There’s David Morrissey, top performer, and Lesley Manville and Joanne Froggatt - every good show needs talent like that. Alun Armstrong is always a mark of quality and these galacticos have some seriously solid dependability behind them in Robert Glenister, Clare Holman and Kevin Doyle.
Graham specialises in the political. He’s taken on Thatcher, made a drama out of a crisis - the Suez one - imagined David Cameron and Alex Salmond dividing up the UK’s assets over golf after an indyref Yes vote, made a drama out of lucky but uncharismatic Jim Callaghan and cemented Dominic Cummings in the public imagination by having him smash a fist through a ceiling tile in Brexity triumph. In Sherwood there are no big dogs, at least not so far, but Maggie’s unflinching policies loom over this gripping BBC1 saga as we recall the miners’ strike of 1984-85.
The coal seams may have been closed up but the wounds from the dispute still gape. In Graham’s native Nottinghamshire, ten out of 12 collieries defied Arthur Scargill and the National Union of Mineworkers to stay open. This seems to put Armstrong’s militant Gary in the minority in his village but it doesn’t bother him. At a wedding, when the bride’s deceased father is remembered during the speeches, Gary shouts: “Scab!”
This man owned the buses which ferried the strike-breakers past the picket lines and into the pits. His daughter, Sarah (Froggatt) is campaigning as a Conservative in local elections, aiming to make further dents in Labour’s Red Wall. Morrissey is the Det Chief Super battling to rebuild the public’s trust in the police. Curtains twitch, bedroom doors are padlocked, gloomy characters practice axe-throwing and archery and there’s more name-calling. Bloody hell, says someone, it was 30-odd years ago. Doesn’t matter.
In the back lanes between the miners’ cottages and at the allotments, Graham is brilliant at the hugger-mugger intertwining of lives. Gary’s wife is the sister of an old strike-buster. Their grand-daughter’s secret boyfriend is the son of the neighbourhood ne’er-do-wells.
The writer, as he’s done before, cleverly occupies the no-man’s-land between rival factions. It’s reckoned Graham’s determination to understand both sides of an argument is down to having grown up with parents, one a Neil Kinnock supporter and the other John Major, who continued living in the same street after divorce. Well, Sherwood is an exceptional work, although that’s a shocker of an ending to the second episode.
What would Graham make of Intimacy (Netflix)? I reckon he’d admire this Spanish drama about a politician refusing to buckle after becoming a victim of revenge porn. I do.
If you watched Money Heist, also from Spain, you’ll remember Itziar Ituno as the cop-turned-robber. Here she’s Malen, deputy mayor of Bilbao, who’s going after the top job. The opening shots are artful including one from under a table, Malen the only woman in a forest of male suit trousers, and the show doesn’t pass up the opportunity to show off the city’s Guggenheim Museum, glittering in titanium.
Then comes a sequence accompanied by a crescendo of phone pings as the incriminating video footage is revealed, Malen’s daughter seeing it at school and her husband Alfredo at choir practice. He is shocked the bonk on a beach has been made public but not surprised by it, admitting to being a cuckold.
Obviously, say more of those men in suits, she’ll have to resign. Forget about becoming city leader. “Don’t people know that politicians screw too?” she asks. Then a few minutes later: “Is there a code of ethics that says who I can screw?”
Running concurrent with Malen’s story is one about a woman, Ane, who suffers a similar cybercrime fate. But while Malen has a voice she does not, and the shame and embarrassment she suffers at her factory cause her to take her own life. Just as she’s about to face the media and, it’s assumed, stand down, Malen learns about Ane. To gasps from the stunned assembly she decides on “the only morally valid response”.
In Halftime (Netflix), the interviewer asks the diva: “How do you feel about your butt?” Eyes narrowing to pillbox gun slits, she replies: “Are you kidding? Did you just ask me that?” Now I feel bad about calling Jennifer Lopez, the subject of this documentary, a diva.
The “butt” question is old footage but J-Lo tells us she’s always had to fight. As a Latina performer, for work, for acceptance, for recognition. And now, sat in the back of a limo and sooking from a jewel-studded jumbo soda cup, she’s made it, yes? Well, up to a point.
Lopez is desperate for an Oscar for her turn as a stripper in the movie Hustlers (and you thought all actors were easy-come and magnanimous about awards). She’s landed the halftime show at the Superbowl - “The best stage in entertainment, period, bar none” - but has to share it with Shakira. The Latina double-bill is a NFL concession after Colin Kaepernick took the knee. But if it was supposed to stop the politics J-Lo has her child dancers trapped in cages as a protest against Donald Trump’s “big beautiful wall” between the US and Mexico. You go, girl.
Of course Halftime is the J-Lo she wants us to see but it’s fun. And she looks fabulous.