Magazine article The Spectator

Television Dark Pleasures

Magazine article The Spectator

Television Dark Pleasures

Article excerpt

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 risque. 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. …

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