Review: A Very British Scandal's naughty aristos and fiery passions couldn't disguise a stone cold heart
It felt almost treasonous to see the Queen cavorting with several naked men on TV this week. Of course, it wasn’t really Her Maj, but Claire Foy, who played the Queen in Netflix drama The Crown.
This time, Foy was a mere Duchess, the Duchess of Argyll, in A Very British Scandal (BBC1, Sun-Tue, 9pm).
A sort of companion piece to the Hugh Grant-starring A Very English Scandal, this new three-episode tale looked at the scandalous divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, which worked the nation into a frenzy in the early 60s, as the sex lives of the rich and famous were splashed all over the front pages of the tabloids.
It was much closer to The Crown in tone than the previous Scandal series. Lots of muted colours in blues, greys and blacks, clipped aristo accents, and misery in gilded cages. Indeed, for a series which deals in grand passions, like love, jealousy and infidelity, it was curiously cold, and it was hard to warm to anyone involved.
Unlike the Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott affair, which was shot through with dark humour and had such a winningly creepy performance from Grant, A Very British Scandal was a much more sombre affair.
Claire Foy’s Duchess was trapped by convention and the genteel poverty of her husband. “Just pay the bills, that’s what you are here for,” Paul Bettany’s Duke scolds her. Everyone else, meanwhile, is scarred by war and stiff upper lipped decorum.
Once you got passed the novelty of frightfully posh people talking about male appendages, A Very British Scandal just showed that being rich and aristocratic was not a lot of fun.
And despite the compelling turns by Foy and Bettany, neither was watching this drama with a cold heart.
If you were looking for warmth and hearts aglow this festive season, you needn’t have looked further than Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing (BBC2, Sun, 9pm). A true delight.
I guess Jon and Lucy’s Christmas Sleepover (C4, Mon, 9pm) was supposed to be full of seasonal warmth and bonhomie, but with five comedians in one house, and lots of staged hijinks, it fell flat.