Brexit: The Uncivil War may have been the Brexit drama we wanted, but it was not the one we needed

Benedict Cumberbatch as the brains of the Leave side, Dominic Cummings
Benedict Cumberbatch as the brains of the Leave side, Dominic Cummings

The country is in a mess at the moment – Brexit has got us all in a tizz. No one seems to know what it is, there are hard Brexits, soft Brexits, Norway++, Canada models, there is A50, the ERG and the EFTA. All the while activists on both sides put their arguments in the loudest possible voices.

Meanwhile, all we get, as Billy Bragg once put it, is old men grinding axes.

So you might have expected Brexit: The Uncivil War (Channel 4, Monday, 9pm) to have shed some light on the subject. After all, Dominic Cummings (Benedict Cumberbatch) told us at the beginning that “everyone knows who won, but not everyone knows how”.

Focusing on Cummings, the architect of the successful Leave campaign in the EU referendum, this was a canter through the mechanics of how the Leave side won –using new technqiues involving targeted adverts, and the wholescale harvesting of data handed over willingly by all of us via social media.

Cumberbatch is great as the driven Cummings, an “egotist with a wrecking ball”, but he’s presented, rather romantically, as a sort of Beautiful Mind-style savant, writing on walls and doors and windows, retreating to the broom cupboard when things hard.

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It’s funny – many of the key characters, like Arron Banks, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, are presented as puffed-up figures of fun – and it’s fast-paced, intelligent, but by necessity superficial, and uses broad brush strokes to tell its story.

The trouble is, superficiality is rather how we got into this mess in the first place. Facts were downgraded, feelings took their place and, apparently, we’d “had enough of experts”.

This may have been the Brexit drama we wanted, but it’s not what we need.

From the Brexit catastrophe to, well, Catastrophe (Channel 4, Tuesdays, 10pm). It’s just a wonderful sitcom, which uses it’s potty-mouthed, hapless characters to mask a heartfelt, truthful picture of a marriage.

Manhunt (ITV, Sunday-Tuesday, 9pm) was that rare beast, a wholly respectful account of real-life crime. Respectful of the police, the victims’ families, the victims themselves. It was terrific.