TV thoughts: The Loch, Poldark, The Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo…

SOMETIMES I stick with a TV drama and wonder why. It is possible to measure a life by laying out the things you shouldn’t have bothered watching.

This thought arose while wondering why I was still bothering to watch The Loch (ITV, Sunday). This crime drama wants to be too many things, but mostly it wants to be Broadchurch; they all want to be Broadchurch.

Whereas Broadchurch dwelt on a single crime and examined the emotional repercussions in the community, The Loch throws just about everything at the screen, from a fake Loch Ness monster to a heartless man anchored in the cold depths.

The cast is strong, but the acting is all over the place, and it’s hard to focus on what is going on, as all you see in the bad acting. This leaves you wondering: “Well, he/she is normally OK and was quite good in that other thing. What’s going on here?”

I’ll stick with this week’s final episode, as I’d like to know how it winds up, and the optimist in me hopes that they might have taken up extra acting classes before Sunday.

But I suspect that I will end up saying, as Donald Trump Jnr has about that meeting with a Russian lawyer to dig the dirt on Hillary Clinton: “It was a nothing.”

The strange thing is, Sunday is a rich pasture for television. The Loch may be poor, but over on BBC1 there is the camp tempest that is Poldark and on Channel 4 the outstanding The Handmaid’s Tale. My wife dislikes the Cornish romper and won’t watch the Margaret Atwood adaptation due to being uncomfortable with the subject matter and the nastiness done to women.

“It’s a feminist parable,” I said, to no little effect. I catch up with that later instead.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a something for sure. This is the best drama of 2017: superbly acted by everyone but especially Elizabeth Moss as June/Offred. I haven’t read the novel, but this is a first-rate adaptation which takes its time and plays its hand with sharp intelligence and multi-layered storytelling.

For the unconverted one who shares the Samsung TV, it’s a dystopian lecture on the role of women, here reduced to enslaved baby-carriers, and on the illusions of freedom. Whereas Poldark is a handsome scowl dressed in a flapping shirt; or sometimes no shirt at all. It is silly and capricious, but I can’t help liking it.

The other treat of the season is Fargo (Channel 4), the third series to have been inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film of the same name. What I love about this are the hopeless characters caught in a web of their own inadequacy and the unstoppable slide of events. Fargo also looks and sounds like nothing else, having its own palette, with every scene framed like a painting.

Two Brits deserve acting honours amid the Minnesota ice and show: Ewan McGregor for playing a tragically mismatched pair of brothers, although – spoiler alert – two has now become one. And David Thewlis for turning stomachs as the revolting VM Barga, a doleful businessman with rotten teeth, an eating disorder – and a general humanity disorder.

Last night, we watched the tennis and then Into The Dark (BBC1), a new crime series (another one; but I can’t resist them). Mark Billingham told me about this adaptation when I interviewed him for the Yorkshire Post this time last year. My Anna Buring plays a pregnant detective who returns to her home patch when an old schoolfriend’s husband is charged with murdering a teenage girl. Soon the past and the present are doing an arm-wrestle. It’s promising and done well although the music shouts for attention too often. But I’ll be back, as Arnie said.

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