ROLAND WHITE reviews last night’s TV: The lockdown care home drama that’ll make you quake with rage
Patrick Kielty: One Hundred Years Of Union
The title of Help (C4) was slightly misleading. For this was a gruelling lockdown drama in which much-needed help pointedly failed to arrive.
Set in a care home in Liverpool as the pandemic takes hold, the screenplay is a rage against what happened in such homes last year, and probably a better tribute to the efforts of care workers than any amount of clapping on our doorsteps.
‘We’ve had word from the hospital,’ says care home boss Steve (Ian Hart). ‘We are going to be taking on a few more residents.’
Help’s rather depressing message was that, when real trouble strikes, there’s often nobody to rely on but yourself
‘Is it safe?’ asks feisty new recruit Sarah (a magnificent Jodie Comer). ‘They’re doctors, love,’ says Steve. ‘This is us, doing our bit.’
We all know how it turned out. Before long, Covid was spreading through the home and staff were poignantly removing patients’ names from their now empty rooms. In one of the most powerful passages, Sarah is working a 20-hour shift on her own when an old man becomes critically ill.
For personal protective equipment, she has a builder’s mask and a modified bin bag. She frantically phones for help but no doctor is available and the ambulances are all busy. She has to wake up an early-onset Alzheimer’s sufferer called Tony (the excellent Stephen Graham) to help turn the old man over on to his stomach so he can breathe more easily.
All the while, in the background, you can hear her mobile phone repeating the same message: ‘We are experiencing a high volume of calls . . . Please continue to hold.’
TRIBUTE OF THE WEEK:
In Comedy Legends (Sky Arts) Barry Cryer paid tribute to U.S. actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd. That’s all very well, but isn’t it time someone celebrated comedy legend Barry Cryer? Perhaps Dan might oblige.
The old man, of course, doesn’t make it. What made the scene particularly dramatic is the thought that somewhere, in a care home or perhaps in many care homes, this actually happened.
Before taking up journalism, I was a care assistant in a psychiatric hospital. It was a long time ago, but Help’s residential home was very recognisable.
There was the way that residents can switch between hopelessness and cheerful lucidity. And I remembered how staff have to think quickly on their feet because you never know what the people in your care will say or do.
In the end, Help’s rather depressing message was that, when real trouble strikes, there’s often nobody to rely on but yourself.
There wasn’t much more cheer in Patrick Kielty: One Hundred Years Of Union (BBC1, BBC2 Wales) in which the comedian returned to his childhood home in Northern Ireland to mark 100 years since the creation of the province.
This year has seen violence in the streets, thought to have been a thing of the past, in response to problems with the border after Brexit and amid talk that a united Ireland might be a real possibility.
Kielty, a former Catholic altar boy, has direct experience of the bad old days. His father, a builder, was murdered by loyalist gunmen because he refused to pay protection money. There was footage of young Patrick carrying his dad’s coffin on his shoulder. In one extraordinary encounter, Patrick helped an articulate young loyalist build one of the area’s famous bonfires, set alight each July 12 in celebration of the Battle of the Boyne.
Later, they were joined by a former loyalist paramilitary commander who is now a community worker. Which meant that Patrick was talking comfortably to a man from the organisation that murdered his father.
That was cause for optimism, but the overall message was mixed. In the centre of Belfast he found a lively social scene, but you couldn’t escape a sense of underlying fear for the future.