IN A world of 24-hour TV, with hundreds of channels available covering every possible theme, why is it still so unusual to watch a programme and then still be thinking about it the next day?
Having not had that experience for a while, over the last seven days, like the old joke about London buses, two dramas turned up which had exactly that effect on me.
While some dramas might struggle to still grip the audience in their 16th series, Silent Witness (BBC 1, Thursday and Friday, 9pm) has no such concerns.
Having waved off one of its trio of stars in Tom Ward at the end of the last series, the latest run of shows appear to have bucked a trend and actually got better with some fresh blood, if that isn’t an inappropriate turn of phrase for a pathology drama.
Silent Witness has resisted the urge to become too CSI-like, although the influences are there. The labs they work in have slowly become more hi-tech, and the characters are increasingly prone to going off on tangents.
At times, the department feels like a freelance solve-a-death department rather than a help-the-police-when-asked function of the crime community.
But it’s that set up which enabled the trio of Leo (William Gaminara), Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) and new boy Jack Hodgson (David Caves) to get involved in examining a dead body in Afghanistan, suspected to be the body of a soldier who went missing years ago.
The trio’s presence in the country isn’t welcomed by everyone, and they soon became a target for local terrorist gangs.
But rather than paint a “terrorists bad, us good” picture, the writers cleverly built in the views of all sides as the pathologists set about trying to do justice to the recently discovered remains.
As lessons in leaving the audience hanging on go, Thursday’s Silent Witness was a masterclass. Having struck up a relationship with a fearless aid worker, Leo is brutally attacked on his way home. The look-ahead to Friday’s episode showed Nikki heading home with a coffin – surely the attack hadn’t cost Leo his life?
As it happened, no, it hadn’t. . . although the second episode did cost Leo his life, in the most dramatic and unexpected manner.
The shock of his death, delivered at the most unlikely point of the episode, made for one of those “how did that happen” conversations the next day, but sets up a question for series 17: Will the next season be as good as the last?
Losing a third of the stars in the space of one series is one thing, to take our two thirds is a risky business.
The other drama which packed the potential to be talked about 24 hours after airing – for me, anyway – was Call The Midwife (Sundays, 8pm, BBC 1). The midwives-in-the-50s drama has an unfair reputation of being a nostalgic look at the past.
Truth be told, a programme which covers maternity services in the 1950s is anything by nostalgic.
But it’s written well, acted out wonderfully, and gently reminds us just how much things have changed.
The plot around a baby born with spina bifida and how his parents react – in an age when disability was enough to see a child sent to a home – was moving, subtle and, crucially, non-judgemental throughout.
Two quality dramas in the space of three days. What are the odds of that happening again?
What I’ll be watching next week: The Spa (Sky Living, tonight, 9pm): Fun comedy drama in its second series is worth checking out.