Peter Hitchens blames the death of Anglican Evensong on The Forsyte Saga, a drama broadcast on Sunday evenings in the 1960s that tempted parishioners away from church. What civilisational damage is being wreaked by Poldark (BBC One, Sundays, 9pm)? Very little. Just as Evensong was a Protestant imitation of Vespers, Poldark is an imitation of pretty much every Sunday night drama that came before it. It has all the artistic quality of a cup of hot cocoa.
It is the 1700s. We are in Cornwall. Handsome young Poldark returns from the American War of Independence to find his picturesque estate in ruins. He takes a pretty wife and has a rivalry with a good-looking banker who wants to turn Cornwall into a tax haven. In between these shenanigans, the sweaty men who work Poldark’s mine hunt for tin. They’re not very attractive – but don’t worry, they don’t get much screen time. Back to Poldark’s lovely kitchen, where a rugged gent arrives to announce that the father of Poldark’s dishy wife is dying …
Never has the 18th century appeared so clean. Even the mud looks like you could eat your dinner off it. But this is standard for Sunday period drama. The issues might be big, the trouble at t’mill might be grim, but there is always someone beautiful to look at, someone funny to laugh at, someone innocent but courageous to root for. Poldark breaks no ground; it hardly breaks a sweat. But would you want to go to bed on a Sunday night reeling from some kitchen-sink thriller?
That’s reserved for Monday nights – and the superb drama Fearless (ITV1, 9pm). Helen McCrory plays a left-wing lawyer fighting to clear the name of a man who was probably framed for murder by the dastardly Americans (otherwise known as our allies).
I’ve always said that I don’t mind the politics of political drama so long as the drama’s good, and the acting and plot of Fearless not only excuse its pieties but render its politics more complex than it first seems. And McCrory, one of the best actresses of our times, shines.
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