CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Hands out of your pockets, Bertie! You’re playing PD James’ top cop

Dalgliesh

Rating:

Sort Your Life Out With Stacey Solomon

Rating:

Friends of P.D. James always suspected she was a little bit in love with her urbane and sensitive detective, the poet Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard. 

She denied it, but admitted she thought he was sexy: ‘I could never fall in love with a man who was handsome but stupid.’

Dalgliesh, this fearsomely intelligent and insightful novelist added, was ‘perhaps an idealised version of what I’d have liked to be if I had been born a man’. 

A lifelong fan of Jane Austen, she was pleased when readers compared him with Mr Darcy from Pride And Prejudice.

Bertie Carvel has a serious challenge on his hands, then, as the star of Dalgliesh (C5), which launched with a two-part adaptation of the murder mystery Shroud For A Nightingale, continuing tonight.

Bertie Carvel has a serious challenge on his hands, then, as the star of Dalgliesh (C5), which launched with a two-part adaptation of the murder mystery Shroud For A Nightingale, continuing tonight

He can certainly do ‘urbane’. So far, though, in his immaculate overcoat and three-piece suit, he is more buttoned up than sensitive. 

He winces at the laddish banter of his sergeant, Charles Masterson (Jeremy Irvine), and drinks red wine in the pub when the rest are on pints of bitter.

With his sideburns and greying, swept-back hair, Carvel’s version of the detective is more like a stern Victorian lawyer from an Anthony Trollope novel. 

Baroness James, who died in 2014 aged 94, was hard to please when it came to adaptations of her books. Dalgliesh was played in the 1980s by Roy Marsden, who didn’t have enough hair for her taste and whose manners were lacking.

The character, she said, ‘wouldn’t wear some of the clothes Roy does, he wouldn’t wear his signet ring on the wrong finger, he wouldn’t have talked to Lady Ursula with his hand in his pocket’.

Hands out of pockets, Bertie!

What this retelling does capture is the writer’s visceral evocation of murder. Death in James’s world was not a game. It was brutal and violent. 

The killing of student nurse Heather Pearce (Beccy Henderson) was truly horrible.

Sly, pious and not above a spot of blackmail, this young woman was taking part in a medical demonstration with a tube down her throat, when she was force-fed bleach. 

Her spasms were frightening, and the aftermath — as a demented consultant sawed open her chest in an attempt to restart her heart by hand — was sheer butchery.

The 1970s setting of the nurses’ home was beautifully recreated, down to the fabrics on the furnishings — all the colour of milky coffee — and the green Woods Ware cups and saucers . . . for decades, the standard crockery for an NHS cuppa.

This attention to period detail will draw inevitable comparisons with Endeavour. Certainly, fans of Shaun Evans as Morse will also enjoy Dalgliesh. 

Two hours of Dalgliesh would fly by, compared with the 60 interminable minutes of Sort Your Life Out With Stacey Solomon (BBC1)

But they’ll wonder, as I do, why Channel 5 bosses didn’t have the courage of their convictions to show the two hours in a single, engrossing, feature-length episode.

Two hours of Dalgliesh would fly by, compared with the 60 interminable minutes of Sort Your Life Out With Stacey Solomon (BBC1). 

Once you’ve seen one of these shows, there’s nothing more to be gained. They’re all identical. 

One family’s tat, laid out on a warehouse floor, is very much the same as every other family’s.

The attraction of nosing through someone else’s clutter wears thin quickly. And Stacey’s storage solutions are often dreadful.

After scolding a mum and her three daughters for having hundreds of books, Stacey replaced shelves with palm-sized metal tongues, clamped to the wall, just big enough for balancing a stack of three or four paperbacks.

I shudder to think what P.D. James would say about that.

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