TV review: A Week Without Lying, Bodyguard, and The Plague

07 September 2018

BBC/Thoroughly Modern Media

Horizon: A Week Without Lying: The Honesty Experiment, BBC Two

Horizon: A Week Without Lying: The Honesty Experiment, BBC Two

HOW many lies would the Vicar tell? BBC2 persuaded three plucky victims to take part in A Week Without Lying: The honesty experiment (Wednesday of last week). They were an advertising consultant, Mo Saha; an online blogger, Ehiz Ufuah; and the one who matters to us: incumbent-of-northern-rural-parish the Revd Ruth Newton.

It had never been tried before in real life: a plethora of gizmos, taped to their subjects’ bodies, gave the observing scientists and psychologists a minute-by-minute indication of every terminological inexactitude uttered and harsh fact evaded. For it must be said that the definition of lying was drawn rather wide. Avoiding mention of anything uncomfortable, any encouraging words suppressing the negative within the overall positive — all counted as blatant untruth.

There were varying degrees of success. Ms Saha found it a helpful experience, discovering that her clients valued her new directness. Mr Ufuah clearly found the whole thing too much, and retired to bed. Ms Newton came out of it well: thoughtful and reflective, she realised how much she seeks to maintain what she sees as harmony among her flock.

There was little attempt to cover up deadly rivalries and deep-seated hatreds in BBC1’s corking new Sunday-night thriller Bodyguard. An ex-army cop, David Budd, is assigned to protect the steely, ambitious Home Secretary, Julia Montague. He, of course, observes details which everyone else misses, is fit to Olympic level, a crack shot, and a rally-standard driver. His domestic life is, as we would expect, a mess; he lives with demons from his tours in Afghanistan. The Home Secretary is determined to push through legislation that he and his shadow group of disaffected veterans utterly despise.

The Met and MI5 present a level of cut-throat rivalry that almost outdoes the ghastly series of terrorist outrages from which Budd must keep Montague safe. After he foils one particularly hideous attempt, they realise that their mutual passion cannot be denied, and embark on a torrid affair. In other words, an entirely naturalistic depiction of life at the highest level of our body politic. Although the plot creaks and shudders, however, it is terrific TV drama, and the tension crackles and fizzes.

Unlike Monty Python, in which no one was expecting the Spanish Inquisition, everyone in The Plague, BBC4’s new Saturday-night import from the Continent, expects, moment by moment, the Inquisition to knock on the door of their hovel or palace.

This time, the language we can pick up by matching dialogue to subtitle is Spanish, and it offers a convincing home-grown take on life in Seville in the Golden Age. Will news of the killer disease stalking the streets be suppressed until the galleons return laden with New World gold? Will intolerant religion suppress vice or be trounced as hypocritical superstition?

There are further echoes of Monty Python as scrofulous peasants wallow in mud and filth; but the crepuscular light and splendid period detail make this a superior fantasy.

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