Combining humour and drama with a subject like autism takes a bit of doing in terms of getting it right, but the very welcome return of The A Word (BBC 1, Tuesday) shows that it can be done, and done brilliantly. It really is a masterclass in writing from Peter Bowker, with every word and sentence offering something in a beautifully executed piece of work that deserves to have as much fuss made about it as the likes of Doctor Foster, Broadchurch, and Line of Duty.
We’re two years on from series one, and little Joe early on utters the word autism for the first time, and his parents don’t know how to react and to deal with it. Ultimately, they realise that despite their best efforts (and a couple of journeys by Joe up a ladder to the top of a school building), he cannot make progress at his local school, and they need to take a different approach with him, and get Joe some special schooling.
There’s some magic at work in The A Word with the cast delivering from youngster Max Vento as Joe, with his love for classic seventies punk music via his headphones, through to old hand Christopher Eccleston as his granddad, who is given some cracking comedy lines, especially in his first scene. Like with the US hit, The Good Doctor, The A Word shows that a sensitive topic can be well-handled and bring a big audience into understanding exactly what autism is about, but be entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time. As they used to say on Points of View, well done BBC!
A very different Joe was facing a court martial that was more like a kangaroo court in the final part of the intriguing The Last Post (BBC 1, Sunday). The show set amongst the British military police in mid-sixties Aden, had Captain Joe disobeying orders in order to rescue the commanding officer’s son, and we got ourselves a happy ending, but also a couple of unresolved teasers like Joe’s previous relationship to a married woman that suggest that creator and writer Peter Moffat might be doing a second series. I hope so, as The Last Post offered something different, but surely some of the cast looking a wee bit too handsome for the ravages of the Middle East?
The Detectorists (BBC Four, Wednesday) is a gentle yet funny comedy about two friends (Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones) who are passionate metal detectorists and take their hobby to extremes. It’s tender and touching at times, and creator/writer Crook has said that this will be the last series, as quite rightly he wants to maintain the high standard. Quite right too, and like The A Word, not enough noise is made about this little gem.
Having mentioned The Good Doctor earlier (and regular readers know that I think it is fantastic), let me quickly mention what else is big in the new autumn dramas from the States. Well worth watching, and already picked up for a full run on CBS, is a new starring vehicle for Bones star David Boreanaz, called Seal Team. It’s the sort of action show that CBS enjoy showing and they get mega ratings for them. There’s nothing new about it, but it’s not boring and I’m pretty much hooked on it, and I’m sure a UK and a Spanish channel will pick it up. It just took a bit of getting to seeing Boreanaz in a different role after a dozen seasons of doing Bones.