The Secret Life of Students; The Honourable Woman – TV review

Television - non-sport TV that is – suddenly got good again. I'll come to The Honourable Woman later because there's a blog on our website about that, too. But first, and arguably more interesting, The Secret Life of Students (Channel 4), which is basically Fresh Meat, only real.
We're following three freshers (Josie, Lauren and Aiden) as they embark on the beginning of the rest of their lives. Well, Leicester Uni. Not just following them but following them closely enough to look over their shoulders into their phones. Every text, picture, video, tweet, status update, emoticon and smiley face to each other, to their old mates back home, parents, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, the world – it just pops up all over the TV screen. "Think there was another guy moving in as I was"; "oh 'ello, a peng juan?"; "no not a peng juan yet lol awks" etc.
Sounds like a nightmare? Well maybe, but it's the nightmare of the real world; if you don't like it, go and join the Amish or something. And it's clever; groundbreaking even. Not just because what's happening on the screen of a person's phone today is a big part of their life, so any view that ignores that is not showing the whole picture, or even the half of it, probably. But also because of what Lauren says: that it can be a more intimate, honest part of their lives. She uses Twitter to express things she doesn't in person. "I think everyone does it, kind of puts feelings in a way that I don't think anyone puts them anywhere else." Oh, and for an old grandad (no, not literally) like me, watching, it's a handy way of picking up some youth-speak. I like to think of myself as a bit of a peng juan as it happens, lolllllllll x
It is dead funny. Of course it is. It's about teenagers falling awkwardly into adulthood and into bed with each other, and just over … all the stuff of Fresh Meat. It's about doing vodka, via a tampon, up the bum. Andneknominations (another new one on me, it seems to involve biting the head off a raw herring, then washing it down with a cocktail of beer and more vodka and menopause pills). It's about Nazi-themed drinking games, and about non-drinking Lauren, whose greatest inspiration is Anne Frank, wisely not wanting to take part. ("Do you just hate Hitler?" asks a concerned friend). And more hilarious lines, mainly from Josie, like, "I'm a slag and should have a lock on my vagina," and "[scream] I want children, I don't want chlamydia."
But as well as the screams and the lols and the neknominations, it's about three young people growing up, and all the angsts and worries (so many worries, about what other people think of them, how they look, which STD they've got today) that go with the territory. Even cocky (also without the y) Aiden, the winker (also with an a) has insecurities, albeit modern ones, about how many Facebook friends and Twitter followers he has. Anyway, it's brilliant modern television. Unless you're the parent of a child starting university in the autumn. In which case it's deeply worrying, I imagine.
Also excellent, though in a different way, is The Honourable Woman(BBC2), Hugo Blick's political thriller. A Zionist arms dealer is fatally bread-tonged in the neck at a London restaurant in front of his (remarkably unfazed) daughter and son. Nearly three decades on and they – she (played mesmerically and so convincingly Englishly by Maggie Gyllenhaal) – are key figures working for cooperation and peace in the Middle East.
Or not. At this early stage it's hard to know who wants what or works for whom. A Palestinian businessman meanwhile hangs himself – or is hanged – from a flagpole. And a lugubrious MI6 man (lovely performance by Stephen Rea) takes an old-fashioned lift down and embarks on one last case, this one, whatever this case is. He (Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle) has a hint of George Smiley about him. In fact, the backdrop may be a warmer and more current conflict, but it's all quite le Carré-esque. Tinker Tailor Soldier [the] Mossad, or maybe Hamas. This is a shadowy world of secrets, lies, betrayal, vengeance – political, personal, all tangled up together. Under a sheen of diplomacy, generations of hatred and mistrust run deep. An angry violin, and the wailings of Thom Yorke, only add to the tense unease. "Knight to B6" Sir Hugh tells his opponent and counterpart at the world's most secretive, and beautiful (and possibly ridiculous) chess club.
It's certainly theatrical. Virtually every line delivered seems weighed down by Bafta expectation. And I'm sure they'll come, because even if it is a teeny bit pompous, potentially infuriating, certainly baffling, it's also beautiful and beautifully crafted and performed, and irresistibly compelling. I'm in. Source

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