TV COLUMN: Poldark, Fearless, Springwatch

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

Men across the country will have lost control of the TV remote on Sunday evenings for the next ten weeks and may even have framed front pages of the Radio Times adorning the home with the steely eyes of Aiden Turner glowering out at them. Yes, Poldark (BBC1) is back.

Poldark, Cornwall’s very own eighteenth century social justice warrior, has returned for its third outing, along with the delightful and ever more confident Demelza.

We appear to have hit ‘peak Poldark’ as audience figures settle to a respectable 5.5 million on first episode, but a long way down from series one, having taken a big hit when it went up against ITV’s Victoria in the Sunday evening 9pm slot.

While the performances remain strong for the leads, the peripheral characters are beginning to err towards caricature and the adaptation is struggling with problem of the books running out of sufficient plot for television.

The opening episode saw Elizabeth giving birth to Ross’s secret child unbeknown to husband George. Poor George – deserving everything he gets - desperate for a legacy to leave and unwittingly having two other men’s children under his roof.

Poorly trailed due to the general election and almost getting lost in the ensuing fog is Fearless (ITV), which despite its lack of promotion still pulled in 5 million viewers on a Monday night.

Helen McCrory, in what may turn out to be one of the performances of the year, plays Emma Banville, a fearless, but awkward in the eyes of the security services, human rights lawyer.

The plot is two-fold, with the first a conventional wrongful conviction case and the other a far more intriguing, but yet to be fully revealed, political conspiracy thriller.

Either plot line would have been sufficiently convincing and satisfying on its own and the series will sink or swim on how these two threads pull together. The one-hour episode felt rather short and three two-hour slots might have helped audiences keep up with the intricacies.

Amazingly, Springwatch (BBC2) is in its twelfth year. Along with its stablemates, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch, it’s become one of the highlights of the television year and continues to show that the British countryside can match the more exotic climbs of a David Attenborough global spectacular.

Whilst the spring outing always benefits from the ahh-and-aww factor of baby animals, Springwatch does not sentimentalise. Animals are presented in the full ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ reality – one creature’s offspring, is another’s offspring’s meal.

Springwatch is a thoroughly modern production. Knowledgeable presentation and fantastic photography is supported with great web-support in the form of live location cams and social media interactivity.

It’s not without a sense of humour either. The tiny owlet eating heroically gulping down a whole vole was cheered on by millions – the human equivalent of swallowing a badger.

But the most memorable clip of the series is likely to go the kestrel chick that vented with quite explosive effect, its very own Jackson Pollock interpretation over the camera lens. Somewhere there’s a camera trainee whose job it is to clean the lens.

It’s a sight not likely to be forgotten by anyone who saw it – someone is probably already working it into an internet meme right now as a comment on the great and good of the day. You’ve not seen the last of the kestrel squit.

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