Alison Rowat's TV reviews: The Great British Sewing Bee; Grace; Navalny; Here We Go

·4-min read
Esme Young, Sara Pascoe, Patrick Grant, The Great British Sewing Bee. Love Productions, James Stack
Esme Young, Sara Pascoe, Patrick Grant, The Great British Sewing Bee. Love Productions, James Stack

SHOULD you ever tire of the cynicism out there in TV land, pay a visit to The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC1, Wednesday), returning this week for an eighth series.

On Sewing Bee the contestants help each other out, and the judges, Esme and Patrick, are always constructive and never unkind. New host Sara Pascoe could do with some work on her clothing related puns (“That’s a wrap … dress!”) but give it an episode or two and she’ll fit in seamlessly. All in, Sewing Bee makes Bake-Off look like a flan tin full of vipers.

It’s the mix of ages, occupations and backgrounds that makes Bee sing like a well-oiled sewing machine, with this year’s dozen contestants including a vet, a retired nurse, a pensions actuary and a molecular biologist. Representing Scotland, whether she wants to or not, is Brogan, a teacher from Edinburgh now living in Leicestershire. With a signature style that was bright, breezy and girly, Brogan coughed to being a “ruffle addict”. Aren’t we all? She’s one to look out for, as is the vet and the retired nurse.

Wholesome Bee was a welcome antidote to Grace (STV, Sunday), a police procedural drama that set up shop on the dark side. There was barely time for reintroductions (hello again John Simm, playing Detective Super Roy Grace), before the first body, a suspected chem sex overdose, was found in a Brighton flat. The next discovery was a woman’s corpse with its head missing. By eck it’s grim down south.

Have no fear as Grace was on the job. Grace, as you may remember from last year’s pilot, has a thing for mediums – not the size 12-14 crowd, but folk who claim they can speak to the dead. Bizarrely, his bosses have a problem with this, fearing it will cause a mistrial if it ever gets out, or some such politically correct nonsense. In short, Grace’s jacket is on the shoogliest of nails.

The story, involving the dark web and some seriously nasty material, was far fetched at times (would anyone really plug a memory stick found on the train into their computer?), but it rattled along and Simm can make any two hours fly by. It was a bit rich, mind, for Grace to deliver a closing sermon about the dangers of “death for entertainment” seeing as we had just watched a two hour crime drama. Good to see Craig Parkinson (Line of Duty’s “Dot” Cotton) back on his feet, this time playing a former vice cop rather than a bent copper.

Navalny (BBC2, Monday) was a Storyville portrait of the Russian opposition leader whose name Vladimir Putin cannot bring himself to even utter. It opened with the director asking Navalny, a lawyer by trade before he was a Kremlin-defying campaigner, to deliver a final message in the event he did not make it to the end of the film alive. That set the bleakly humorous tone from the off.

Navalny thought if he became high profile enough through his online show (30 million followers) it would afford him a degree of safety. Too famous to kill and all that. “I was very wrong,” he concedes. As the cameras follow him on his return to Moscow we see exactly how mistaken he was. With talking heads ranging from investigative reporters and Navaln’s family, this was the inside story of a poisoning plot exposed and a chilling look into the moral abyss that is Putin.

As one supporter says, Navalny is the symbol of Russian freedom – a dangerous position to occupy in perilous times.

Here We Go (BBC1, Friday) strolled into that well known danger zone, the wacky family sitcom territory. The Americans do this so well, with Modern Family, Arrested Development, and Schitt’s Creek to name a few. The UK had My Family. Enough said. I suppose Scotland had the Nesbitts, but that’s going back a bit.

On the plus side, Here We Go is written by and stars Tom Basden, Ricky Gervais’s local newspaper boss in After Life, the mum is played by Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd) and the mother-in-law (compulsory) is Alison Steadman. All dials set fair to good then, and pleased to say they pulled it off. Shot documentary style – the teenager in the household is filming his family as part of a modern studies project – the story was nicely daft, and any comedy that features a mistaken identity sub-plot involving dogs gets two furry thumbs up from me.

Enjoyed Martin Geissler’s interview with Steve Coogan (The Nine, Monday), a very funny man who sometimes takes himself too seriously. Geissler mentioned the launch of Piers Morgan’s new show that evening on TalkTV, asking if Coogan’s famous creation, Alan Partridge, would be a fan.

The Coogan lip duly curled, as Geissler knew it would. “Alan Partridge would love Piers Morgan. He’d think he was the apotheosis of good journalism.” Ah, it’s clearly love.

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