TV review: Keeping Faith, Deep Water, and Who Do You Think You Are?

23 August 2019

BBC/Vox Pictures Ltd/KF Series 2 Prod Ltd/Rory Taylor

Keeping Faith

Keeping Faith

ALWAYS looking out for programmes about religion, I was excited to find among the schedules a series entitled Keeping Faith (BBC1, Tuesdays). (I apologise for this pathetic opening gag. You’ll have realised ages ago that I adhere to “Rules for Successful Sermon No.1: To gain everyone’s attention, always open with a joke”, but this one is even more desperately awful than usual. It is August.)

“Faith” is nothing to do with what our fathers believed, but the heroine of the Welsh crime drama whose first series last year drew such admiration. That ended leaving a satisfactory (in TV franchise terms) number of unresolved issues, which the intervening period has exacerbated: Faith’s husband is serving his time in prison; the local criminal family still has a hold over him; Faith is acting as a secret courier for them to work off her/his debt to them; the police treat them with utmost suspicion; and there is something bent about the family firm of solicitors on which no one can quite put a finger.

Faith is incandescent with rage about the mess her husband landed them in; the children don’t know whether they want him back; she is on the brink of a passionate affair with the ex-criminal who helped her out last time; and everywhere there is a miasma of dark secrets, moral compromise, and suspicion.

The plot does not stand up to scrutiny, unless Wales is such a hotbed of criminality as to cause downtown Palermo admiring envy. But the characters and script have such energy, verve, and commitment; the emotion is so raw and real; the issues of broken families and betrayed trust; and the sparks of unsuspected generosity and redemption so beautifully sprung as to make this marvellous TV. Faith (Eve Myles) is a force of nature: impulsive, instinctive, bubbling over with fun, love, and a hatred of injustice.

Not one but three strong women star in Deep Water, ITV’s new drama (Wednesdays). The placid waters of Windermere are, we find, merely touristic surface dressing: the depths below are seething with marital struggle, domestic strife, and childhood distress.

Did Lisa’s child fall into the lake, or was he pushed? Will the debt-ridden physiotherapist Roz accept her client’s offer of substantial financial inducement for sexual favours? Will wealthy Kate’s perfect life be wrecked by her one-eyed son and absconding daughter? Who saw the moment of illicit passion between Lisa and Roz’s masterful brother-in-law? Will she manage to recover the incriminating lace knickers left behind in the excitement? It is impossible to take seriously, but, beautifully acted and presented, it works well as a superior TV airport novel.

Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1, Mondays) continues to uncover real-life family dramas for its celebrity subjects. Last week, Kate Winslet was shocked by her Swedish ancestors’ grinding poverty, starvation, and crimes. Better than a play, really.

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