TONY ON TV: ‘TV viewing doesn’t get much tougher than this’

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TWO programmes shown in tandem last week showed the BBC at its best and at its ‘worst’.

This kicked off with the taut finale of the crime thriller ‘Line of Duty,’ which saw DI Lindsay Denton (surely an award-winning performance from Keeley Hawes) jailed for life after one simple mistake led to the death of four of her fellow officers.

This fast-paced action was followed by the BBC having a tongue-in-cheek laugh at itself in ‘W1A’ -- the postcode for the Beeb’s HQ in central London -- as Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) joins the corporation as its new head of values, a job with as much purpose and use as a chocolate teapot.

The Ian Fletcher character proved a hit in the Olympics build-up comedy ‘2012,’ but here he seems adrift, something that reflects his role amid the office politics and jargon at the heart of the Beeb where staff have to hot desk, and meeting rooms are “interactive spaces.”

However, such problems take second place in tonight’s episode, which focuses on the double booking of Carol Vorderman and Clare Balding to present a real turkey of a programme in ‘Britain’s Tastiest Village.’

These two presenters may not be natural comedians, so they should leave it to the professionals who are leaving and arriving in equal measure this week.

Checking out this Friday is the uneven, but enjoyable, ‘Edge of Heaven’ (ITV1, Friday), which was an extended ad for the joys and delights of Margate if you didn’t warm to the friends and family confusion set around the 1980s-theme B&B establishment.

And it’s amen for the start of the third, and possibly final, series of the clerical comedy ‘Rev’ (Monday, BBC2) with hard-pressed Rev Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander) and his wife, Alex (Olivia Colman) having to juggle unexpected parenthood and the arrival of their “miracle” baby with big changes in the church’s organisation.

There are also changes in Sunday evening’s line-up on ITV where the glitz of London in ‘Mr Selfridge’ gives way to more serious matters in Oxford in ‘Endeavour’ as rookie cop Morse (Shaun Evans) is back on duty with his boss, Det Insp Fred Thursday (Roger Allam).

And if you like crime drama in different venues Saturday evening offers a double treat with Channel 5 heading Stateside in ‘Longmire’ -- based on Craig Johnson’s series of novels about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire as he returns to duty after the death of his wife. In contrast, BBC4 goes back in time nearly 60 years to Italy in ‘Inspector De Luca’ as the detective is promoted to a high-profile job in Bologna where a murder investigation sees him probing the private lives of the rich and famous during the final days of the fascist regime.

That other TV staple, cooking, is back with a vengeance on Wednesday as ‘MasterChef’ (BBC1) turns up the heat again for a 10th series aimed at finding Britain’s best amateur cook, a marathon undertaking stretched out through 24 episodes over the next eight weeks. As Gregg might say: “TV viewing doesn’t get much tougher than this.”