Versatile Friel impresses

Tronstad + Smith'(Espen Klouman-H�iner + Anna Friel)
Tronstad + Smith'(Espen Klouman-H�iner + Anna Friel)

Brookside fans may well remember from the 1990s actress Anna Friel playing Beth Jordache, whose gardening at her home in the Merseyside cul-de-sac included burying her abusive father under the patio.

Since then she’s been busy in film and on the stage, and none more so than on TV with two very different dramas which span the years as the goodies go into battle against the baddies.

In the six-part World War II thriller The Saboteurs, currently tucked away on More4 on Fridays, she plays an English Army captain who is part of the Allies’ effort to stop Hitler from developing an atomic bomb using heavy water from a Norwegian fertiliser plant.

This Norwegian/ British/ Danish co-production has more going for it than Ms Friel’s other TV offering, Odyssey (BBC2), which, despite a double episode opener, seemed overshadowed by the closing coverage of Glastonbury.

Odyssey aims for edge-of-the seat action but doesn’t always hit the target even if Friel as tough Sgt Odelle Ballard, a member of a US Army special operations unit, gives it her best shot in a far-fetched storyline. This sees her as the sole survivor of a murderous attack on the group in Mali in west Africa, and then trying to make it back home with a computer flash drive that proves major American companies are funding local Islamist terrorists.

Alone in the desert, she soon finds out she is a hunted woman and has to adopt a number of disguises to trek across the sand with the vital computer evidence.

She’s obviously having a “bad hair” moment or two posing as a Saharan nomad with all that sun and sand flying about, so it would have been helpful is she could have got an early appointment for Hair next Monday/ Tuesday.

However, she may have left it too late as comedian Katherine Ryan and the team seem up to speed ready to open the doors with a double session as the search for Britain’s best amateur hair stylist returns, this time on BBC2.

During this eight-part series, Katherine will be overseeing the run of fresh challenges with increasingly high stakes as the ten hopefuls will have to impress the judges to see whether they are a cut above the rest or be heading out of the contest to try their hand at hedge cutting.

Some of the contenders with a flair for hair would like to go on and display their styling skills at Beijing’s Birds Nest Olympic stadium, but that’s the wrong direction for Ms Friel who would be better employed getting a trans-Atlantic flight.

Some help with that might be afforded by watching Virgin Atlantic: Up in the Air (ITV1, Tuesday) as the 30-year-old company rolls out a new plane, new uniforms and new people - and tries to get back in the black.