TV COLUMN: Wallander, The Secret Life of Puppies, The Secret Life of Human Pups,The Clangers

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.

James Waller-Davies

The BBC has gone mainstream with its latest ‘Nordic-noir’ offering and have moved the new series of Wallander to BBC1.

Starring, in the English version, Sir Kenneth Branagh, it should have had everything going for it. As it turned out, it was unremittingly dull.

If it wasn’t bad enough that, Branagh himself was doing an almost copse-like deadpan offering, his two co-stars, the eyebrows, were giving their own lethargic performance of a lifetime.

Wallander got his car hijacked in a township: the eyebrows dipped for a suggestion of annoyance. Wallander got kidnapped at gun-point: the left eyebrow rose to mild surprise. They knitted together so we knew Wallander was thinking. Bertolt Brecht would have loved it – an absolute failure of any emotional connection.

After all the hype in recent years over northern European police dramas, it was a such a disappointment for this one to be the one the Beeb chose to bring out of relative obscurity of the BBC4 closet into the glare of primetime BBC1.

The only chance of watching the second episode will be if there’s nothing else on in completion, but even then, post-supper Sunday evening is a good time for a snooze and Wallander is perfect for sleeping through.

The Secret Life of Puppies (Channel 5)…yes, I know, the title says it all. And yes, we’ve seen it before. Various shapes and sizes of cuteness, all charging, chewing, slipping and chasing around.

So anthropomorphised was this puppy-fest, that it could barely claim to be an animal documentary at all, such was scripting an emoting. But nonetheless the remains a smile-raising charm about watching young animals find their feet.

Of course, if you, like me, watched it with a couple of old dogs at your feet, it could only but take you back to a time when anything you owned was in danger of being chewed to shreds as soon as your back is turned.

The ironically titled, The Secret Life of Human Pups (Channel 4) – ironic as in I really wished they’d kept it secret – was one of those ‘I wish I hadn’t seen that’ TV moments.

It was one of those moments in middle-age when there is a dawning realisation that the world is changing at a pace not to be kept up with or understood.

But if dressing up in latex rubber puppy costumes is you’re kind of fetish, then this Channel 4 offering was right up your street, stopping at every lamppost on the way, of course. Apparently, the ‘puppy play’ scene has over 10,000 devotees. The mind simply boggled.

Of course, difference is an easy stone to throw in the glasshouse of life. Clive James, I think it was, once commented that “some people are different from the rest of us – and so are the rest of us”. I can’t believe he had being a human puppy on his mind at the time.

The Clangers (CBeebies) are back for another run, voiced by the calm tones of Michael Palin. It’s got all of the charm of the Oliver Postgate 1970s original and proof that not all that changes, changes for the worst.