Friday

Requiem

9pm, BBC One

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It’s unsettling when BBC One launches a new drama on a Friday night. This is the time, surely, for those fun panel shows, and the delicate whiff of Mrs Brown’s Boys. When a six-part serial comes on all moody in the slot, you have to wonder, what are they up to? Are they trying something new, and want to give it a special window? Or are they trying to sneak it out while nobody’s really looking, so they can get it over with before anyone notices?

As it is, Requiem is a welcome attempt, if not a wholly successful one, at doing something we don’t see often in a BBC series these days: a modern ghost story, complete with supernatural shivers, eerie-breathy oooooh-oooooooh-looo-la-la music, an old dark house full of bumps in the night, and lots of disembodied breathing that suggests Satan’s asthma is playing up again.

Written by Kris Mrksa, the story begins with a couple of eerily blank suicides, mounted in a way that suggest he was badly scarred by The Omen as a child. From here, focus shifts to our heroine, Matilda Gray (Lydia Wilson), a rising young cellist in London. Along with her pianist, Hal (Joel Fry) – who, as well as being her friend and musical partner, is probably in love with her – she’s on the verge of great success, with the offer of a year-long booking in New York. But she has a fragile side, troubles she tries to bury in one-night stands, and when a bloody family tragedy strikes, she’s left distraught.

In particular, she’s left fixating on a shoebox filled with scraps: old cuttings and photographs relating to the disappearance of a little girl from a village in Wales 24 years earlier. Hoping that indulging her obsession might banish it, Hal agrees to travel with her to Wales, to try and discover more about that missing girl. But when they arrive, Matilda discovers that this place she has never visited before is stirring strange memories. Especially the old country house on the edge of the town.

For the last best example of this kind of thing I can remember, we have to look back to 2014, when Michael Palin starred in the Yorkshire-set haunted-house tale Remember Me, a series that excelled when it kept things small, quiet and simple. Requiem isn’t as effective, largely because it doesn’t. It’s good at putting the mystery in place: the isolated village has a sullen we don’ be takin’ to strangers roun’ these parts feel; the forests that surround it brood; and the clanks and groans on the soundtrack can be genuinely unsettling. There’s a very, very faint echo of the BBC classic The Stone Tape when they get into the basement of that old house, and discover a vintage reel-to-reel machine and an archive of creepy recordings.

But, while it pays attention to the landscape, the show doesn’t have that deep, odd feeling

that the best British horrors always do, of

having grown out of it, and after two episodes I was getting dismayed at the prospect of another four. There’s enough going on to warrant another look, and Wilson and Fry make a charming investigator team. But there’s only so much monstrous grunting, locked rooms, and broken mirrors dangling Blair-Witch-style from trees you can sit through before it begins to feel, well, daft, and already there was an air of padding. If it makes you feel like a binge, though, you can fill your haunted boots, as the entire series will be available on iPlayer after episode one goes out.

Sunday

Machines

10pm, BBC Four

For this extraordinary documentary, director Rahul Jain sets his camera moving through the oily interior of a huge, increasingly nightmarish textile factory in India’s Gujarat region. Travelling the endless, clanking, banging system of dingy machinery, Jain’s film takes a fly-on-the-wing approach. There’s no narration: the only voices we hear are those of the workers who labour 12-hour shifts in the poisonous environment to serve the machines, for just over £2 per day – and of one of their bosses, sitting far removed in an office, earning considerably more. But while there is no voiceover, the political point, about repression and exploitation, is eloquently made, and just as eloquently confronted by the workers themselves, who challenge Jain’s intentions: “Why have you come here? People just come here, look at our problems, and leave.” Ultimately, it’s the haunting sensory impact of the film you remember most. The factory is like some monstrous Dickensian sci-fi set, harsh, hard and grey, save for sudden bright splashes of dye – toxic chemicals young workers stir with bare hands.

Monday

Two Doors Down

10pm, BBC Two

Hottish on the heels of the Christmas special, the sitcom of life in a suburban sitting room somewhere in the vicinity of Glasgow returns for a full third series, with another (almost) seasonal episode: as Cathy (Doon Mackichan) puts it, “Happy Burns Day!” In honour of the Bard, Beth (Arabella Weir) and Eric (Alex Norton) have invited the neighbours over and invested in a big, traditionally sourced haggis to feed them all, along with a tiny wee veggie one for Gordon. With lashings of mashed tatties, neeps and whisky, and Eric itching to deliver the Address To A Haggis (even though no-one is itching to hear it), the stage is set for a night of togetherness. And to top it all, there’s the newly redecorated downstairs toilet to enjoy. But, following her visit to see her daughter in Wales, Christine (Elaine C Smith) isn’t in the best of moods. And then Colin (Jonathan Watson) has to start going on about his ex. The cast keeps it pinging along, and, as ever, Mackichan is a blast.

Tuesday

Inside No 9

10pm, BBC Two

It’s a measure of how strong this series has been that tonight’s is the weakest of the batch so far. Previous episodes have either been audaciously playful in form – riffing relentlessly on Shakespeare, or running a maniacal plot backwards – or deeply affecting. Last week’s, which began as an awkward little portrait of a stalled suburban marriage, then became something else, started in a surprising place and pulled off one of the most dankly memorable twists Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith have come up with. Meanwhile, in conception and execution, the “Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room” play was one of the three greatest episodes they’ve ever made. This week’s programme takes us inside the jury room of some BAFTA-type organisation, as TV industry types – a writer, a director, two actors and a journalist, joined by a token member of the public – gather to vote on the year’s Best Actress award. It’s a knowing exercise in catty dialogue and insider gags, but a step down from the impact of recent weeks. Only the best thing on TV tonight, then.

