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TV review: Urbi et Orbi, My Life at Easter with Sally Phillips, and Rain Dogs

14 April 2023

BBC/Big Circus Media

Sally Phillips and the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, in Canterbury Cathedral, in My Life at Easter with Sally Phillips (BBC1, Easter Day)

Sally Phillips and the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, in Canterbury Cathedral, in My Life at Easter with Sally Phillips (BBC1, Easte...

JUST days after discharge from hospital, I would be taking bed-rest and enjoying restorative cups of beef tea; not so the Pope, who presided at his full programme of Triduum services, and, as we saw live on Urbi et Orbi (BBC1, Easter Day), offered with complete engagement his prayers, and pronounced God’s blessing on city and world. Although seated, he was steady, urgent, impassioned. His pleas for peace and hope, his listing of all the world’s most terrible areas of conflict and disaster, and his longing that we may all rediscover the joy of the journey were profound and moving.

A rather different bishop was profiled on Easter Day in My Life at Easter with Sally Phillips (BBC1): our own (literally, my own) Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin. The irritating signs of the BBC’s desperation to be mass-market populist — framing the whole thing around chocolate eggs, and employing a presenter who, although obviously sincere in her faith, needs to learn basic church terminology — evaporated in the face of a genuinely affecting account of Bishop Hudson-Wilkin’s journey from Montego Bay to Canterbury Cathedral.

The emotional privations of her upbringing; the years of frustration with a Church that did not ordain women or allow them to exercise their gifts of leadership, and permitted implicit or open discrimination against black people — all were acknowledged (“No Easter without Good Friday”), but were countered with exuberant and infectious expressions of joyful faith. For her, exercising episcope demands denunciation of contemporary evils: the shameful refusal to welcome refugees, and persistent racism. This was by no means the comforting, anodyne C of E Easter message of media expectation. Let’s hope she encouraged serious revision of attitudes about our Church’s realities.

The new drama series Rain Dogs (BBC1, Tuesday of last week) features a somewhat contrasting female hero. Daisy May Cooper plays a recovering alcoholic sex worker, gleefully breaking every taboo of decent morality in a desperate attempt to keep her — and her daughter’s — head above water as poverty and destitution threaten to engulf them. Give her £5, and she’ll spend it on scratch cards, because she needs more money than that.

In a decidedly post-watershed offering in its language, subject matter, and image, Cooper and her fellow denizens of a disgusting submerged world of sex, drugs, and criminality bring us gradually, but surely, through sheer energy, wit, and sharp writing, and despite our better selves, round to their side.

Naked Education (Channel 4 from Tuesday 4 April) is far more serious than it may appear. Young people face appalling pressure to conform to today’s ideal body type. Frequently, if they failing to do so, this engenders crippling self-hatred and sickening abuse from their peers. Gently encouraged to acknowledge their traumas and then engaging with real, confident, unclothed adults, they learn that true beauty comes in every size and shape.

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