American Rust

Sky Atlantic, Sunday


Christine McGuinness with Paddy and Paddy McGuinness on Autism

BBC1, Wednesday


My best advice to you today: beware the ‘new’ anything. The Wheel Of Time was billed as ‘the new Game Of Thrones’. It wasn’t. Every Scandi-noir since The Killing has been billed as ‘the new The Killing’. They’re not. 

Get it now American Rust is being billed as ‘the new Mare Of Easttown’. And it isn’t. It might dream of adding.

American Rust, a thriller about crime set in Pennsylvania is set in a town with high unemployment and broken marriages. The colours look so dirty it needs a power wash.

Del Harris (Jeff Daniels) is laconic, dry and seems emotionally exhausted. The only hopeful aspect to his life is a possible romance with a single mum (Maura Tierney, above, with Daniels)

Jeff Daniels plays Del Harris. He is dry, laconic and appears emotionally exhausted. His only hope is a romance with a single mother (Maura Tierney above with Daniels).

The opening scene introduced us to a depressed police chief, Del Harris (Jeff Daniels), meticulously grinding, chopping and weighing out his meds (prescription ones, but everyone in this town is on something or other), until the camera scans the room and lands on a photograph of him in soldier’s uniform, which is handy. 

Now we know he’s a war veteran. This scene lasts four minutes and is so unrelentingly bleak that you’ll want to flee this place too.

Del seems emotionally tired, laconic and dry. Del is a singular figure considering the fact that there are no other men in town except for rednecks who own rifles and bitter old people who drink hard.

His only hope is a romance with Maudra Tierney, a single mother who works at a sweatshop, which appears to be his sole concern. She is also overwhelmed by financial concerns.

Billy Neustaedter, her son is very good-looking. He was a former football star but did not receive a college scholarship. Instead, he drifts, drinks beer, and engages in car park fisticuffs. 

A body of a deceased person is then found in an old, decaying and rusty mill. Was Billy guilty? Do we really care?

It’s not much. We don’t care that Del seems to be trying to evade responsibility by covering it all up. It’s not much. 

This lacks the humanity of Mare, the wit of Mare, and all those characters who were offbeat rather than clichés. The plot holes are numerous. 

Wouldn’t your mum, who is so stretched she was due to be evicted, notice if you suddenly trucked up in swanky new trainers?

It launched with two episodes, and I’ve awarded it two stars for Daniels and Tierney, who are always watchable, whatever, but Mare is the one you want.

If you haven’t yet watched, it’s now on Amazon (and available on DVD). You’ll have to pay, but it’s the way to go. 

Meanwhile, I read a fashion headline the other day that declared that ‘black is the new black’. And now I’m confused. Do you think the older black is better? I can’t work it out, so will just leave that with you.

Christine McGuinness and Paddy McGuinness – Our Family and Autism wasn’t billed as the new anything, which had to be a good start. 

The show was warm, informative, tender and touching. The twist came when Christine (who has been on The Real Housewives Of Cheshire) was also diagnosed with autism. I didn’t see that coming.

Paddy – otherwise the co-presenter of Top Gear, which still limps on – and Christine have three children, aged eight and under. They don’t sleep, are extraordinarily fussy about food and have meltdowns over bright lights or loud noises. 

This was tender, affecting, informative and took an unexpected twist at the end when Christine (above, with Paddy McGuinness), was diagnosed with autism herself

It was touching, touching, informative, and had an unexpected twist when Christine, (above with Paddy McGuinness) was diagnosed as autistic herself

An unattended hand dryer can make a bad day.

Because it was so much easier, the whole family used to spend a lot time in their home with their curtains drawn. It wasn’t until Christine’s mum said something that they realised that not all children are like this.

They were honest. Paddy was too busy at work. ‘I wanted to shake him,’ said Christine, ‘and say: “Just get on with it – it’s not a big deal”, but how awful to live in a house with children you wish didn’t wish have this condition.’

Paddy, at first, was denial. He eventually received treatment for his depression. ‘I used to think I was the last person in the world who would have depression,’ he said.

Christine, on the other hand, meets Simon Baron-Cohen (the foremost autism expert at Cambridge University). 

She opened up about her own life, her own fussiness around food, how she once barely left the house for eight years, her difficulty making friends and how, ideally, she’d live in a clean white box. 

She had, she said, been ‘masking’ all this for years. The diagnosis was a relief to her. ‘I now know I’m not mad.’

Paddy is still sometimes tormented – when he asks his son, Leo, if he loves Daddy, he always says he does. ‘But can he understand that? Do our children understand how much they are loved?’ Paddy asks.

I can’t answer that but we did see how much they are loved.

‘There is nothing wrong with our children. Everyone else just needs to understand,’ said Christine at the end. ‘Totally,’ said Paddy. He also said that ‘the kids have won the lottery with Christine. You couldn’t wish for a better mum.’ He wept. And so did I.