AN UNSAVOURY aspect of your less-than-perfect clergy is that, when we get together in private and think that none of the laity are listening, we swap reminiscences of weddings and funerals that went badly wrong, trying to produce an anecdote funnier and more grotesque than anyone else’s. It’s a commonplace professional defence mechanism, exploiting the distance between the life of pure concern and sympathy that we’re supposed to live, especially when dealing with people at their most vulnerable, and the messy reality of practical failure and misunderstanding.
It is hardly unknown for those in caring professions to build an armour of cynicism to hide their sensitivities, their fear of being overwhelmed by emotion. If this exemplifies some of the clergy, the infinitely greater extent to which it defines the medical profession is laid bare for all to see in This is Going to Hurt (BBC1, Tuesdays). Based on Adam Kay’s book, this reveals the stress and strain of being a junior registrar in a hopelessly understaffed and under-resourced NHS hospital, where the prevailing state is utter exhaustion.
It is both — if you can bear gallows humour — a farcical comedy and an affecting tragedy. Consultants, registrars, and doctors treat everyone lower down the hierarchy appallingly; if you are going to survive the unbearable pressure, you have to toughen up, and the tried and tested method is constant abuse. The most alarming aspect of this brilliant series is that it is entirely pre-Covid. How on earth could that extra burden be bolted on to an institution already teetering on the verge of collapse?
Chloe, BBC1’s current Sunday-evening drama, is magnificently enigmatic. Is this a dark satire on the power of social media, the smartphone a more constant presence than any shifting relationship? Where does the scheming, manipulative, mendacious heroine Becky’s reality lie? Are the constant flashbacks what actually happened, or merely productions of her over-ripe imagination? Her obsession is Chloe, her closest schoolfriend of far superior social class, who, at some point, rejected and cast her off, and who may or may not have tried to phone Becky just before taking her own life.
So far, Becky — passing herself off as Sasha — has brilliantly wormed her way into Chloe’s privileged circle, and even shacked up with Chloe’s husband. Is it all shameless iniquity, or the long-planned revenge of a cruelly slighted innocent? The plot is far-fetched beyond belief, but touches nerves of genuine raw emotion, probing the relationship between true and fake, trust and betrayal.
The Curse (Channel 4, Sundays) is gloriously over-the-top comedy, ratcheting every crime-caper convention to dizzying heights. Cockney geezer villains of unimagined imbecility steal, inadvertently, a mountain of gold bars. What to do now? My money is on the exploited housewife, brighter and tougher than all the rest put together.