CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Prison drama turns Sean Bean into Mr Softie

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Prison drama that turns tough guy Sean Bean into Mr Softie

Time

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The Scottish Island That Won The Lottery

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Sean Bean’s face is so lined, it looks like a child has drawn eyes on an inky thumbprint. He’s more wrinkly than a tramp’s boot that’s been left under a sunlamp, and twice as tough.

Compared with Sean, action hero Jack Reacher is as soft and snooty as Jacob Rees-Mogg. So it’s hard to understand why other inmates, in the prison drama Time (BBC1), take one look and decide he’s a pushover.

He’s Sharpe, he’s Boromir in Lord Of The Rings, he’s Ned Stark from Game Of Thrones for heaven’s sake. He doesn’t get these roles because he’s the diffident type.

Loaded with scenes of self-harm and vicious assaults, Time has echoes of the Ray Winstone 1979 classic, Scum

Even Sean Bean playing a timid teacher called Mark, in jail for the first time in his life after a drunken car accident, looks like he’s carved from weathered granite and boiled in vinegar.

But bullying Johnno (James Nelson-Joyce) swans into Mark’s cell and nicks his sugar. Then he barges him out of the queue for the payphones, and punches him on the nose.

Mark trudges sheepishly away. A fellow inmate warns him that he should have punched back: ‘Your life won’t be worth living now.’

You’d expect a bloke who has spent his life in classrooms to be more confident about dealing with bullies. And for all his swagger, Johnno looks like he’s made from twigs. Sean could knock him over with a sneeze.

The distractions of casting aside, Time is a visceral and violently scary drama. Writer Jimmy McGovern’s script conveys how dehumanising the experience of prison is, from the moment the first iron door slams.

‘Are you suicidal?’ asks one prison officer in the dull voice of somebody asking for a shoe size. ‘Have you ever suffered depression?’ inquires another and, when Mark starts to say something about his youth, she snaps: ‘Yes or no?’

Stephen Graham cuts a menacing figure as Mr McNally, a Scouse version of Mr Mackay from Porridge — short temper, narrow eyes, not noted for his forgiving nature.

He expects inmates to call him ‘Boss’ and seems to hanker for the American prisons of movies like Cool Hand Luke. Boss McNally would like to carry a shotgun and send his convicts out to work on chain gangs.

But he’s being bullied, too: the prisoners have heard McNally’s own son is serving a sentence in another jail. If the Boss doesn’t start doing people favours, Junior might come to harm.

Loaded with scenes of self-harm and vicious assaults, Time has echoes of the Ray Winstone 1979 classic, Scum.

This charming documentary painted a leisurely portrait of a community built on the principle of ‘make do and mend’ 

Another archetypal British film, the Ealing comedy Whisky Galore!, was evoked by The Scottish Island That Won The Lottery (C4). The folk of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides (‘Like the Bahamas without the heat,’ said one local) were sharing an extraordinary bit of luck — not a shipwrecked cargo of booze, but a £3 million windfall.

This charming documentary painted a leisurely portrait of a community built on the principle of ‘make do and mend’. It followed a few of the winners, including Pamela and husband Angus, who have two teenage children. The couple work six jobs, but their £193,055 share means they can enjoy a holiday.

Trouble is, they can’t decide between a week in Inverness, or a long weekend in the bright lights of Glasgow.

Their neighbour Duncan, 83, who still heats his cottage with bricks of peat he digs himself, has decided to invest in a new frying pan and a wheelbarrow. The old wheelbarrow is rusted through with a wonky wheel, but Duncan is worried about the extravagance of getting rid of it.

‘I’ll probably try to sell it,’ he decided.

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