Alison Rowat's TV review: Shetland; Van der Valk; Football Dreams: The Academy; Good Grief with Rev Richard Coles

Douglas Henshall plays DI Jimmy Perez in Shetland. ITV Studios, Mark Mainz
Douglas Henshall plays DI Jimmy Perez in Shetland. ITV Studios, Mark Mainz

SO fare thee well Jimmy Perez, going but not yet gone from Shetland (BBC1, Wednesday). It has been nine years and six series and we have yet to see you wearing the regulation bobble hat that surely comes with the terrain.

We have watched as you nursed your widower’s grief, and hoped that you would one day find love again. In truth, you’ve been a miserable beggar. You will be missed, though. Before ye go there is another moderately convoluted mystery to solve, or two if you count what might happen after your departure (of which more later).

As the new series opened the fallout from Donna Killick’s death was continuing, with Duncan (Mark Bonnar) in the pokey and Perez (Douglas Henshall) facing a tribunal to save his job. It had been a traumatic time and naturally Perez and Tosh (Alison O’Donnell), his colleague and pal, were keen to talk it out.

“So how was the tribunal?” asked Tosh.

“S****,” said Perez.

That was it. Everything said that needed to be said. How quintessentially Scottish.

The pair were soon busy with the case of a missing twentysomething, Connor, who had vanished shortly after the publication of his graphic novel, Wulver (half man, half wolf to me and you). Either someone really did not like graphic novels, which we would all understand, or the family’s mainland past had come back to bite it on the backside.

While Perez was suspended, multi-tasking Tosh had been acting DI and given birth to a baby. Alison O’Donnell has made what could have been just another sidekick into a fascinating character in her own right. Now she has what every good TV detective needs: a great face to go with her hidden depths.

The powers that be are crazy if they don’t hand her the lead when Henshall goes.

From Shetland to the Netherlands and the return of Van der Valk (STV, Sunday) for a second series. This reboot of Nicolas Freeling’s novels continues to be a mystery. The bit with Marc Warren as the Amsterdam detective is cool, moody and nicely left field. But existing alongside that is a run of the mill crime drama that leans heavily on cliches. This episode, for instance, featured a serial killer who ended his reign of mayhem by explaining everything at great length. Warren remains the best thing in the show, but wading through two hours for a few choice moments with him is asking a lot.

Is there a market for a light-hearted way of looking at grief? If so, Good Grief with Reverend Richard Coles (Channel 4, Monday) was out to satisfy it. The reverend embarked on a “grief adventure” that found him trying all sorts of ways to deal with loss, including surfing, boxing, and going on a luxury cruise.

Coles had a tricky balance to strike between informing and entertaining, being serious enough about the subject while not delivering a massive downer to viewers who might be only too familiar with grief. I mean, death and loss. Who needs that on a Monday evening?

If it had been anyone else they would have struggled, but Coles, whose husband died in 2019, had the necessary qualifications. He understood the desire to move on while feeling disloyal for doing so. If some of the advice seemed obvious – “switching off” through exercise, etc – it was still worth passing on.

Football Dreams: The Academy (Channel 4, Thursday) was a sort of Fame but with trackie bottoms and £160 a pop boots instead of leotards and leg warmers. Filmed over a year at the Crystal Palace Football Academy in London, the cameras followed “a group of boys dreaming of football stardom”, or to be precise, a handful of two-year contracts.

You could understand why the 8-18 year old lads (and they were all lads, rather missing the mood of the moment) had stars in their eyes. One wanted to buy his mum a bungalow. You could understand, too, why their proud parents cheered them on. But the chances of success were obviously and alarmingly small.

The filmmakers did not shy away from that fact. They also used the competition for contracts as a way of generating drama. With five episodes to go it is inevitable that some dreams will be shattered, and the cameras will be there to watch. It’s all part of the game, be it making documentaries or playing football.

“There’s something uniquely British about how much we love a farm shop,” said Patricia Hodge, sounding like Margo from The Good Life at the start of Britain’s Poshest Farm Shop (Channel 5, Friday).

Yes, it was free publicity for some already well-to-do folk. It was also slyly subversive, as when yet another spiel about what a happy life the livestock had ended with a shot of a meat counter. We’re all chopped liver in the end.