Luther is back, in Luther, and so is Donny Osmond, of Donny & Marie fame. Could there be two more differing cultural symbols of manhood? My feeling is no.
Luther (Tuesdays, BBC1) fills our screens with sick foreboding. We are as victims pinned to the sofa, eyeballing the characters’ every action with terror as they move about menacingly in our living-rooms. It’s a cop show where the cops are not so much bent as twisted, their souls writhing to unarticulated inner torments, chief among them that of its anti-hero DCI John Luther (Idris Elba). In this third season, the detective with the resonant name — ‘I can’t claim credit for it’ — steps further over to the dark side, though with the criminals heading in that direction as well, Luther still seems to be a relatively good guy. He also gets a new love interest, a blonde with the smouldering iciness of Cate Blanchett and cheekbones like freshly whetted knives.
To divulge more about the first episode would be to take away from the dark pleasure of viewing it. It’s not only that there’s a new development every few minutes or so, it’s that the twists are in the visuals as well as in the plot. Within a set framework of steely squalor, people and objects apparate and dissipate, emerging and disappearing as story elements are introduced or destroyed. The series makes use of stillness as well as movement — there are moments where characters wait, wait, wait, and it feels as though all air has been sucked out of the set. Ghoulish bodies are disposed of ghoulishly. Luther is not only a crime thriller. It is a horror show.
Donny returns! Back in the 1970s, he and his sister Marie, and the whole clan of Osmond brothers, sang their way into the hearts of Middle America — indeed, Middle Earth, with heart-lifting numbers such as ‘May Tomorrow Be A Perfect Day’. They remain the only act in history able to make the Carpenters look risqué. Donny is ‘a little bit country, a little bit rock’n’roll’, so he was an ideal judge for ITV’s Your Face Sounds Familiar (Saturdays), which is exactly as convoluted as it sounds. It’s the new ‘talent show’ where vaguely recognisable celebrities do impressions of vastly more recognisable celebrities, while being judged by middling celebrities.
So we had the comedian Alexander Armstrong wielding a guitar à la Johnny Cash, Olympian Denise Lewis stomping about like Tina Turner, Bobby Davro sex-bombing like Tom Jones, and so on. Donny was a one-off guest judge, next to regulars Emma Bunton and Julian Clary. He was rivetingly weird, pouring praise on some contestants while threatening fisticuffs with others, with no consistency whatsoever. His face definitely looked familiar, as though his aesthetics specialist has been trying to sculpt him into Rob Lowe.
Already the critics are stamping on Your Face: ‘worst show ever’, etc. I think that such serious, scornful assessments miss the point. People who look to reality TV for the meaning of life are asking for trouble. It’s supposed to be mindless. If anything, Your Face doesn’t aim low enough. It’s attempting dancefloor leaps while it should be doing the limbo. It must stop all that glitzy X Factor-ish stuff and embrace itself for what it is — a huge karaoke costume party. I can’t wait till next week, when TV presenter Matt Johnson does Taylor Swift.
I’m late to Question Time, but better late than never. I’ve just seen the one from two weeks ago, on which the comedian Russell Brand appeared. Perhaps his long-locked, lithe-limbed presence disarmed everyone, for how did Tessa Jowell’s remarks go uncontested? She said that if there were more women on the trading floor, banking would be far more convivial and co-operative, and the financial scandals wouldn’t have happened. Because that’s just how females are: all touchy-feely, warmy-fuzzy.
What? What?? I’ve already fallen on my sword in this column defending bankers, so I might as well fall further and defend men. Why the male population was not up in arms at this stereotyping, and women too, is beyond me. If I were on a trading floor, I wouldn’t be joining hands with everyone to sing ‘Kumbaya’, believe me. I would be shoving and shouting with the best of them, to make as much money as I could, because that’s why I was there. I don’t want to be regarded as saintly just for being born with double-X chromosomes. I can be as greedy and forceful and dangerous as any man. Now get out of my way.