CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s television: dramas so dark I almost tuned in to Gregg Wallace

The Bay

Evaluation:

Rules of the game

Evaluation:

Super Scott, but 2022 has started badly. Thank goodness there is a government crisis to offer a slight relief, because TV has sapped the soul.

We have seen dramatizations of murders by so-called ‘Grindr killer’ Stephen Port and the hopelessly sad aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

Add to that documentaries on the hunt for mass murderer ‘Bible John’, and the case of nanny Louise Woodward, accused of shaking a baby to death.

La Baie (ITV) offers no relaxation. On her first day on the job, DS Police Family Liaison Officer Jenn Townsend (Marsha Thomason) crashed her car and comforted a woman who saw her son’s body torn from the sea.

The Bay (ITV) is miserable but there is a solid cast: Thomas Law as DC Eddie Martin, Dan Ryan as DI Tony Manning, Marsha Thomason as DS Jenn Townsend, Andrew Dowbiggin as DS James Clarke / 'Clarkie' and Erin Shanagher as DS Karen Hobson

The Bay (ITV) is miserable but there is a solid cast: Thomas Law as DC Eddie Martin, Dan Ryan as DI Tony Manning, Marsha Thomason as DS Jenn Townsend, Andrew Dowbiggin as DS James Clarke / ‘Clarkie’ and Erin Shanagher as DS Karen Hobson

Then she came out of a trauma counseling session and trailed off in a wake where the grieving mother drank herself unconscious.

In between, she interviewed the dead man’s heartbroken girlfriend, who was still reeling from a racist attack on the street.

To make sure we didn’t misinterpret the mood, there were plenty of images of inconsolable parents sobbing.

Every time the cameraman choked outside, it was to capture slow shots of the gray sky lowering above the Morecambe mudflats.

Honestly, compared to an hour ago, even Ingmar Bergman’s most depressing movie looks like a Keystone Kops comedy.

This drama has not always been so miserable. When he starred Morven Christie, there were moments of humor, even larby. Without it the mood was so relentlessly low that I almost switched to watch Gregg Wallace in Inside The Factory. Yes, it was so sinister.

The frustration is that there is a strong cast here.

One reason to stay with The Bay is the tension between DS Police Family Liaison Officer Jenn Townsend, played by Marsha Thomason (pictured) and her sidekick, DS Karen Hobson, played by Erin Shanagher

One reason to stay with The Bay is the tension between DS Police Family Liaison Officer Jenn Townsend, played by Marsha Thomason (pictured) and her sidekick, DS Karen Hobson, played by Erin Shanagher

Hollywood star Vincent Regan plays the partner of the grieving woman, and we caught sight of Mark Stanley at a boxing club – another big name, and one who is sure to come to the fore in later episodes.

This is a reason to stick to it. So is the tension between Jenn and her sidekick, DS Karen Hobson (Erin Shanagher). They started off on the wrong foot and are constantly against the grain, wanting to be friends but never gelling each other.

If The Bay can play to these strengths, Christie’s departure won’t matter. But I can’t stand a lot of crying aunts anymore.

There were few Rules Of The Game (BBC1) quarterbacks either. This bitter workplace sexual abuse drama has moments of humor, but they’re as hollow as the characters’ hearts.

Maxine Peake, as office manager, Sam glanced at her rival Maya’s bald cat, Audrey the hairless sphinx, and pulled, “It looks like an animated skin graft.”

In case that wasn’t tasteless enough, five minutes later poor Audrey was crushed – because Rules Of The Game is the kind of drama where pets only exist to elicit cutesy sympathy when are killed.

Rules Of The Game (BBC1) is a bitter workplace sexual abuse drama starring Maxine Peake (pictured), as office manager Sam

Rules Of The Game (BBC1) is a bitter workplace drama about sexual abuse, starring Maxine Peake (pictured), as office manager Sam

Sam had the cat cremated and then, in a scene of exceptional cruelty, threw the ashes at Maya (Rakhee Thakrar) in the office parking lot. Meanwhile, all of the men are crazy with uncontrollable sex urges, either fiddling with someone in a skirt or downloading violent porn.

All of the women are sneaky, deceptive, and self-obsessed bullies, meeting once a week to drink Asti Spumante by the cashier on ‘Cheese Night’.

I am at a loss. Which of them, if any, are we supposed to like? Who do we want to see win?

The story is mostly seen through Sam’s eyes, as she tells it in shock to a police officer who is virtually holding her hostage. But if Sam was once a victim, she’s too cruel and tough to be the heroine now.

It is just awful.

Big gurns of the week: Diane Morgan and Roger Sloman were speechless and grimacing at Mandy (BBC2), and Nigel Planer had googly eyes, while a man with a toilet seat around his head wrapped his bottom lip over his nose. It’s reassuring that silly faces are always guaranteed to make people laugh.