Picnic at Hanging Rock more than makes up for disappointment at the World Cup

On the very day that football said it wasn't coming home after all, not now, not when there was still daylight left, BBC1 was screening what, on the surface, looked like one of those stiff upper-lipped, starched white crinolines period dramas '“ one of those where there's a lot of talking about things that have happened, but you don't actually see anything happening.

Friday, 13th July 2018, 4:00 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:15 pm
Marion Quade (Madeleine Madden), Miranda Reid (Lily Sullivan), and Irma Leopold (Samara Weaving) mysteriously disappear in Picnic at Hanging Rock
Marion Quade (Madeleine Madden), Miranda Reid (Lily Sullivan), and Irma Leopold (Samara Weaving) mysteriously disappear in Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock (BBC2, Wednesdays, 9pm), however, was not a Downton Abbey-style period drama – yes, there were grand houses, society fetes and frightfully good manners, but there was so much else.

There was sex, and the first stirrings of the sexual revolution that would lead to the suffragettes, there were secrets galore, there was Gothic romance and a dashing doctor. All of this was set against a backdrop of feverishness, as if Mrs Appleyard’s girls’ school at the centre of the story was gripped by the collective hormonal pulse of young women on the verge of adulthood.

Based on an acclaimed novel by the Australian writer Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock tells of four girls at Mrs Appleyard’s school for girls who – during a picnic at the titular landmark – vanish mysteriously.

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The first episode of this new TV adaptation ended at the disappearance, but what an opening episode it was.

And oh my goodness how beautiful it was. The scenes of the girls at the picnic – their ice-white dresses standing out against the lush green of the Australian bush, mist rising from the billabong – was just dreamily gorgeous.

There are flashes of horror, an idea of the clash of wild nature and the strictures put on us by society, and have I mentioned how beautiful it looked?

Football, what football?

So Keeping Faith (BBC1, Thursdays, 9pm) has finally made it to national TV, after S4C and the iPlayer, and it you haven’t seen it yet, you are missing out on one of the dramas of the year.

Just a word for the coverage of the World Cup, on both ITV and BBC, which has struck just the right tone of hopeful pessimism – if there is such a thing. Just, could someone tell Danny Murphy to cheer up.