Years and Years, the new BBC drama from Doctor Who scribe Russell T Davies might bring you down, but Mum will definitely cheer you up

The cast of the new BBC drama, Years and Years
The cast of the new BBC drama, Years and Years

Ian Dury once sang about ‘reasons to be cheerful’. There was “Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet”, and “cheddar cheese and pickle” and “phoning up a buddy”.

In Years and Years (BBC1, Tuesdays, 9pm), writer Russell T Davies had a slightly different list. Daniel Lyons (Russel Tovey) was welcoming his new nephew into the world, and wondering how anyone could have children these days.

“Things were okay a few years ago,” he tells his family. “Now I worry about everything. I don’t know what to worry about first.”

And he lists the Government, the banks, the companies, the brands, the corporations which “poison the air and the temperature and the rain”, ISIS, America, “fake news and false facts” in a tsunami of anxiety.

And then we rushed forward five years, through rising tensions around the world to the brink of nuclear war.

This family drama played out a little like an episode of Davies’ Doctor Who, what with the younger generation living through virtual headsets, robots called Keith and the rise of a hitherto unknown politician.

You half expected Christopher Eccleston to pop up and tell us to run.

However, the performances were terrific and underlying it all was this genuine sense of dread that we are sleepwalking into trouble.

That we complacently discount Trump and his ilk even as they take the reins of power. Or we refuse to see the consequences of sitting on our hands over global flashpoints like Ukraine.

By the end, I was left deeply unsettled, and yet, if there are writers like Davies about, maybe there are still reasons to be cheerful.

In a terrific week for television, Line of Duty’s Stephen Graham was brilliant in the hallucinatory, bleak and desperately sad The Virtues (Channel 4, Wednesdays, 9pm).

After all this harrowing drama, you needed a pick-me-up this week, and it came in the form of Mum (BBC2, Wednesdays, 10pm). This final series is a little jewel of humour, tears and romance. Watch it.