JK Rowling casts her spell over small screen

Michael Gambon and Shirley Mollison in The Casual Vacancy
Michael Gambon and Shirley Mollison in The Casual Vacancy
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I didn’t think you would be watching this as a matter of principle’, was the sarcastic cry which drifted across the living room on Sunday evening.

She had a point. As the opening credits for The Casual Vacancy (BBC1 Sunday 9pm) flashed on the flatscreen I had to fight the reflex-like instinct to switch over such is my dislike for the author JK Rowling.

Proudly, I have never read one of her books and have watched a mere 15 minutes of a Henry Potter film. There is no single reason why I have such an aversion to the First Lady of Kids’ Books, but whenever she comes on to the small screen I am almost overcome with the urge to lob the remote control in her general direction.

Some people get cross when Russell Brand invades their home while others, mainly members of the Royal family, gag when Nicholas Witchell stands in front of the camera. My televisual bogey people are Rowling and the whiny-voiced, mop-haired panel show regular Alan Davies.

But credit where credit is due, I quite enjoyed the first episode which proved to be the perfect way to end the weekend, thanks to the engaging plot, great acting and most of all,the stunning Gloucestershire scenery. As always Michael Gambon lit up the screen, this time with his portrayal of the power-crazed parish chairman as did Julia Mackenzie, who plays his equally vile on-screen wife. Those who have read Rowling’s first adult book will know how it ends but for the millions of us who haven’t, we will be hoping it continues to entertain.

But why enter make believe world of artifice and political back stabbing when the real thing is on offer in the shape of the excellent Inside the Commons (BBC2, Tuesday 9pm).

The brilliance of this programme lies in the unprecedented access to the inner workings of Parliament, without which the makers would not have been able to capture the drama of last year’s farce surrounding the vote on the European Arrest Warrant.

With ministers accused of misleading the House the Government was faced with a revolt from Tory backbenchers. The documentary captured the tension as David Cameron and his MPs rushed back from a white tie dinner in their stuffy attire.

This four-parter showcases the very best of public broadcasting and is a series anybody with an interest in democracy should watch.