Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Escape Artist

Remember that ITV drama by Anthony Horowitz about a brilliant barrister whose world gets turned upside-down?  No, neither do we, really, except a vague memory of it being ludicrously far-fetched.  Here's the BBC version, with Man of the Hour David Tennant as Will Burton, the barrister who has everything (lovely wife, cute kid, conscience, gorgeous home in the city, gorgeous home in the country, undisputed top spot at the Bar etc. etc.) but whose life unravels after he successfully defends a client accused of an horrific and violent murder... and refuses to shake his hand.

There's a never-ending list of cliches: Toby Kebbell's psycho Liam Foyle has turned his house into an aviary and has a nice line in mercurial charm and snarling temper; he turns up at the window on a dark night while Mrs. Burton (Ashley Jensen) is wallowing in a candlelit bath; the judge is almost tangibly anti-Will, but is forced to shelve the case thanks to his prejudice; fellow barrister Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo) is so ambitious it blinds her to the dangers of Mr. Foyle.

It's entertaining enough in a schlocky kind of a way, but undeserving of the talents of its cast.  We're expected to believe that nice barristers visit primary schools to talk about their work and that they are shocked to the core by child crime, violent internet porn and necrophilia.  If lawyers thought the world was a gentle place, they'd be in another job, and if clients took revenge like this one, it'd be a far less popular profession.  Hmm, maybe this drama will have a positive impact after all.

Saturday, 12 October 2013


One of those stalwart series the Beeb does so well, 'Truckers' takes a dash of 'Clocking Off' and a pinch of 'Common as Muck' (by the same writer, William Ivory) and with a reasonable script and good actors, makes a Thursday night worth fiddling with the recorder/box/iPlayer to catch.  It's not going to be among the annals of the greatest TV series of all time, but on ITV at the same time is 'Breathless'.  Need we say more? 

Masters of Sex

A dramatized account of the work of Dr William Masters, who with his assistant Virginia Johnson began to study human sexual response and dysfunction in the late 1950s.  Its sleazy pun of a title belies its class, with a hair-trigger script that can at times rival 'Mad Men' and the kind of performance from Michael Sheen that makes him equally as convincing playing Caligula, Tony Blair and Brian Clough... though maybe that isn't such a leap after all.

Will it sustain a season's worth and then some?  We have our doubts, but in the spirit of carpe diem, we'll watch while the going is good.


So this is Britain's answer to 'Mad Men'?  In that case we really are a fifth-rate, insignificant island off the corner of Europe.  Dan and I are not among those who think that MM is the best thing ever to have hit the screens, but it's pretty darned good, mostly, and in comparison to this it's searingly brilliant.  Lest anyone be confused here, this has only a kitsch title sequence and coiffed hair in common with Draper and co.  In every other sense, this is more akin to that pinnacle of UK prime-time, 'The Royal': smarmy surgeons, doe-eyed nurses, neurotic wives and a Best of the 60s soundtrack.  The saucy doctor's sideline in illegal abortions feels borrowed from 'Call the Midwife', and the presence of Davenport, Little, Parish and Glen merely reminds you how good they can be elsewhere.

It doesn't score highly on the factual front either.  Nurses in the 1960s weren't allowed out of hospital grounds in uniform, but 'Breathless' has them kitted out at home and in public.  Is this a budget restriction or lazy research?  It may seem a small point, but it's easy enough to ask any veteran nurse and we need look no further for one of the causes of those 'inexplicable' infections on the wards.

If Britain had an answer to the Madison Avenue antics of Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce...) it was shaping up to be 'The Hour'.  If this goes on beyond one series, we'll be Breathless... with indignation.