Apple Tree Yard – Season 1 – Episode 4

This series ends on the dramatic high the BBC promised before it aired. The courtroom tension that followed in the final hour was so fraught because of the humiliation female characters had to endure.

First up was DS Johns, a police officer that had a working relationship with the ever-dependable non-Spook Costley. She was cross-examined if his behaviour altered during the weeks in question.

She said, “no.”

So, Costley’s own barrister went in hard. Now, I’m no legal expert. But I’m pretty sure in court, you can’t get away with shocking language if you add the precursor: “To use a colloquial term.” But apparently you can, as she was asked, “did he finger you.”

I mean, come on. Just ask in the politest possible way what happened.

Turns out Costley had quickly moved on from Yvonne and was acting inappropriately elsewhere. All building up a picture of an unstable man. Professionals in various psychiatric fields argued the merits of his personality disorder.

As if the treatment of DS Johns wasn’t bad enough, the onslaught continued when Yvonne took to the stand. She broke down, delivering the impact of why she was scared of reporting the rape. When the same barrister delivered the bombshell she’d lied about the affair, her credibility lay in tatters.

But as rightly pointed out, that lie doesn’t mean her ordeal should be dismissed or that she coldly plotted a murder.

We headed to the obvious conclusion but as seems to be the modern way, we needed a twist. Over the weeks we have relied on Yvonne’s narration, her recollection of events. In a closing scene, we see her visit Mark in prison. He says he never told, that he kept the secret.

His inability to separate fact from fiction extended to throwaway remarks.

A solid finish to a series with a shaky start.

8/10

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Apple Tree Yard – Season 1 – Episode 3

It’s the show that continues to get better, episode-by-episode. The third instalment sees the real issues take centre stage. And it’s all the better for it. A show that was uncomfortable to watch in the first moments because it was cringe is now difficult because of the gravitas of its message.

Last week’s dart from George’s house is now explained. Mr Conspiracy here shouldn’t have focused on disinterested dogs in the window. That canine was conveniently ignoring a brutal beating that led to George’s death.

Yep, the “Spook” took things too far and ensured the rapist couldn’t bother Yvonne ever again.

The police pitch up when she’s in a restaurant with her family, where she shares a touching kiss with husband Gary, and arrest her on suspicion of murder.

Still, the law here says if they plotted it together, if she had foreknowledge, she’s as guilty as the man putting the boot in. For his part, Mark Costley pleads manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Sprinkle in a personality disorder claim, and he was big step to avoiding a full murder conviction.

This should have all been great news for Yvonne. With Mark saying he lost his mind, and literally has a few personas on the go to lose, she has a stronger case to say she was unaware.

Wouldn’t make for great telly though, would it, a clear-cut case?
The problems arise when she posts bail (hubby generates £100k to do so) but she breaks the terms of it by responding to a Costley text message. That really was costly.

The courtroom drama was decent. It was interesting and gratifying to see Costley deconstructed. His character was always slightly off-kilter. Now we are made to question if this really is his persona. The links to the intelligence service are revealed: he failed selection.

This leaves Yvonne questioning everything she thought she knew while trying to maintain the façade they were just friends. That can’t end well . . . especially when Costley got a bit of the old green eye watching Yvonne interact with Gary in court.

7/10

Apple Tree Yard – Season 1 – Episode 2

After a dubious beginning, episode two of Apple Tree Yard dispenses with the elements that dragged it down and the main story starts to get traction. The payoff for this is the most uncomfortable twenty minutes of television I can recall ever experiencing.

Yvonne is trying her best to cope with the rape. She feigns illness to give herself space from her husband, while seeking counsel from Mark Costley. He hooks her up with an expert about how to proceed should she wish to prosecute George for the crime.

Problem is, time has elapsed, the DNA evidence now washed away, and he warns that her whole life would be placed under a microscope. This is enough to make her decide against any formal action.

She decides to leave her job and end the affair with Costley, explaining she can’t see herself ever wanting sex again and theirs was just a lustful encounter.

Another problem develops when it seems George is beginning to stalk her. He’s sending texts from unknown phones and flowers with quaint messages. So she turns to Costley for support. He is a Spook after all, right?

The series hinges on where it goes from here. As a viewer, suspicions should be high. Why couldn’t Costley – a would-be Bond – get to George straight away? When he finally pays him a visit, he casually walks into the house and the dog in the window never pays any notice (familiar face?).

We are reminded at the close of the show Yvonne is on trial in the future. But for what? Was she being used as a puppet of sorts or did she take revenge too far?

6/10

Apple Tree Yard – Season 1 – Episode 1

As part of the BBC Drama drive, Apple Tree Yard comes to our screens. The Louise Doughty novel it’s adapted from is described as an erotically charged thriller, can Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin bring that spark to the screen?

Watson portrays Dr Yvonne Carmichael, a clever geneticist that starts the episode giving a speech to a bunch of politicians in the House of Commons. When it ends, she gets chatting to Chaplin’s Mark Costley (Dickens-esq naming of characters?), rather than exit, he shows her to a secret area used for functions (even weddings).

In a broom cupboard, they have a good old fashioned quickie. To add a sense of spontaneity, Mark gets the job done with his foot in a mop bucket.

To be fair, at this point it feels charged enough. Had it lived up to the adverts, it would have been a good platform. But then the thriller of the novel becomes a soap opera. We see Yvonne unhappy at home, her husband is probably having an affair, so naturally she goes hunting Costley.

