Being the Ricardos 

Americans love Lucille Ball. I’m not sure we ever took to her in quite the same way over here, just as they’ve probably never got, say, Only Fools And Horses and wouldn’t much care for a backstage drama about the chandelier episode.

Being the Ricardos focuses on a critical week making a half-hour episode (number 68) in the long-running life of I Love Lucy, when Ball was accused in the press of being “a Red” and her husband and co-star Desi Arnaz helped turn public opinion back in her favour, saving the show and their marriage.

It’s all written and directed by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, who excels at fast-talking exposés of the inner workings of American institutions. And it’s got Nicole Kidman using a raspy voice and waspish humour to stick up for herself as the first lady of comedy. 

It would be a great performance if only we could see her expressions – back in the 50s, TV shows were sponsored by tobacco giants; now, they’re brought to you by botox.

If there are no lines on Kidman’s face, at least there are some good ones in the script (Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance steals many of them) although even this is also polished to a smug sheen. 

I like Javier Bardem most but there’s something forced about even his performance, as if it doesn’t fit right, like that haircut he had in No Country for Old Men. With its writers’ rooms, 50s Hollywood gossip , the busy soundstages, zingy put-downs and comic routines, you want to love Being the Ricardos – and if only it weren’t so in love with itself, you probably could.