Aidan Smith's TV week: Two Doors Down (BBC2), The English (BBC2), Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland and Beyond (C4)

The drama Cathy Come Home was landmark television which shocked viewers and prompted government anguish and eventually action on an issue not afforded such exposure before - homelessness.
The gang's all here and on the scrounge again in the new series of Two Doors DownThe gang's all here and on the scrounge again in the new series of Two Doors Down
The gang's all here and on the scrounge again in the new series of Two Doors Down

“Cathy, come home!” on the other hand is the plaintive, pinched-mouth cry of Colin, played by Johnathan Watson, in the new series of Two Doors Down (BBC2) which until now has looked like Scotland’s greatest-ever sitcom.

Previously, Colin and Cathy weren’t homeless - far from it, their house is by all accounts a gaudy palace, although we’ve never seen inside - but they were forever round at their neighbours, Eric and Beth, scrounging food and booze and slagging off the modest furnishings. Only Cathy has just walked out, leaving Colin devastated.

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I don’t know where Two Doors Down goes from here. How can it survive the loss of Doon Mackichan as its most outrageous and funniest character whose every utterance was either epicly inappropriate or a vulgarian boast?

Emily Blunt revives the Western serial in The English.Emily Blunt revives the Western serial in The English.
Emily Blunt revives the Western serial in The English.

The sixth season opens with the briefest of glimpses inside the gaudy palace as Eric (Alex Norton) checks on Colin’s wellbeing. He’s still in his goonie but insists he’s been keeping himself busy. “I’ve had a wash … no actually, that was Saturday.” Eric invites him round for a cup of tea. Great, says Colin, two o’clock okay? Eric points out it’s already a quarter to five so soon, with Christine (Elaine C. Smith) especially keen to hear the gory details, he’s pouring his wee crumpled heart out.

Cathy, who’d gone to Egypt to view holiday apartments, was shacked up with the sales agent and not coming back. “Ah, all the patter turns her head about what could be,” says Christine. “That might have been me with yon rollerblinds guy. If I’d not had my wits about me I could have ended up doing away with every curtain in my house.”

There’s sympathy, of sorts, from all the gang. Gordon relates how after a bitter break-up he lost himself in badminton. Michelle tells of a friend who whooped it up at her divorce party, flushing her wedding ring right down the loo. Colin admits he wouldn’t know where to go to meet someone new and Christine says there’s a local car park which is proving surprisingly popular. Gordon and his partner Jamie offer to take the wounded soldier on a night out. “As long as it’s only mainstream venues,” says Colin.

Beth (Arabella Weir) tries to teach him how to make her favourite comfort food. Mum to the entire street, devout believer in community, she thinks of the world as being like a giant dish of macaroni cheese, or rather that squabbing and indeed wars would end if we all inhabited one. Previously, Cathy would breenge into Beth’s front room and - I stress only metaphorically - piddle in the dish. Two Doors Down will surely miss this crucial ingredient.

Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland and Beyond (Picture: Channel 4)Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland and Beyond (Picture: Channel 4)
Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland and Beyond (Picture: Channel 4)

Writers Simon Carlyle and Gregor Sharp are geniuses at pawky Scots humour. They will be able to have fun with everyone talking about Cathy in the past tense (Christine: “She was a pain in the arse.” Beth: “Christine!” Christine: “Come on, it was like living next door to a f****n’ hyena”). But only for so long.

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Last week I mentioned the big part played by WW2 in my short-trousered telly obsession. But it wasn’t as big as the Wild West. Cap gun by my side, I thrilled to The Lone Ranger, Wagon Train, The Virginian, The High Chaparral and Alias Smith and Jones, the latter always beginning with the amnesty recap: “There’s one thing we gotta get … outta this business.” But then oaters - Western serials - got outta the telly business and I had to retire my pistol.

Out of nowhere, though, comes The English (BBC2), and from an unlikely source. Writer-director Hugo Blick first came to attention with the Marion and Geoff monologues starring Rob Brydon as a cuckolded taxi driver. Then came a metropolitan menopause dramedy (Sensitive Skin) and a menacing, noir-ish conspiracy thriller (The Shadow Line) so it’s quite a jump to Oklahoma, circa 1890.

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The plains are big and wide and possibly Blick is imagining himself filming Gunfight at the OK Corral or The Tin Star, two Western movies shot in VistaVision. A rickety shack looms into view - the “Hotel” sign seems optimistic at best - and from a stagecoach emerges Emily Blunt as Lady Cornelia Locke who’s intent on avenging the murder of her child.

She’s driven, all right, but this is no country for English aristocratic women. An accomplice would be useful so enter Pawnee scout Eli (Chaske Spencer), handy with a tomahawk and with a revenge mission of his own, who becomes her Tonto (and who knows maybe something more). Life here is cheap - “25 for a scalp” - but our pair survive a tense encounter with the sadistic hotelier, played by Ciaran Hinds, who after having a leg chewed off by an abominable snowman in The Terror must be getting used to grisly ends. I’m saddled up for the whole series.

It’s been a week of strange bedfellows, what with these two plus Matt Hancock and Seann Walsh on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! (ITV) and also Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland and Beyond (Channel 4). In Dundee, Margoyles and Cumming are charmed by a reminiscing Brian Cox’s touching tales of a lad so in love with the theatre that when the local rep went on fire he had to be restrained from rushing into the flames to save it.

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