Conviction: The Case of Stephen Lawrence
Paramount+, from Monday
The title card sets the scene: “On 22 April 1993, 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. The police failed to catch his killers. A public inquiry found the Metropolitan Police to be incompetent and institutionally racist. In 2006, 13 years after their son’s murder, his parents are still fighting for justice.” Then, this gripping miniseries shows, things started to happen. At the centre of it all is the initially unlikely figure of Steve Coogan as real-life Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll – who succeeded in convincing his superiors that he should be allowed to reinvestigate the case from the very beginning. Not that Driscoll considers himself to be at the centre of things. For him it’s all about Stephen’s parents, Jamaican immigrants Doreen and Neville (Sharlene Whyte and Hugh Quarshie), their other children and Duwayne Brooks (Richie Campbell), the friend who was with Stephen when he was fatally stabbed on a street in south-east London. There’s a lot to unpack in a series that runs only the length of a long movie, but screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce (Hilary and Jackie, 24 Hour Party People), adapting a book by Driscoll, provides forensic exposition in impressively organic ways, and the motivation is one of dogged decency. “Not right, is it?” says Coogan’s Driscoll. “A case like this needs solving.” But before Driscoll and his team can get anywhere near a result they’re going to have to do a lot of work re-establishing relations with the Lawrences, Duwayne and numerous others who had been treated appallingly during the course of the original investigation and its aftermath. It’s an uphill battle within the force too, where resistance and resentment abounds. Coogan, an ever more accomplished dramatic actor, adopts a fitting solemnity, and White and Quarshie are extraordinary in portraying the Lawrences’ grief in contrasting ways. White brings a simmering righteous anger to Doreen – who reminds Driscoll that “justice requires more than a guilty verdict” and who still speaks out publicly despite having had to turn her home into a fortress. Quarshie is equally compelling as a physically imposing but gentle Neville, trying to find a spiritual path to peace. The masterstroke is that nobody plays Stephen Lawrence, and there’s no flashback to his murder; the scene in which Driscoll and his team try to reconstruct the attack using a young black police officer as a stand-in for Lawrence brings home the horror in an unexpectedly powerful way. Important and outstanding television.
Post-Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes
When undertaker’s daughter Live (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen) turns up dead in a field outside a small Norwegian town, it’s tragic. When she wakes up on the autopsy table it’s terrifying. When she tries to accommodate herself to new and deeply disturbing post-mortem developments while her cheerful brother, Odd (Elias Holmen Sorensen) tries to save the family funeral home, things get seriously dark – but in an oddball sort of way. Imaginative horror that has fun with the blinkers applied by small towns and insular families.
Pen15 animated special
The second series of this achingly poignant comedy series starring the grown-up Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle as their awkward teenage selves gets a belated but exquisite coda in this animated special. It involves the 13-year-old Maya and Anna taking a holiday trip to Florida with Anna’s dad. The exaggerated features of a boardwalk cartoonist’s portrait of the girls plant devastating new insecurities. But not quite so devastating that they can’t go tentatively chasing after a couple of boys they meet in the hotel jacuzzi. Sweet and truthful.
Ex-Rated with Andy Cohen
Few shows have been as toe-curlingly embarrassing for the guests and so full of sexually explicit talk, yet ultimately so worthwhile, entertaining and even uplifting. In each episode, Andy Cohen (Watch What Happens Live) gets one poor sap who considers themselves luckless in love, then gets a bunch of their exes to rate them on everything from communication and hygiene to specific sexual techniques. Sex educator Shan Boodram is on hand to provide some startling eye-openers for a generation still getting to grips with the birds and bees.