sean bean
Thursday, 09 August 2012

Television Reviews: 10 August

After wall-to-wall Olympics, Michael Moran welcomes the return of some quality drama

Written by Michael Moran
Michael-Moran1At last the proper television is back. From the moment the title sequence of Accused (BBC One, Tuesday at 9pm) kicks in, you know you're dealing with some quality drama. It's one of those montages of cast members' faces that will have you nodding knowledgably to your sofa copilot 'Oh look, she's in it... and her... oh! and him too!' before it settles on the craggy, manly visage of Sean Bean.

Don't get too used to Sean's virile phizog though. In the opening scene it's covered in what can only be described as 'a Lily Savage makeover' and it stays that way for a good proportion of the proceedings.

Not that Accused is remotely funny. It's almost unbearably tense at times. Its tricksy, nonchronological structure tips you the wink that something terrible is definitely going to happen. But for most of the hour you're not altogether sure what, or to whom.

In fact I recommend that you record this first week's episode and watch it at your own pace so you can get up and prepare a fortifying beverage when the tension threatens to overwhelm.

Accused doesn't put all of its star-name eggs in one dramatic basket. Like writer Jimmy McGovern's previous series The Street and Moving On, it's an anthology of self-contained dramas. Episode one is largely a two-hander starring Sean Bean as Simon, an English teacher who would rather be known as goodtime girl Tracie, and Stephen Graham as his improbable innamorato Tony.

Naysayers might describe Accused as Crown Court on steroids but it's a lot more than that. It's an involving, beguiling and entirely unpredictable hour of telly that couldn't have been made anywhere else. If you still have a glimmer of national pride left after the Olympics, here's a chance to buff it back up to a bright gleam.

Even though the Olympics is over, the Paralympics is very much in the forefront of TV schedulers' minds. Rightly so. These indefatigable athletes are the best and bravest of all Olympians.

The Paralympics was first conceived in the year that London last hosted the Games, and to celebrate the tournament, writer Lucy Gannon has created Best Of Men (BBC Two, Thursday). It's a drama set in Stoke Mandeville hospital in the wake of the Second World War when 'Poppa' Ludwig Guttmann adopted a radical new approach to severe spinal injuries.

His sports therapy led to the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948. Eddie Marsan plays Guttmann with the most outrageous 'Chorman' accent since 'Allo 'Allo! but archive footage of the doctor suggests it's entirely accurate. Rob Brydon turns up as his patient Sergeant Wynn Bowen, on safer ground as a sardonic Welshman.

It's a great human story, and one that's surprisingly little known. And despite the Olympic theme, it's proper television.

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