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TV review: Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain, Who Stole Tamara Ecclestone’s Diamonds, and The Control Room

29 July 2022

BBC

Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain (BBC2, 22 June, 19 July, and iPlayer) celebrated the ways in which Afro-Caribbean influences contribute to life in Britain today

Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain (BBC2, 22 June, 19 July, and iPlayer) celebrated the ways in which Afro-Caribbean influences contribute to life ...

BUT what about church? Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain (BBC2, 22 June, 19 July, and iPlayer) was a cheerful and intimate celebration of the myriad ways in which Afro-Caribbean, and later directly African, influences contribute to life in Britain today. Intimate, because the comedian (now additionally, of course, a Shakespearean actor) knows all the main players as colleagues and friends.

We saw again the familiar story of the shocking realities that greeted the Windrush and subsequent generations of immigrants persuaded to assist the mother country to rebuild after the war: the racism, unemployment, appalling slums. But all these were presented here as catalysts’ forcing an explosion of cultural expression, of showing Britain that these newcomers had their own music and style, vibrant and colourful, a startling contrast to the drab poverty and bitter cold that they encountered.

Sir Lenny presented not just the successive waves of popular music — despised at first then eagerly copied and taken over by British youth — he also introduced us to a procession of brilliant actors, TV presenters, directors, writers, chefs, and designers, all of whom have over the years enlarged and transformed our lives. It was no easy over-optimistic account; at all levels there is still racial prejudice, and far too little representation. If the actors are black, the producers, commissioners, and executives are still white.

Below lay the systemic conundrum: should the goal of incoming new cultures be assimilation or maintaining precious separate identity? Should everything be brought into a single melting pot or should we wait for a community to develop a necessary confidence before their defining qualities leach out to enrich the whole? And where was the Church? Many contributors referred to their parents’ piety, but there was nothing about religion today. Surely the thriving Pentecostal churches and exuberant worship have significantly changed the expectations and attitudes of Christian Britain?

I watched Who Stole Tamara Ecclestone’s Diamonds? (BBC3 Thursday of last week), less from undue concern for the tribulations of the hyper-rich than because it was all about next door. Ms Ecclestone’s mansion lies over the wall from our previous vicarage; an odd experience, seeing our house in the background of the CCTV footage of the robbery. The crime was a curious combination of brilliance and incompetence: the villains left clues everywhere. Ms Ecclestone doesn’t need all those jewels, of course, but her distress at the violation of her home was no less real than ours would be.

The overarching plot of The Control Room (BBC1, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of last week) — a splendidly acted, frequently compelling tale about a Glasgow emergency call-handler drawn into increasing complex and incomprehensible vortices of crime and childhood tragedy — had no control whatsoever.

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