McMafia returns to take on Trump’s America

McMafia is to return. After much agonising, the BBC One drama series, which ran at the start of last year, is to get a second series. But with some considerable changes. The story, initially based around a British-based, exiled Russian family whose son, played by the suave James Norton, was decidedly anglicised, is moving to the US. More than likely because the BBC’s co-funder, AMC, is American-based and wants its viewers to feel at home. There’s a new writer, too, in Paul Webb, best known for scripting the Hollywood movie Selma, about Martin Luther King. My main criticism of series one was that Norton, who made his name in the ITV drama Grantchester and is soon to be seen as Stephen Ward in a new Beeb drama about Christine Keeler, was too anodyne a character. Intriguingly, I gather that Norton has been given script approval over his role as the banker. Hope it will mean more pizzazz.

Talking of Grantchester, James Runcie, author of the mysteries on which the TV series was based, is to give up his role as commissioning editor of arts at Radio 4. He wants to return to full-time writing. How about a biography of his remarkable parents - Robert, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who fell out with Margaret Thatcher, and Rosalind, a professional concert pianist who restored the gardens at Lambeth Palace.

What a rip-off. At up to £28.50 for entry, the Saatchi Gallery’s Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh is decidedly not worth its weight in gold. It’s an exhibition of bling and blah and, to boot, the priciest in Britain. The queues are there because Charles Saatchi, who owns the Chelsea-based gallery, knows all about hype.

Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery.
Worth the price of admission? Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery. Photograph: PinPep/Rex/Shutterstock

It’s not really an exhibition, despite there being exhibits, but more like a show, which could almost have been staged in a West End theatre. No surprise, then, to find out that it’s co-produced by the huge American media company IMG, best known for staging sports events as well as Miss Universe. Visitors must first enter a cinema area, where, on a wrap-around screen, they see a film about the young king’s life, rather confusingly mixed with the famous tomb excavation. Then, always accompanied by intrusive music, you walk along narrow, crowded corridors to see the objects, some of which, I’ll admit, ain’t that bad. At the end is the Tut mummy. But be warned - it’s fake. Filthy lucre is the only winner here.

There are also high prices (£18 to £20) at the National Gallery for its Leonardo experience. Yet visitors spend only a quarter of an hour – that’s more than £1 per minute – in smallish rooms in which they “imagine” life 500 years ago when he was painting. Best to spend your money on the National’s current Gauguin Portraits show, which is terrific.

Brent, London’s borough of culture next year, has announced some of its programming. It includes the first play by Zadie Smith – The Wife of Willesden, a riff on Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath, to be staged at the Kiln theatre. I hope the organisers can also persuade the appropriately named National Theatre of Brent (aka Patrick Barlow and Jim Broadbent) to take to the boards again.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting