Sexier than DCI Barnaby… The Returned
Sexier than DCI Barnaby… The Returned. Photograph: Channel 4

lucy-bellerby-byline-photo-bwLesbians, ciggie-smoking schoolkids and thin sullen people. You can’t fault the French, says Lucy Bellerby


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God, French people are so bloody sexy. Five seconds into new continental series The Returned (Channel 4) and there’s two lithe lesbians in catsuits having a snog. Everyone else is thin and dark and wearing lovely tailored jackets.

In Britain, our murder mysteries revolve round vicars being strangled in Midsomer, and Alan Davies’ hair. The Returned has children (children!) smoking. Real cigarettes. Let’s hope no one from the BBC saw Monday’s episode, lest they be rocking back and forth, mopping their feverish brow with a copy of their beloved censorship guidelines.

But reader, I must tell you that in my other life I am an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher. I speak to French people every day, so I know this programme is realistic; they really are all sexy.

I sit at home in the dent on the sofa that my arse has left over the years, eating Werthers Originals, and as I talk to them on the phone I just know that they are nonchalantly sipping a glass of red wine, scowling, and probably mentally planning some sort of velvet and cheese themed orgy.

I missed the first three episodes of The Returned so I don’t have a clue what it’s all about; something to do with lots of fit, sullen people being stabbed/solving crimes. It’s so beautifully shot that it didn’t really matter. It was like being in a sepia nightmare that’s produced by Ron Jeremy and directed by Sophia Coppola.

A new genre which, I’m sure we are all agreed, holds no place for Jonathan Creek.

Longyin. AKA Arthur Tiggywinkle
Longyin. AKA Arthur Tiggywinkle

There is nothing I like more than a bulging-eyed, anxiety-stiffened pushy parent. For while Child Genius (Channel 4) is ostensibly about, er, child geniuses (genii? I’m not one) the real stars are the parents.

It’s true that some of the children are scene-stealing little monsters, hoisted so high on their own petard that they’ve probably given themselves the wedgie they spend their school days running away from.

But it’s plain to see that any early signs of smugness and self-aggrandisement stem from their mothers forcing them to do four hours chess practise after school, to stop being becoming ‘losers’.

Catherine’s mum is constantly proclaiming, in front of the camera (and Catherine) that her son is the brainier of the two siblings, that his IQ outstrips hers and he’s far more likely to win.

He is pompous and Catherine is unassuming and modest, yet she whips her little brother right out of the competition. Still it isn’t his fault; his mum had him IQ tested before he had even said his first words, which presumably were “back the eff off and let me go back to soiling myself”.

Longyin is the saving grace of the competition, because he is the sweetest child I have ever clapped eyes on. He looks like a cross between the cartoon character Arthur, and Mrs Tiggywinkle. He’s always polite, and never once shows off about being able to spell words like “chrysanthemum”.

I predict he’ll be prime minister one day, if not only because his dad has assassinated David Cameron and trampled his way into parliament. In which case, pushy parents might not be such a bad thing after all.