Alcoholics, right-on agenda, weak men… there’s no Ender misery on BBC One’s The Split

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THE big surprise about ­EastEnders’ anniversary is that it’s only the 35th.

It feels like it’s been going at least 50 years, partly because it survives on just half a dozen endlessly repeated stories, but also due to the fact its shrill tone, right-on agenda and obsession with long-suffering, alcoholic women and spineless men has been copied by almost every other mainstream drama on TV.

BBC One’s The Split is basically just a middle-class version of EastEnders

Take, for instance, last night, where you had the choice of ITV’s Liar or BBC1’s The Split.

Such a miserable offering, I flipped a coin, lost and ended up watching The Split.

If you haven’t suffered like I have, I should explain this is basically just a middle-class version of EastEnders set in a family law firm run by matriarch Ruth and her daughters, who are straight from central soap casting.

There’s Nina, the hot one, an alcoholic shoplifter who can’t get a bloke.

BEEB JUST PLOUGHS ON

And there’s Hannah, who’s as plain as an envelope and has men fighting over her in the street.

There is another one as well, Rose, who can’t get pregnant.

But writer Abi Morgan hasn’t the ­faintest idea what to do with her, so the drama tends to revolve around the ­miserable-as-sin Hannah, played by Nicola Walker, who’s been having the least steamy affair in television history with a walking Grolsch advert called Christie Carmichael.

They bonded over a mutual love of swimming and legal jargon and now refer to their encounters as “Grayling,” like it was a Prohibited Steps Order.

The drama tends to revolve around the ­miserable-as-sin Hannah, played by Nicola Walker

He’s a bit of a git, obviously. As is pretty much everyone else on The Split.

The only other ones you really need bother about, though, are the firm’s dandyish boss Zander, whose spirit animal is Rupert The Bear.

His partner, Tyler, who “specialises in mergers”, which I think is meant to sound sexy.

And Hannah’s unfaithful husband Nathan, played by Stephen Mangan, who’s thinking of getting it on with an office junior called Chloe who is not just the authentic voice of The Split but the entire BBC.

“I heard you speak at the Women In Law lunch,” she says, less than enticingly, at one point.

“Feminist perspectives on cross-examination. It was great.”

Yeah, it sounds like a total riot.

You feel for the actors, obviously. They’re constrained not just by the script and the EastEnders rules of drama, but by the subject matter as well.

In Walford, they at least have a small choice of storylines.

Here, there’s just one. Divorce, divorce and more divorce.

A slightly more savvy drama department would’ve given up on it after one series.

The Beeb just ploughs on, though, trying to jolly it along with some insanely annoying incidental music and a couple of guest stars.
First time round we got Meera Syal (thanks for that).

Donna Air spends the duration of her screen time looking like she’s got a particularly bad smell under her nose

This series, they’ve gone for broke and landed Donna Air off Byker Grove, who spends the duration of her screen time, as TV presenter Fi Hansen, looking like she’s got a particularly bad smell under her nose.

She thinks its disdain for her controlling screen husband, Richie.

We all know it looks more like contempt for the show, the plot and the script, which forces poor Nicola Walker to scream: “You have s**t, Nina.

We all have s**t.” And there’s another two weeks of this s**t to go.

Avoid avoid avoid.

ITV copes beat the PC drum

SHE’S McDonald, he’s Dodds. So together they are . . .

A right pain in the ar*e.

McDonald & Dodds (Jason Watkins and Tala Gouveia) are ITV’s dreadful new chalk-and-cheese crime-solving duo.

Tala Gouveia is ambitious, no-nonsense DCI Lauren McDonald, who’s come down to Bath, from London, saying things like: “I’m here for two years, tops. Don’t get attached to me.”

I won’t.

DS Dodds is her dorkish, time-serving partner, played by Jason Watkins, with a non-specific Yokel accent.

It could be Bath, it could be Ba’ath Party. The damn thing comes and goes, like the ad breaks, so it’s really hard to tell.

Bog-standard Sunday night brain rot, so far.

The real trouble here, though, is that as well as a lousy script and bonkers plot, McDonald & Dodds writer Robert Murphy has got a very PC political axe, which he grinds against multi-millionaire entrepreneur Max Crockett (Robert Lindsay in a Panama hat), who bears no physical resemblance to the Prime Minister.

However, he has got a surprisingly large number of children, a much younger pregnant wife and a way of quivering with rage about “the politics of envy” that leaves you in no doubt where all of Murphy’s prejudices lie.

The normal rules of quality drama and all the most self-important catch-up viewers dictate that spoilers are absolutely forbidden on a whodunnit.

So I’ve got no hesitation telling you it was Kasha, the lesbian, traveller waitress, who shot Max’s secret son, Seth.

Begone, McDonald & Dodds. You’re not wanted round these paaaarrrrrrts.

TV Gold

  • BBC2’s spell-binding and award-worthy Murder 24/7 putting ITV’s Flesh & Blood in its proper place.
  • Rob Beckett’s Celebs Go Dating commentary once again being the funniest thing on TV.
  • Clive Owen’s Curb Your Enthusiasm cameo, on Sky Comedy, coming a close second.
  • And Susanna Reid, who’s been looking an ­absolute vision of contentment alongside gentleman journalist Bill Turnbull on Good Morning ­Britain. So thank the gods of television for Chunk’s safe return. It’s a permanently-narked, bordering-on-the-homicidal Susanna Reid viewers want to see first thing. Not a Guardian Soulmates date.

Unexpected morons in the bagging area

  • Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “In netball, what position is represented by the letters WA?”
    Liz: “Goal Attack.”
    Ben Shephard: “Egyptian cotton is predominantly cultivated in the delta of what African river?”
    Mark: “The Lee.”
  • Celebrity Mastermind, John Humphrys: “Helsinki is the capital city of what European country?”
    Gareth Thomas: “Germany.”
  • John Humphrys: “Napoli is the Italian name for which city about 120 miles south-east of Rome?”Yung Filly: “Milan.”
  • (All contributions gratefully received)

Lookalikes

This week’s winner is Phillip Schofield and Captain Hank Murphy from Sealab 2021. Sent in by “Queen Irene” from the East ­Midlands. Picture research: Marta Ovod

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