He likes danger sex in public, she just likes him. That’s what turns her on – him. She actually explains this to Mark. By the time he’s throwing another one up in Apple Tree Yard, you really don’t care if her marriage fails, who Mark Costley really is (she thinks he’s a “Spook” for MI6).

We know the story is told retrospectively as we saw the present-day Yvonne handcuffed at the start, so there had to be more to the story than an average looking middle aged woman having indecent sex in public.

Then comes a work’s party, her husband away, and a colleague named George that knows she’s having an affair and uses it as leverage to make a move on her. She rejects and a violent rape scene occurs. Being the BBC, we have to assume they would never use such a delicate subject purely for shock value but it’s misguided allowing it to take place in such a pedestrian and poorly conceived drama.

It gives Yvonne motive for revenge now but it’s distasteful that the BBC would use rape as a cliff-hanger for what’s to come next.

Hopefully the first chapter was an awkward world setting requirement and improvements are inbound.

4/10

The Apprentice 2016 – Review

It’s that time of year the BBC find Lord Alan Sugar the nation’s best “entrepreneurs.” Or for the purposes of good TV, a selection of dimwits that promise to be mildly entertaining with the odd potential gem thrown in. The contestants are treated like schoolchildren (“Good morning, Lord Sugar.”) and he has his favourite headmistress and head boy to help.

Of course, they are Baroness Karren Brady, The First Lady of Football. That dour face trying to make us forget she spent years hanging about the Birmingham City team bus and footballer Paul Peschisolido out of her.

We also have Claude Littner, better known for the interview stage. Now he does that and the weekly observing. Mr Littner likes to play Good Cop, Bad Cop playing both roles himself. It keeps the contestants on their toes – volatile people in the mix tend to breed that response.

One thing that was clear during this twelfth series was the tasks have become worn out. 18 contestants were squashed into the process, giving the guarantee that some weeks would see multiple heads fall. Sadly, the mundane early running meant we didn’t care.

Sometimes they had to sell stuff, sometimes buy stuff. Sometimes run around, buy stuff, sell stuff, maybe design stuff, look for stuff. Talk over one another. Some stuff. All the time wondering if any of them know their stuff and realise they are becoming parodies of young upstarts.

Too many concepts presented the same challenge. The “Boat Show” episode, in essence, was no bigger stretch than any of the selling tasks (and most of them are). Even ones like designing jeans or “Corporate Candy” require the good old fashioned sell. And as they should, I suppose. Lord Sugar wants to make money and sees those that can shift stock and make profit as key to that business plan.

It’s also important to think outside the box. Not like the extremely hot Jessica Cunningham attempted on a few occasions. She liked to sprinkle in a few lies to shift product. But in her defence, she was the best seller, most engaging, and could think outside the box because her head is out of it. And it’s a bit cheeky of Lord Sugar to preach no lying then have the production team skirt over her history in the final five round-up.

 

jessica-cunningham
The Zany and amazing Jessica Cunningham

 

Yes, I’m talking about Jessica’s lap-dancing past. A top business woman who wasn’t scared to take on hard jobs on the way to the climax of the process.

There were notable characters this year, many for the wrong reasons. First to go wasn’t, it was Michelle; next up, Natalie Hughes – you wouldn’t hire her to answer phones; third, wet fart Oliver. Week four is better remembered for Aleksandra King walking away from the process. At that point, I could see why, I was close myself.

Highlighting the point was marketing guru Rebecca Jeffery in week six. The Mancunian proving Northerners aren’t made for the real city, especially when they have the personality of a wet flannel.

But finally, the show had some life come week seven and it was the boat show that saw two fall foul of the axe. It was a shame to see Karthik Nagesan lose his place, he was a true bit of energy. Sadly for him, and his team, he could run a team about as well as Samuel Boateng could follow instruction from the project manager. He joined him in a taxi the same week for this very reason.

Fiery Paul was axed the following week. He liked to kick-off to be fair. In case this was in any doubt (it wasn’t), he even got a bit aggy with Alan in the boardroom. And goodbye. You can’t bully the Sugar. You need to sit in the chair and laugh at his Christmas cracker one-liners.

Dillon St. Paul made it easy the following week for Al (totally dropped his peerage now). He compared his struggle as a gay man to that of women in the workplace. You could see Al’s face change. He hates an excuse. Suggs pointed out there were single parents in the room, Sofiane who had taught himself English and made a business from scratch, and Alana, who was just learning how to construct full and complete sentences in the boardroom despite the ability to be a catty bitch during assignments.

It was this week the eventual finalist, Courtney Wood, went from constant winner in the shadows to a standout performer. The challenge was designing a virtual reality game and even with his team against his input (apart from the giddy Jessica), he managed to design a concept that smashed the opposition.

Not long after we got the final five and it’s here the format of business partner as opposed to apprentice calls the show into question. Al must know what business he fancies beforehand and what he can’t stand. Why else would the always dominant Grainne McCoy fail to make the final two. Her idea was solid for the industry and no more far-flung than previous winner Leah Totten.

Thankfully this means Frances Bishop was also axed with her really original idea of making a TK Maxx for kids off the back of a few failed attempts she tried to bury beneath two relative successes. Maybe the idea was decent? She was just a walking migraine and hopefully the WAG (not a proper Premier League one, like at the best club ever Arsenal) will never be seen again.

So, Courtney looked favourite based on the principle. He was a novelty gift (tatt) designer, something Sugar knows inside out. But the Lord went for Alana and her cakes. Her big margins for profit must have tempted him. If years from now you’re eating an Alana cake in Costa, spare a thought for Courtney, who will still be designing a novelty personality for his currently bland character.

7/10