Andy Murray – The Man Behind the Racquet seemed to be part of the ongoing drive to reframe Murray, from number two-seeded, US Open-winning, sulky-drawers face-ache, to someone, well, nicer, or at least more marketable.
Presented by Sue Barker in the wistful preoccupied way of a woman who finds it hard to forget how fine Jimmy Connors once looked in his tight white shorts, it wasn’t entirely unconvincing. Though I’m still not persuaded that crying because you’ve lost a Wimbledon final means you’re any “nicer” than you were before you became publicly emotionally incontinent. Nor am I convinced that it does Murray any favours to be portrayed as a kind of Tin Man of international tennis – touchingly serenading the Centre Court with a rendition of If I Only Had a Heart, while Roger Federer whacks balls past him with insulting ease.
Humanising Murray is one thing, but this documentary focused far too much on the school massacre in his home town, Dunblane. (To his credit, Murray looked uncomfortable and upset talking about it.) Elsewhere, the prevailing “Andy’s so nice!” agenda got rather wearing. Only John McEnroe managed to make a sage point about how Murray was unfortunate to be playing in the era of Federer and Nadal. As well as Murray’s family and team, everyone else from James Corden, Kevin Spacey and Anna Wintour to Rafa Nadal, Andre Agassi, and Tim Henman, lined up to say… naff all of interest. I’m not saying that they were bland and interchangeable, but you could have replaced all their bits with a monotonously bouncing ball.
Murray came across well enough, in a brusque self-conscious kind of way. He even looked rather dapper, walking the dogs with his nice girlfriend. Especially when contrasted with on-court footage, where Murray still has an unfortunate habit of reacting to everything that happens, good or bad, by gurning like an electrified gosling. With this in mind, I’m not sure that Murray is cut out for Brand Beckham-type shenanigans. When they stuck Murray in a posh suit, teamed with trainers, for American Vogue, the effect was of a charity campaign on behalf of young men struck down by a fear of real shoes. Murray looked far happier lowering himself into a bath full of ice cubes to demonstrate his physio regime.
From the makers of Who Do You Think You Are? the first part of Secrets from the Workhouse sometimes ran like an Iain Duncan Smith welfare to-do list. Humiliate the poor. Tick. Isolate them from society. Tick. Rob them of human dignity. Tick. Forcibly co-opt their bodes for medical dissection after they’ve died. Excuse me?
Barbara Taylor Bradford, Brian Cox, Fern Britton, and Kiera Chaplin investigated the fate of ancestors compelled to enter workhouses, along with 16 million others over a 100-year period. Of course, Chaplin’s grandfather, Charlie, went on to Hollywood glory, but others died in the workhouses, became insane, or were branded malingerers. As Britton discovered, the compulsory medical dissection occurred if relatives couldn’t afford to bury their deceased – I won’t go on about it in case I give Duncan Smith ideas.
There were times when things became a little overwrought (sombre music over shots of workhouse door knockers), but this was a timely documentary, drawing unflinching parallels with modern Britain. Cox was the most visibly upset by the high-handed cruelty, while Taylor Bradford was wonderfully piqued. She strode about, demanding “ARNSARS!”, barking “Are you telling me that my mother was ILLEGITIMATE?” in a hybrid (Yorkshire/Home Counties/Beverly Hills) accent that made her sound as though she was a character made up by Alan Bennett and Peter Cook during a drunken cab ride in 1963.
Hannibal is about pre-Silence of the Lambs Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) re-imagined as a knitting pattern model with a penchant for suspicious-looking offal dishes. Hannibal helps FBI criminal profiler Will (Hugh Dancy) solve cases featuring victims (usually young women) impaled on stag antlers, hanging in crucifix positions, or (this episode), a bloke with a cello handle rammed through his throat, so that the murderer could “play” his vocal cords. Not that it’s out to hide how rubbish it is with gratuitous shock-value or anything.
The murders in Hannibal are so turbo-gory they’re silly, at best providing impromptu anatomy lessons for people too thick to get into medical school: “Oh, that’s where the liver is!” Other than that, it’s the same old drear every week. Will mopes about, having “inside the mind of a killer” visions, and there’s a rolling in-joke about Hannibal’s love of cooking – with lascivious close-ups of the food, as if it were a “homicidal maniac” edition of Masterchef. Recently, Gillian Anderson has been appearing as Hannibal’s shrink, but I can’t see her lasting. They seem to keep trying out different “feisty” female characters, to see if one will stick: as in, connect with the viewers, not stick to Hannibal’s frying pan, though you never know with this show.
India : A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman followed a young British Indian woman, Radha Bedi, out to India, in the wake of the 2012 murder and gang rape of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh, which led to mass protests. Bedi’s aim was to uncover attitudes to sexual violence, and to women generally. She learned how casual banter and flirtation (called “Eve-teasing” in India) could escalate to the point where a young woman was filmed being groped and stripped in the street, losing her precious good reputation. Bedi also explored gender-determined abortions, and the enduring preference for boys. One of her relatives bluntly told her, “A girl’s life here is worthless.”
This was a harrowing documentary, with commendable range. A lawyer for the Delhi rapists insisted that the victim was partly responsible: “If she will be respectable, this will never happen to her.” The plight of Tabu, the disfigured victim of an acid attack (for refusing to speak to a boy), reduced Bedi to tears. Singh’s father spoke movingly about his daughter kissing his hand in the hospital before she died.
His wish to see the murderers hanged was echoed by Tabu, who also wanted to pour acid over her assailants. Bedi’s swift success when she bought her own case of molestation to a Delhi court was viewed as a positive sign that attitudes were improving – undercut by Bedi’s lurking suspicion that it rather helped being a foreigner.