TV reviews: Lucky Man, First Dates, Room 101

An incredibly lucky career? It’s the role James Nesbitt was born to play.

James Nesbitt in Lucky Man
Born lucky James Nesbitt runs away from people still yelling abuse about his BT ads.

Lucky Man
Sky One, January 21
8/10

Other than Bananaman and Super Ted, the superhero franchise has tended to avoid Britain. There was V For Vendetta, but otherwise Spider-Man creator Stan Lee’s new series Lucky Man is one of the few attempts the comic book world has looked to our shores for creating an underworld of fearless heroes and megalomaniac villains.

On first appraisal, James Nesbitt seems an unlikely superhero casting choice. Although he turned his career back around with BBC1’s excellent thriller series The Missing, Nesbitt has always seemed too twinkling to get gritty in anything resembling Gotham.

Yet the premise of Lucky Man is of someone who stumbles across a bracelet giving them incredible luck, and being incredibly spawny may have played its part in giving Nesbitt such a long-lasting career.

Either way, here he is as Harry Clayton, a police officer with a gambling problem. Just as his casino finally threatens to call in Clayton’s gambling debt, he meets a mysterious stranger who somehow manacles her lucky bracelet around his arm while he sleeps.

The casino boss is murdered and… well, you can guess the rest, but as hokum goes Lucky Man’s first episode was delicious escapism. Its London setting gave some reliable British TV actors their chance to shine in a superhero setting. Steven Macintosh (Luther, Criminal Justice) relishes the chance to go OTT as Clayton’s boss, while Darren Boyd – last seen playing with intestines in Fortitude – brings understated menace as Clayton’s rival colleague.

Sky One give Lucky Man the polished look of their most expensive dramas, and writer Neil Biswas seems to have set up the whodunit well enough to sustain it for at least one decent series.

After the success of the likes of Jessica Jones and Gotham, it was time British TV had a proper go at getting involved with superhero capers. Lucky Man feels like a show that’s already well-established and should be a decent hit. Told you James Nesbitt was jammy.

First Dates
Channel 4, January 22
8/10

First Dates
Love at first sight? Jo and Gus seemed to hit it off, at first.

First Dates returned and immediately continued its reign as the one dating show you wouldn’t actually be ashamed to admit you watch.

From the charming presence of maitre d’ Fred Sirieux to the hopeless romantics who enter his restaurant each week seeking love, it’s difficult to avert your eyes from the first dates taking place.

As ever, dates are picked for each guest behind the scenes, which are then filmed during their their meal at Sirieux’s restaurant in St. Paul’s in London.

On Friday’s episode, things seemed to be going well for fortysomething Jo and Gus at the start of their date.

Jo admitted she’d previously had a penchant for younger fellas, but seemed instantly smitten with charming geezer Gus.

Jaws were soon on the floor after being asked if they’d be interested in seeing each other again. Straight talker Gus soon told a thus far hopeful Jo that her looks let her down, saying: “I would have loved to have walked in there and go ‘Wow’ and then had the date we had because the date we actually had was excellent.

“I thought you were wonderful and entertaining, you were a good laugh, you’d obviously done a lot of things in your life which were interesting…”

When he eventually stopped digging, an inconsolable Jo stormed off in tears. She probably should have left him with a swift kick to the nads…

Reality TV at its very best.

Room 101
BBC1, January 21
8/10

Noel Fielding and Ian Wright on Room 101
The web of fear Noel Fielding spots a spider over Ian Wright's shoulder. Image Picture Ellis O'Brien/BBC

Would I Lie To You deservedly gets endless plaudits for being a superior panel show, but that doesn’t mean that some old staples should be overlooked.

Now in its 22nd year, Room 101 is possibly better than ever now that Frank Skinner is so supremely confident as its third host.

The second episode of the new series saw a pleasingly bonkers range of guests: Noel Fielding, Ian Wright and The Thick Of It actress Joanna Scanlan.

Skinner is the best host this side of Graham Norton at getting guests to mingle, with Wright and Fielding resembling an unlikely pairing from a buddy cop movie as they sparred off each other.

Nobody is pretending the choices of things to banish forever from the planet were remarkable: a black mark for the supposedly maverick Fielding for suggesting spiders.

Yet Skinner’s inclusive wit and the guests’ ability to co-exist happily makes it the most consistently funny show on TV right now.

And Scanlan is right: bad toast etiquette is definitely for the dumper.

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Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn

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