CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: A wedding drama to give Harry and Meghan a run for their money

Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On (BBC1)

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Would I Lie to You? (BBC1)

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What an appropriate day to choose to air a drama about a man who walks out on his family and leaves them to clear up his mess. Years later, when it suits him, he thinks he can simply stroll back in.

Beeb bosses will say that, as the series of daily playlets Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On (BBC1) returned, they always planned to open with this episode.

Still, with hours to go before Prince Harry justified his reasons for ‘stepping back’ from the Royal Family, in ITV’s headline-grabbing Oprah interview, the parallels were there to be drawn.

What an appropriate day to choose to air a drama about a man who walks out on his family and leaves them to clear up his mess

Mark Womack played Ian, who abandoned wife Lucy (Marie Critchley) when their son Ben was just nine, leaving a note to say he couldn’t cope any more.

The couple were traumatised by the loss of their daughter, Susan, from leukaemia, and for the next 20 years Lucy believed her husband had killed himself.

But on the day of Ben’s wedding, Lucy is staggered to spot Ian, sitting by himself on a pew at the back of the church. ‘You weren’t meant to see me,’ he says. As he’s half an hour early and the only bloke in the church, he might have been stretching the truth here.

Ian is slightly aggrieved that anyone could misunderstand his goodbye note so badly. He never wanted to desert his family — he just needed to ‘get his head together’ by flying west and making a new life in a city on a distant shore . . . in this case, Belfast.

This puts Lucy in an impossible position. It’s her son’s wedding, not the time to vent her fury at this self-pitying runaway. All she can do is seethe, while Ian paints himself as the real victim in this family break-up. Remind you of anyone?

These short stories paint their characters in broad brushstrokes, sometimes with soap-opera dialogue and imagery. Ian tells his ex-wife: ‘I never stopped loving you, you know, despite everything.’ Later, when he tries to make his peace with Ben (Nico Mirallegro), the two end up brawling and rolling on Susan’s grave.

The tale moved too fast to allow much space for subtlety. Instead, the three main actors shifted quickly through the emotional gears, accelerating from humour to anger before swerving into grief.

Ben’s best man got arrested, the bride rolled up pregnant, Lucy’s contempt for her cowardly ex began to thaw and Ian ended up in a hospice with terminal cancer. You don’t need to spend £32 million, as some people have been known to do, to have a wedding to remember.

Presenter Rob Brydon and team captain David Mitchell, both clever and quick enough to dominate most panel games, make no effort to hide their admiration for Lee Mack’s lightning ad libs on Would I Lie To You?

And to the happiness of bean-counters at New Broadcasting House, you don’t have to spend a fortune to make the funniest show on television. All you need is three exceptionally witty comics with a natural rapport.

Presenter Rob Brydon and team captain David Mitchell, both clever and quick enough to dominate most panel games, make no effort to hide their admiration for Lee Mack’s lightning ad libs on Would I Lie To You? (BBC1). When one contestant turned to Rob and snapped, ‘No! No!’, Lee (also a team captain) butted in to accuse her of saying it ‘like you’re trying to get a dog off a sofa’.

That’s a glorious image, delivered with perfect timing, and it can’t possibly be scripted.

Later, Lee had Rob weeping with laughter, just by imitating his accent — something he’s done a hundred times before. It never stops being hilarious.

Neither does Bob Mortimer, who this time was claiming: ‘I once plucked a seagull out of the sky with my bare hands.’

And these were just the out-takes, the moments that didn’t make the main edit. Sheer joy.

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