ITV drama Flesh and Blood shows why Imelda Staunton is queen of the screen

Imelda Staunton starred in ITVs Flesh and Blood. Picture courtesy of ITV and Silverprint Pictures
Imelda Staunton starred in ITVs Flesh and Blood. Picture courtesy of ITV and Silverprint Pictures

Imelda Staunton, who seems to have become a massive star almost by stealth, is going to be the Queen in the fifth and final season of The Crown, but in this week’s family mystery Flesh and Blood (ITV, Mon-Thurs, 9pm), you would definitely find her ‘below stairs’.

She plays Mary, the mousy, timid next door neighbour of viviacious Vivien (Francesca Annis), the merry widow who has found a new love in doctor Mark (Stephen Rea).

Her three needy children are worried about this interloper, but such is their self-absorbed world view they’re more worried that their newly loved-up mum might no longer be running after them, cleaning up their messes, than they are of Mark doing her a mischief.

Rea – who always looks crumpled, even when smartly dressed, like he’s just come out of the wash and someone’s forgotten to shake out the creases – looks shifty even when he’s doing something as innocent as drinking a glass of champagne.

But the triumph of Flesh and Blood’s flashback structure is that you are never sure who might be the villain – all you knew was there had been a violent incident and the police were involved.

Imelda Staunton’s Mary, for instance, tells police “I keep myself to myself, always have done, it’s just who I am,” shortly before steaming open Vivien’s post.

And such is her nervy twitchiness, even as she’s packing freshly-baked scones in gingham, you can’t help but think she’s spiked the currants with arsenic.

Yes, it’s all a little bit far-fetched, but it’s such an efficient little pot-boiler you can’t help but get involved, and they’ve even left enough loose ends for a sequel – court duties allowing, of course.

Murder 24/7 (BBC2, Mon-Wed, 9pm) was a fly-on-the-wall look at murder detectives. Far from the exotic world of TV dramas, this impressed on you the serious, back-breaking work of the police.

I may have been a bit hasty writing off the second series of The Split (BBC1, Tuesdays, 9pm). I’ve binge watched the whole thing in iPlayer, and it improves greatly over the series. Stick with it.