Monday, 30 November -0001

The Game

A 1970s Cold War thriller full of twists and deceit

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Ben-Felsenburg-colour-176Ah, sweet memories. Sideburns. Wing collars. Smoking. The constant possibility of thermonuclear Armageddon. The 1970s Cold War thriller offers a fat chocolate box of nostalgic delights, and viewers of The Game (Thursday, BBC Two at 9pm) can feast to excess.

The caption, ‘Poland. 1971’, opens up the story with an earnest prologue: our man from MI 5, Joe Lambe (Tom Hughes) botches up the defection of a femme who’s suddenly all too fatale, and even his world-class luxuriant sweep of hair can’t save her.

A year later, Joe’s back in a Britain where post-imperial decline is far from done bottoming out, and he’s given the poisoned chalice of debriefing a Russian who says he’s ready to reveal all about the Soviets’ latest cunning plan, Operation Glass. Actually, Operation Opaque would be more like it, with the plot dial soon switched high to the upper reaches of ‘utterly bewildering’.

But then that’s the joy of the better spy thriller: the twists, deceit and ambiguities accumulate into something so labyrinthine that you can get lost in the story.

This six-part series can’t hope to replicate the brilliance of the best of John le Carré; set your expectations to the drama equivalent of a top-class covers band, thanks to a finely wrought script and excellent cast. Pride of place goes to the actor playing MI 5’s very own paterfamilias, Daddy; Brian Cox somehow exudes effortless authority with the smallest flicker of his ample eyebrows. What a devil they must be to play against for the rest of his profession.

NOT TO BE MISSED

TV-Apr24-02-590

Perspectives, Sun, ITV, 10.15pm
Len Goodman offers a loving homage to the greatest hoofer of them all – Fred Astaire.

Juliette Binoche: Antigone At The Barbican, Sun, BBC4, 8pm
Laughs are thin but star power is high as Binoche stars in a modern version of Sophocles’s tragedy.

Inspector George Gently, Weds, BBC1, 8pm
Back for a new series, Gently (Martin Shaw, above) digs into the seamy underworld after a prostitute is killed.



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