Sunday, 22 April 2012

White Heat...

... seemed to finish with a whimper.  Was anyone other than Ali still watching?  Not in the league of 'Our Friends...' and definitely not event television.  Among the many possible reasons, two stand out: the casting of actors who bore very little resemblance to their younger selves and the fact that most of the drama seemed to arise from personal circumstances rather than the a-changin' times.  Ironically, the rather clumsy attempts to ground each episode in current events, music etc. took attention away from the development of the characters and their friendships, making it hard to care about them, or believe in their supposedly deep and lasting ties.

The Bridge

If you were planning a trip to Scandinavia this year, you'd be forgiven for having second thoughts.  The TV and film depictions only lend credence to the current news stories of a cold-blooded killer, featuring death, dismemberment, loners and Machiavellian double-crossing within the establishment.  'The Bridge' doesn't break the mould.  If anything it ups the ante a notch or two with a macabre double murder and some very dubious characters in just the first episode.

So far, it feels more akin to the violent and explicit 'Spiral' than its compatriots, with the necessary addition of dark-washed shots, rain and more rain.  It's gripping, or at least has hooks enough to keep an audience of BBC4 viewers watching episodes three and four next week (not least a cameo from a familiar face from the original 'Killing').

Where we may be in the minority is our unease about the main character of Saga.  She's almost a parody of Sarah Lund, a sort of Jennifer Saunders version.  She's not just terse, but silent or monosyllabic, and is so much at sea with emotions that she comes across as odd to everyone who meets her.  No-one has said the 'a' word, but she clearly lacks social skills and struggles to read faces and body language, taking words at their literal meaning.  Would anyone like this make a good detective?  She may be thorough, detailed and even a lateral thinker, but she'd surely be hopeless at solving a crime of passion?  Just as well that this is shaping up to be a misplaced-social-justice/abused person on ritual crusade kind of case, so she might stand some chance, but this misses the humanising core of 'The Killing', both series of which have so far been about family, duty and relationships.  Still less is it like 'Borgen', one of the most enjoyable and intelligent series of recent years.

We gave up with 'Those Who Kill' because its Danish credentials weren't enough.  And changing tops frequently and in public is no substitute for the amazing self-mending Lund jumper.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Syndicate, Part Two

This time there was no snoozing.  Kay Mellor hasn't gone far outside her safety net here, with her working class characters struggling through a calamitous situation, here a small supermarket winning big on the lottery.  Stuart (Matthew McNulty) was so nagged by his spendthrift wife and desperate prior to the win that his collusion in the robbery is likely to cost him the money and his family, and has already put Bob (Tim Spall) in hospital.

It's more cosy than gritty, and the comedy-drama genre sits oddly with the life-changing scenario and sometimes abrasive script, but as usual the cast do great stuff with what they're given and last night's had a fun take on 'Pretty Woman' with Denise (Lorraine Bruce) and sassy single mother Leanne (Joanna Page) shopping for clothes on a very big budget.  The scenes between Denise and estranged husband Dave (Wayne Foskett) alone were worth tuning in for.  Or re-tuning.  Or whatever we're all supposed to do with digital switchover this month.

Talking of Mr Foskett, how nice to see him onscreen again - a star ever since playing Elvis Simcock, David Thewlis's sulky brother in 'A Bit of a Do' back in the late 80s, and criminally underused.