered lawyer Margaret (Marcia Gay Harden). Huge amounts of family background are shovelled into the dialogue. When there’s no one else around, Todd has to talk out loud to himself as he explains the plot.
Marcia Gay Harden (right) plays high-powered lawyer Margaret in So Help Me Todd
Todd, played by Skylar Astin (left), is the deadbeat private detective at the centre of the show
It doesn’t help that Todd’s sleuthing talent is his ability to understand smartphone apps. He can spot clues hidden in TikTok videos and use burner phones as CCTV cameras — with the unlucky side-effect that this U.S. comedy-drama from last year is going to date very quickly.
The main problem is that Todd isn’t nearly as likeable as the writers think he is. Sulky, dishonest and lazy, he blames his mother for the fact he is, as the Americans say, a total loser. I’m, like, totally dumping him.
Impeccable taste of the night: Picking out props to furnish a 1920s art deco property on Selling Super Houses (Ch4), estate agents Colin and Mairead were treading ‘a very fine line between tacky and classy.’ They chose a giant cocktail glass and a nude statue. So classy.
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