Wednesday

Gomorrah, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

The Prime Of Dame Muriel Spark, 9pm, BBC Two

The conclusion of Gomorrah’s second series was so grimly terminal that fans might have assumed the drama – an exploration of organised crime in present-day Italy, as represented by Naples’s mafia-like Camorra – had reached its natural endpoint. But as the simmering crime saga returns for a third chapter, it’s as mesmerising as ever. As we begin, the show takes a half-step backwards in time: following his failed little war, local crimelord Don Pietro Savastano has just been killed, and his soldiers are scrambling to find the missing shooter, Ciro (Marco D’Amore), aka “The Immortal.” A bleak, bruising modern take on a very old-school tale of rivalry and betrayal, it’s twisting, gripping as hell and immaculately filmed. For a different kind of masterclass in storytelling, look out for Kirsty Wark’s BBC Two documentary on Muriel Spark, marking the author’s centenary with contributions from Spark’s biographer Alan Taylor and friend Penelope Jardine.

Thursday

Britannia

9pm, Sky Atlantic

Amid all the mushroomy visions, the underworld black magic, and my own recurring nightmare that Donovan is going to come skipping through the grey and misty forests strumming a lyre, wearing a cape, and trilling a song declaring himself king of the elves, greater than all the other elves, the most genuinely eerie and thrilling experience I’ve had watching the last couple of blood-soaked episodes of Britannia was realising they were directed by none other than Grange Hill/EastEnders legend Susan Tully. That’s some real weird British folklore right there. Having had ace druid face Vernan (Mackenzie Crook) sitting on top of him rubbing up and down, Big Aulus Plautius (David Morrissey) has been reborn and looks mightily pleased with himself. Meanwhile, little Cait (Eleanor Worthington Cox), who might be Boudica, has discovered her father is being held in the Roman camp. But freeing him will require the wizardly help of Divis (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who has other things on his mind.

Saturday

Spiral

9pm, BBC Four

The bad news: tonight is the final double bill of this series. The better news: it’s terrific. And the even better news: filming has just started in France on the next series, the seventh – and probably the last, but we can cry over that later. In the meantime, the question is who is going to make it through to that, and in what state. Drissa Camara is confident he has Gilou in his pocket, but when Camara is betrayed he’s forced to call on the cop’s help, and Laure’s unit sees a way of breaking the case open. But there are fractures in the team, as Tintin, sick of the atmosphere of sneaking secrets and lies, begins putting two and two together. Elsewhere, having made enemies and lost friends across the entire justice system, Josephine finds herself in a lonely place when recent actions come back to bite her. Meanwhile, the president of the courts orders Judge Roban to submit himself to a full medical examination.

THE BEST OF CATCH UP

For anyone who ever followed The Fall – or The Mighty Fall, as the group’s greatest booster, John Peel, always preferred – the ocean of words, images, ideas, riddles, gags, cats, rhythms and noises Mark E Smith conjured up and set loose is always roiling around somewhere. But news of Smith’s death this week smashed open the dam, and it came flooding out.

Amid the torrent, I got to thinking about some of his interactions with television over the years. The always awkward interviews. The time Newsnight asked him to pay tribute to Peel following the latter’s death, and in response Smith asked Gavin Esler if he was the new replacement DJ. Smith reading the football results. Smith playing Jesus in Ideal: “I can use any word I want, actually, pal, alright?”

Mostly, though, the performances: The Fall sounding like nothing else churning out “Lay Of The Land” in the shadows behind Michael Clark’s dancers on the Whistle Test in 1983; The Fall looking and sounding like the best thing on the planet doing “Cruiser’s Creek” on The Tube two years later; The Fall at full happy barking pelt, Brix whirling on her giant hamburger, in fantastic footage from the I Am Kurious Oranj rehearsals broadcast in 1988; The Fall refusing to join in the opening we’re-all-pals playalong on Later in 2005, answering some Robert Plant mimsy with a pile-driving “Blindness,” then walking off.

Since it slunk out from Manchester in 1976, The Fall did rumbling garage-rockabilly, wiry drone, chants and inductions, industrial grinding, deep occult strangeness, pure pop, dance-inflected beats and ballet, sometimes all at once. By the end, The Fall was deep in the garage again. Yet The Fall was always The Fall, because The Fall was Smith: the nag, shout, scowl and scold of his voice, the penetratingly skewed vision of his sinisterly bent writing. No cliché.

Given this, it’s a huge compliment to BBC Four’s 2005 documentary The Wonderful And Frightening World Of Mark E Smith that it almost managed to touch the sides. (The BBC will surely repeat it soon; in the meantime, the bootleg is on Youtube.)

As the voices in the film – including people who had been in The Fall, people who tried to manage The Fall, people who wrote about The Fall and people who followed The Fall, with a tired Peel, and a great contribution from Stewart Lee – made clear, opinions on Smith ranged from his being one of the UK’s great visionaries, to his being a grouching, incoherent drunk, to his being something like a cackling Satan.

That latter view was often held by people who’d worked with him. One of the most jaw-dropping moments in the documentary is footage of the notorious night in Chicago, when Smith’s band actually attacked him on stage. For anyone with no experience of The Fall, the documentary will be entirely incomprehensible. For anyone who loved The Fall, watching it again this week will be pretty incomprehensible too, in an entirely different way.