Wednesday 17 October 2012


The new 'Spooks'?  Well superficially it's similar, with espionage, pretty leads, and pretty spectacular fight and action sequences.  It also has similarities with 'Homeland' and 'Ashes to Ashes'.  Yes folks, our heroine has issues, and a troubled past.  She also survives two potentially fatal gunshot wounds in the first fifteen minutes.

Programmes like this are grist to our mill, fodder to our cannon and sitting ducks to our fairground rifle range.  It's surprising that commissioning editors thought this was anything but one whopping TWNH.  I admit that the average trainload on the 11.43 from Scunthorpe probably love this (and for Scunthorpe, read Anytown, UK).  It's the eternally popular po-faced, we've-only-three-minutes-to-save-the-world combination of violence, sex and unbelievable setups that forms a staple of prime-time TV these days.

Sam (Melissa George) is our first TWNH.  In her twenties, smart, adored by men, able to kick ass in a way that would trounce James Bond and fearless enough to swat a gun out of a man's hand without a second thought.  She's the smartest operative in a global, upmarket private security firm; the sort that has boardrooms with touchscreen desks and no windows.  Likely?

Most of the first episode is about her, pouting like she'd sucked her dummy well into adolescence and had only recently thrown it away.  She wants to find out who wanted to kill her and made her lose her baby.  It could be her boyfriend, who works alongside her, or did until she went AWOL for a year.  Likely?

She's back now and despite her boss looking daggers and spitting trite dialogue at her, she walks straight back into an op.  Likely?

Her second honey trap of the episode is the op that will presumably form the main plot of the series.  She's given a backstory of bereaved American mother - despite being Australian and playing Sam as English - and thrown literally into the role of saviour of her target's son.  Her target happens to be, in turn, the son of a rich gangster and they're all living in paranoid purdah in Regent's Park.  Yet, with this one staged rescue act, Sam, aka 'Miss Kent', gets an invitation to live in the hideous house with the Turner crime mob.  Likely?

Remember, though, that everyone's grey.  Sam and her team are essentially mercenaries, and we're not convinced they're worth caring about.  We're set up with all the usual hooks: will she rescue the boy?  Fall in love with his father?  Discover who set her up?  Retire into the sunset with her boyfriend?  Kill her boyfriend?  Who can she trust?  Are her boss and colleagues on the level?  Unlikely.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Best Possible Taste

Those under thirty may not remember the unique Kenny Everett with his outre brand of humour, but he was all over the schedules in the 1980s.  "All in the best possssible taste!" was his ironic catchphrase (given that he was usually dressed in drag and leather with long  bestockinged legs at the time).  His risque MO was known to have spilled over into his private life, too and this is the latest in the BBC4 line of biopics of once-mainstream media figures.

This bears the hallmarks of the BBC4 production line: good acting, sharp writing and a slightly quirky presentation.  Maurice Cole's story jumps forwards and back in time with alter-ego Kenny Everett's, err, alter-egos commenting in character on the events.  So the mime artist has a happy or sad face, the busty model lusts after his male companions, etc.  The baby, the biker Sid Snot and the cleric with the big hands will also be familiar to fans of his show, and it's surely those fans that this is aimed at.

We found it watchable enough, but don't find Kenny's brand of light entertainment scintillating, and his life story is a trawl through the emergence of popular music radio and popular gay culture with no surprises.  

Monday 1 October 2012


Remember this?  Nor do we, apart from a vague familiarity, but that could be from a number of other programmes about 'a brilliant, maverick... (add profession of choice)'.  Wasn't the first series in the 20th Century?  Apparently not. The eponymous  Monroe (James Nesbitt, who looks like he's visited a botox clinic and demanded to look as much like George Clooney as possible) is the brilliant, maverick surgeon with a troublesome ex-wife, children and colleagues.

This sits uneasily between not two but three stools: Casualty-style soapy patient and love lives complete with crooning soundtrack; serious drama and black comedy.  The result is an identity crisis.  Performances are slick, and the script sometimes witty, but there are the familiar moral dilemmas, gripes in the operating theatre and on the wards and from the trailer for next week, things progress pretty predictably.  As a mainstream ITV drama it's not bad, but the best moments show what a frustrating near-miss this is.