DID you see Jesus on TV a couple of weeks ago? The series Inside No. 9 has always been the most genre-defying of horror comedies, a prodigal treasure-chest of cultural references and subtle parodies; but the final episode on 14 June (BBC2) covered more ground — emotional, political, sexual (always a key element) — than any I remember, adding this time a surprisingly moving religious element.
A dysfunctional family gathers once more to watch the Last Night of the Proms, the feast of patriotism blaring from the television providing both catalyst and commentary as sibling rivalry and long-simmering hatreds emerge. But an uninvited stranger appears: bearded, foreign, his hands wounded. He stirs up fear, pity, homoerotic lust — and, in sister Penny, faith.
Surely, he is one of those unwanted and probably murderous asylum-seekers; but, as the crowds sing “Jerusalem”, for a moment they all wonder: could this possibly be the “holy Lamb of God”? The possibility is too unbearable; tension mounts until he is savagely murdered, Penny cradling his body — a suburban pietà.
In horrified silence, they clear everything away, wrapping the corpse in a Union flag, and bundling it into the car for disposal. Everybody agrees, as they wipe his blood, symbolically, from the TV screen, on a rational explanation for everything; but there was a coda for Penny, mourning in the conservatory — a Mary Magdalene moment of resurrection. This was extraordinarily bold TV, daring to enter territory that everyone else shies away from.
Risk-taking lay at the heart of all the contributions to Inside Culture with Shahidha Bari (BBC2, Friday). Tracey Emin is always worth hearing, her recent openness about her bladder cancer and its treatment just the latest in a lifetime of shredding the veils of conventional propriety. These revelations of her personal life are far too uncomfortable for many — but for many more, deeply liberating. At last, feelings and experience that society tells them should be kept hidden are given public, creative utterance.
All the featured artists insist that the most important thing is full self-expression. But such a claim raises big questions: obviously, we must proclaim that which is true to our personal experience, but does not too much self obscure the universality of the message, reducing it to a mere ego trip? Discuss.
In Peter Taylor: Ireland after Partition (BBC2, 14 June), the reporter reviewed nearly 50 years of his own filming of hatred, violence, fear, and suffering — and also reconciliation and hope. His conclusion was bleak: the negative forces still simmer beneath the surface, ready to erupt.