“It was in a tremendous rush to set out its stall, with lots of explanation and not much characterisation.” Read on for the verdict on last night’s TV.

The New Normal (E4)

“It is always difficult to judge an American show from its pilot episode, even though that is what it is for. Typically, the pilot for The New Normal was in a tremendous rush to set out its stall, with lots of explanation and not much characterisation. It wanted to be barbed, but at the same time it was terribly eager to please. Even if it constituted a promising start, it still made for a pretty lame first episode.”
Tim Dowling, The Guardian

“I confess that I quite liked The New Normal even before I saw a frame of it, largely because I thought that the title would really wind up Cardinal Keith O’Brien…I don’t suppose that a comedy about a gay couple who end up living with the surrogate mother of their IVF baby would be the sort of thing the cardinal relaxes with after a hard day defending the sanctity of marriage. Even less so considering it’s scripted by Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee…I’m not sure it’s worth the cardinal bothering to set up the series record, but anyone not religiously obliged to be appalled won’t be wasting memory space.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

Silent Witness (BBC1)

“Silent Witness is back for a 16th series, kicking off with a cold opening that resembled highlights from an episode you were meant to have seen, but hadn’t…I’m not a particular devotee of Silent Witness and had forgotten quite how grisly it is – pathologists pulling the contents of someone’s stomach out of the fridge and running it through a sieve – but if you enjoy a sturdy procedural and you generally eat early, it may be right up your street.”
Tim Dowling, The Guardian

“There’s certainly nothing worse than doing things in a new way just because it’s a new way. Silent Witness proved that with a five-minute opening sequence so bewildering that I felt as if I’d been hit over the head with a blunt object…you couldn’t blame the odd viewer for giving up at the confusing, pretentious beginning.”
Matt Baylis, Daily Express

Carved With Love: The Genius of British Woodwork (BBC4)

“It bridged a gap in my knowledge I had never actively sought to fill. Of the life and work of Thomas Chippendale, I knew almost nothing. I now consider it my specialist subject. And I have never enjoyed a show about chairs more.”
Tim Dowling, The Guardian

“A documentary last year on Prince Charles’s attempts to save the contents of Dumfried House for the nation left me unmoved. I am moved in retrospect having watched the first episode of the new history of British Woodwork, Carved with Love, which devoted itself to the genius of Thomas Chippendale. Dumfries had, and thanks to the PoW still has, a magnificent Chippendale collection…But unlike so many documentaries about objects of desire – Marilyn Monroe for instance- this one did not dwell on Chippendale’s demise. It was just infatuated with his body, of work.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

Trouble Abroad (ITV1)

“The expats we met whose dreams of heaven had gone to hell had not been gulled in the way, say, the Welshmen invited to a land of milk and honey called Patagonia were, only to discover a location so barren that it could not support a tree, let alone a crop…The programme did not gloat but you couldn’t help loving our dear old, grey skied, English recession. Here no one expects the sun to shine on them.”
Andrew Billen, The Times