The Salisbury Poisonings, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written by Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, director, Saul Dibb.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08dqp3w/the-salisbury-poisonings-series-1-episode-1

Before Covid-19, the coronavirus, Salisbury was briefly in lockdown in the winter of 2018 after two Russian agents poisoned former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal  (Wayne Swann) who worked for MI6 (allegedly) and his daughter,  Yulia Skripal (Jill Winternitz) with polonium, a highly toxic and deadly nerve agent. This might have been a hard sell.

Now we’re au fait with the whole situation. As soon as Sergi and Yulia start spewing up, and people crowd around them, you’re shouting that the telly, get away from them, ya numpty. Don’t you know anything about the R number?

Then DS Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall) who’s leading the investigation wades right into the infection zone and, when he starts sweating and mopping his brow, you just know he’s got it. He goes to the hospital for a check-up. They send him home, as hospitals sent tens of thousands of elderly folks into care homes, to empty acute-care beds for sick people, malingerers, with a bit of flu, without testing them for Covid-19. We knew the DS would be back and it would be intensive care. We’re up to date with all that stuff.

You’d be sneering, when rooking police turn up at Sergei Skripal’s home and a neighbour with a spare set of keys offers to let him inside. Lucky for them, DS Nick Bailey tells them to stand down, ‘Do not go in that house!’ No personal protective equipment, we’re saying. What kind of bungling amateurs employed by Boris Johnson are we dealing with?

The hero, Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff) a civilian, director of public health and safety, needs to take charge. Which is quite a mouthful.  She’s got to give the police, council and traders the bad news. We’re shutting you down.  She’ll also need to employ trace and track. Salisbury city centre and the places were the Russian dissidents had visited would need to be locked down. All of this is so familiar; we wonder why anybody bothers arguing with her.

Of course, there are the couple that got away. Dawn Sturgess (Myanna Buring) and  Charlie Rowley (Johnny Harris). They’ve also been poisoned, but they’re invisible to the public eye, portrayed as alkies, so they don’t notice, while flinging back the booze. It’s not as if they’re real people.   I’m sure Tracy Daszkiewicz will find them, but won’t be able to save them.

We’re ahead of the curve here too. Not everybody is saved. It’s not all happy endings. But this is worth watching. Now we’re all experts, it’s easier. We’re more informed and that’s not a good thing. The price has been too high. I wonder who’ll play the weasly windbag Boris Johnson in the Covid-19, mini-series.

Jawbone (2017) BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, director Thomas Napper.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000gx8n/jawbone

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000gx8n/jawbone

Writer Johnny Harris takes the central role of Jimmy McCabe in this smashing film with a boxing background. We’re all familiar with the Rocky theme tune playing in the background and the stereotypical rags to riches story. We know there’ll be a fight and our hero will win.

Johnny Harris gives it a bit of twist, his fight is with the booze. He can still shift, but his better days are gone. He lives in a council property that’s been torn down and he’s been torn down with it. He refuses to budge. He goes to the housing and when they give him a hard time, he turns on the security guards. Jimmy McCabe needs somewhere to park his anger.

Social realism isn’t just about rundown locations. I recognise Jimmy McCabe, he’s like my brother Sev, Stevie Mitchell, even young Robert, all dead. All boozers. They’d that edge. Prisons are full of Jimmy McCabes—all they’ve got is their pride. All unable to switch off.

Jimmy has more immediate needs than salvation. With nowhere to stay, nowhere to go,  he drifts back to the old gym he used to train. Bill’s gym is the kind of rundown place that hasn’t room for fancy stuff, or fancy people. Working class kids come to learn from Bill Carney (Ray Winstone). Winstone boxed for England as a schoolboy, but here he’s the old timer bringing new kids on, keeping them off the street, teaching them about values. He doesn’t miss a trick. When Jimmy wanders in he spots him right away. He exchanges a look with a faithful sidekick Eddie (Michael Smiley) that helps him out.

‘You alright Jimmy?’ Bill asks him.

Jimmy tells him he’s just in to train. Nothing much is said. That’s the brilliance of the script. But when something needs to be said, it’s Bill that does the talking and Jimmy listens. This is not the Jimmy we’ve seen up until now. In the school of hard knocks you only get one chance, but Bill is holding out a helping hand.

Jimmy takes the piss. He’s nowhere to stay and breaks into Bill’s gym to have somewhere to kip down. He leaves before anybody comes in the morning. Bill catches him out, of course. And it’s a thing of beauty. The script really is pitch perfect.

Jimmy needs a fight, but he’s no longer fit. He has to beg a pound to make a phone call. Use old contacts in the fight game. Joe Padgett (Ian McShane) meets him in a restaurant and buys him a steak dinner. More importantly, he gets him a bout, unlicensed, but cash, £2500, or £3000 if it’s a knockout. He also gives him a sub to get by. The guy that Jimmy’s got to fight is unbeaten, much younger and a killer. We’re in Rocky territory here.

We’re rooting for Jimmy, but we know what happens next when he buys a bottle of booze.

Later, Jimmy, in an AA meeting says what we all know, what we’ve experienced. ‘I’m a fighter, but I can fight it. I know I’ll lose. That’s why I’m here.’

He knows that’s one fight he’s going to lose. In the gym he was something. On the streets he’s less than nothing. He needs to prepare for the unlicensed fight, but he tries to keep it a secret from Bill. But Bill already knows. Bill knows a lot of things. His fatherly relationship with Jimmy and Eddie’s misgivings are realistic. Can a boozer really change? (Answers on a postcard and send it to God.)

Here the sweat of honest men, who tell it like it is, makes us hearken back to simpler times. Boxing is the most brutal sport. That’s where we get the term punch-drunk from.  Here another aspect is on show, kindness and comradeship. Whether Jimmy wins his boxing bout, or not, we know, doesn’t really matter. It’s the bout with himself and the booze he needs to win. Stepping into the ring, might be a catalyst for destruction, but when every day is a battle…Get real. Watch this.