The serial killer on The Fall (BBC1, Monday) is no ordinary serial killer. He has a unique and terrifying modus operandi — or ‘signature’, as we serial-killer experts call it. What this serial killer does is to predate ruthlessly and single-mindedly on those young, attractive women unfortunate enough to be in the precise target-audience demographic of glossy-grimy five-part, prime-time BBC thrillers about serial killers.
His thoroughness is chilling. First he checks out what they do for a living: architects and lawyers are ideal because then people at opinion-forming, BBC executive-frequented Islington dinner parties will definitely be talking about it, whereas they might not if it were just smelly prostitutes. Then, he puts off killing his victims until after we’ve got to know them, so they’re not just any old hideously tortured and murdered corpse in a photograph, they’re real people with attractive, husky voices and a flirtatious manner and a bright future about to be cut tragically short.
More evilly still, the killer is married. With a nice wife. And delightfully cute kids who sit on the stairs and say tearfully, ‘Daddy, where have you been?’ when he returns from one of his late-night killing sprees with a sinister black bag whose contents he has to lie to them about. He also has one of those jobs which in BBC-land would be considered caring and psychologically grounded and validatory: he’s a marriage-guidance counsellor.
So you see this ain’t your routine, fava-bean-n-liver-eating, Hannibal Lecter-style, black comedy psycho we’re being asked to spend five hours of our life with, here. This guy is fully fleshed, perfectly rounded and kinda sexy too — the sort of guy the target demographic wouldn’t actually mind sleeping with themselves if he weren’t so busy strangling them with the underwear he’d just riffled from their knicker drawers. Oh, and he’s played by a former Calvin Klein underwear model — Jamie Dornan. Did we mention that?
Luckily there’s something in this for the boys, too, in the form of investigating officer DSI Gibson played by a still-very-foxy-looking Gillian Anderson (out of X-Files and, more recently, the No Pressure exploding kids commercial that teasingly suggested that people who don’t believe in reducing their CO2 emissions should be executed).
Anderson, we can tell, is our kind of girl because a) she can eat burgers — really fat, juicy man-size burgers — while simultaneously looking at gruesome pictures of murder victims on her laptop and drinking lots of wine without it affecting her weight; b) she’s foxy (did we mention this already?) and doesn’t take any shit from anyone and is totally right in all her hunches, unlike her crap colleagues; and c) she’d definitely want to have sex with us.
Here’s what she’d do: she’d be driving past in her police car and she’d see us marshalling some crime scene in a capable way. ‘Who’s that?’ she would say to her colleagues in her whispery, distant, ice-cool voice. ‘Introduce me.’ Then she’d pointedly tell us what hotel she was staying in and what room number. Yes! Why aren’t all women like that?
But on to the key question: is it worth staying on to watch the remaining four episodes of this handsome, stylish, torture porn? Well, I’m torn. On the one hand, now that the attractive lawyer character has been got (and while so tantalisingly, frustratingly close to being rescued too), you do very much want to be there when the bastard who did it is finally brought to justice. On the other, if I’m absolutely honest, I find it a bit of an ordeal sitting through über-bleak serial-killer dramas, even when they’re as well done as this. Weird of me, I know, but I don’t like seeing girls being tortured and murdered for my shock and delectation. I’d rather be reading a book.
Or watching something like Sunday’s night’s BBC Culture Show special — Not Like Any Other Love: The Smiths. If you’re the wrong generation I don’t suppose you’ll give a toss, but for some of us The Smiths were everything. When they split up in 1987 with just four proper albums under their belt, we kept waiting for the new Smiths to come along and carry on where they left off. We’re still waiting now.
Tim Samuels’s tribute — marking the 30th anniversary of The Smiths’ first single ‘Hand In Glove’ — very sensibly avoided talking to any of the band’s ex-members in order to concentrate on shameless nostalgia and fan worship. Various talking heads — a musicologist, the poet Simon Armitage, Stuart Maconie — attempted to explain why their songs worked so well, why Morrissey’s lyrics were so special, how Johnny Marr’s jangly guitar was the business. But it was Noel Gallagher who got closest: ‘They were just fucking great