Remote Control: Saturday 09 November 2013

Documentary tackles tough health subject

Man down: Mum (Gwyneth Powell), Dan (Greg Davies), Dad (Rik Mayall)
Man down: Mum (Gwyneth Powell), Dan (Greg Davies), Dad (Rik Mayall)

Although attitudes have improved over the years, there is still a stigma attached to mental illness – an issue that many of us feel uncomfortable talking about.

It is hardly a surprise therefore that this is a subject rarely tackled in a responsible way by television producers, which is why Bedlam (Channel 4, Thursdays 9pm) is such a breath of fresh air.

The second episode of the series this week was one of the most moving pieces of television I have seen for many years, and it focused on four patients at the country’s most famous psychiatric unit – Bethlem (which over the centuries has come to be pronounced as Bedlam) Royal Hospital in South London, all with very different stories and very different needs.

The documentary conjured up every emotion possible for the viewer, from absolute heartbreak, anguish, anger, frustration to even, on several occasions, humour. There can not be a single person who watched the programme who wasn’t moved by the story of Dominic, a middle class dad of four, who was admitted to the hospital’s triage ward after he attempted to take his own life.

During the course of the documentary, we followed the trauma that Dominic and his young family had to endure as he underwent his long recovery.

The most utterly tragic moment was when Dominic’s 13-year-old daughter told her mum she did not trust him enough to want him to return home from hospital, but it was utterly compelling television.

Another programme focusing, in part, on mental illness this week was 999: What’s Your Emergency?, which is now much more about the human beings on show rather than the first series, when the seedier side of Blackpool was the unwelcome star.

There were plenty of real stories about real people including Ken, a 76-year-old who cares for his wife, a dementia sufferer. Rather than complaining about his lot, Ken just got on with looking after the woman he fell in love with on Valentine’s Day 1957.

Staying with Channel 4, the network has proved it is not just real life drama at which it excels, but it does produce more than a few laughs. Its latest comedy offering, Man Down (Fridays 9pm), starring giant funnyman Greg Davies, is a clever mix of old fashioned slapstick and 21st Century off the wall comedy.

In perhaps the neatest casting in recent memory, Davies lookalike Rik Mayall plays his on screen father, a sinister puppet loving maniac.

This series has the potential to become a cult classic.

Perhaps the best actor working on our small screen at the moment is the sickeningly talented David Tenant, who showcases his mighty talents in the gripping Escape Artist (BBC One, Tuesday 9pm).

The former Doctor Who plays the role of the country’s top young legal mind, Will Burton, who has now become the victim of a twisted killer called Liam Foyle.

As in most dramas, the plot appears more than a tad fanciful, but it has an excellent cast, including the brilliant Sophie Okendo. She plays a ruthlessly ambitious 
defence barrister, who represents Toby Kebbell’s Foyle as he stands trial for the brutal murder of Burton’s wife.

Next Tuesday sees the final episode in this mini series and, thanks to the ever unhelpful trailer after this week’s show, the viewer has a good idea how it ends.

Thanks a bunch Auntie.