Alison Rowat's TV reviews: The Elon Musk Show; Maxine; TS Eliot, Into the Waste Land; Ghosts
The Elon Musk Show (BBC2, Wednesday) sounded like a jazzy new quiz (win a rocket instead of a speedboat) rather than a three-part documentary about the billionaire tech entrepreneur.
But then I remembered what Dean Martin said about Sinatra: “It’s Frank’s world, we just live in it.” When you are the world’s richest man the show is wherever you are. The rest of us can only watch from the cheap seats.
Is Musk a hero or villain, a visionary who holds the key to humankind’s survival, or a dangerously naive geek meddling where he doesn’t belong (China-Taiwan relations anyone?).
The quest for answers began in promising style with Talulah Riley, Musk’s second (and third) wife, telling us of their early dating days when the “very sweet” Elon asked her back to his hotel room “to look at rocket videos”. She was sceptical but he was as good as his word.
The tale continued on two fronts, personal and business, the reasoning being, correctly, that you cannot separate one from the other. Musk may be brilliant but lots of smart people have ideas. It takes a certain character to turn an idea into a business, and a few dollars into billions.
Musk caught the media’s attention early on, so there was plenty of footage of the young, fresh-faced South African and his brother Kimbal beginning a tech start-up with nothing but $100,000 of student debt to their name. Their software made a mint, and the next idea was a little concern called PayPal. Musk was on his way.
We heard from family – “From the age of three I thought he was a genius” said mum, who looks a character in her own right – colleagues, investors and acquaintances.
Revealing as the contributions were, it says something about Musk that by the end of the first episode he seemed as much an enigma as he had at the start.
Still, this was a deeper dig than expected, one with a sense of humour to boot, which bodes well for the next two instalments.
Maxine (Channel 5, Monday-Wednesday), a drama about the Soham murders, was an offer only too easy to refuse. You can hardly blame viewers for not wanting to spend three nights revisiting that dreadful summer of 2002. I’m amazed any actors would even want the roles of Huntley and Carr (played here by Scott Reid and Jemma Carlton). With some crimes it is always going to be “too soon”.
It helped that Carlton did not share the distinctive looks of Carr beyond that short auburn bob. More importantly, the drama was careful to keep its gaze on Carr and Huntley and away from the victims and their families. As the viewer saw, the media of the time were only too quick to exploit the tragedy, and the danger of repeating history was obvious.
Carr was portrayed as a more complex character than she appeared at the time. Whether she deserved those shades of grey is another matter. Sooner or later, the drama was going to have to come down on one side or the other. Did she know he was guilty?
I’m not sure it gave a clear answer on that, and maybe that was the point. With a lifelong anonymity order granted to Carr we may never know the precise truth. But if this drama is any guide she wasn’t much of a mystery, or certainly not one that took three hours to unravel.
TS Eliot: Into The Waste Land (BBC2, Thursday) was the place to go this week for beauty and cheer. What do you mean, “that misery fest”?
It was from Arena, makers of the recent film on Ulysses, so you knew it would scrub up well. Sure enough, the staging was gorgeous, the talking heads were at the absolute top of their game, and you left feeling more enlightened than when you arrived.
Though Eliot always insisted there was nothing autobiographical in the poem, recently unsealed letters show that was far from the case. When the dust settled – and goodness there was quite a storm – the women in the tale were cast aside while Eliot won the Nobel prize for literature. Feel free to roll those eyes, ladies.
Ghosts (BBC1, Friday) can always be relied upon for a laugh, the cheaper the funnier. This week it also sent bottom lips quivering by giving centre stage to Mary (Katy Wix) the poor peasant woman who had been wrongly accused and burned alive. Pat’s attempt to comfort Kitty with tales of the afterlife was a joy to behold, and the gags, including a particularly naughty one, kept on coming. For all the epic silliness, this 30-minute sitcom offered more insight into loss and grief than any number of supposedly learned works.
Shine on, Mary darling, shine on.