Thursday, 26 July 2012

Television Reviews: 27 July

If it’s detectives you seek, the original Wallander is a medal-winner says Michael Moran

Written by Michael Moran
There's no avoiding it any more. The Olympics is upon us. For the next two weeks, readers of The Lady with a predilection for watching assorted disciplines of physical excellence are pretty well covered for televisual entertainment. As the events are live, it's beyond my skill to predict much about these broadcasts.

I can't even reliably tell you whether the opening ceremony will be blessed with a balmy summer's eve or dampened by grim drizzle. Let's compromise and assume it will be overcast by 50 shades of grey cloud.

Whatever your level of sporting interest, Danny Boyle's Isles Of Wonder opening gala will be something to see, from 9pm this Friday (27 July). It will be broadcast live on BBC One and (if you are one of those technology addicts with a 3D television) on the BBC's 3D channel.

If, like me, you are the kind of technology addict who was always picked last for games, then don't overlook the TV catch-up services, which will be offering a slowly dwindling menu of nonsporting content throughout the fortnight. There's an exhaustive list of everything that's currently available on the iPlayer at

You can still find some examples of television doing what television does best. You just need to know where to look. Specifically, I suggest, on BBC Four. The moody Scandinavian detective is certainly one of the major TV trends of the past 12 months. And it all started with Wallander. You may be familiar with Henning Mankell's disillusioned, opera-loving detective from the British adaptations starring Kenneth Branagh. But Sidetracked, the original series (Sunday, 9pm on BBC Four), is the real undiluted moody Scandinavian detective. The first five minutes will have you superstitiously rolling the batteries around in the back of your remote control for fear that it's gone wrong and tuned into an old Ingmar Bergman film instead.

That feeling will only intensify when someone interrupts the incongruously spaghetti western music to speak and the subtitles kick in. The authentically Swedish Wallander doesn't look much like Kenneth Branagh at all. He's constructed more along 'Alan Rickman dressed as Peter Ustinov' lines. As is so often the case when it comes to Scandinavian detectives, things soon get harrowing. Then weird. Then harrowing again.

At one point, Wallander's forensic pathologist colleague confides: 'One thing strikes me as strange'. One thing? Wallander is one profoundly strange event after another – from a dervish-dancing axe murderer to the most terrible running shoes ever given away.

Wallander is in no hurry to get where it's going. At an hour and 20 minutes for episode one, you'll be watching a bleak Scandinavian detective drama long enough for Usain Bolt to run halfway to Northampton. But watch it you should. Even if Wallander were not the only game in town, there's a chance that it will be the best.

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