Tuesday, January 15, 2008

City of Vice

Original drama series on C4 are always worth consideration. This was disappointing. Despite all the trimmings, no real sense of 18th century London and downright wierd casting. Henry Fielding was under 50 when he died. Now, actors are often older than the characters they play, but Ian McDiarmid is over 60 and has acted ancient since the early 1970s. He also has an unmistakeable Scottish burr. Iain Glen is also Scottish and a full decade older than John Fielding was at the time the Bow Street Runners were formed, but more convincing in the role. These are picky points and wouldn't matter diddly were it not for the show's heavy-handed emphasis on accuracy. Overall, lacked any dramatic tension.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Damages" and "Mad Men"

Am pretty much loving Damages on BBC1, although they must be kicking themselves for not finding a more audience-friendly slot now that Glenn Close has won the Golden Globe for best TV actress. I especially love the twin time-tracks and the subtle interaction between them - no dissolves, no narration, just a recognition that the audience is smart enough to figure it out for themselves. Also mighty impressive is Ted Danson as the anatagonist (the show is far too highly evolved to have a bad guy and, anyway, how can he be the bad guy when the protagonist, Patty, is pure evil?). I haven't really paid much attention to Danson since Cheers, apart from his occasional cameos in Curb Your Enthusiasm, but this is prime quality acting and fully deserving of his Globe nomination.

BBC4 are soon going to be showing Mad Men, the big winner at last night's Golden Globes. Can't wait.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

TV's festive fortnight

Christmas Day, Doctor Who meets Kylie aboard the Titantic was good enough, mainly because it had Kylie in it. Plenty of ideas and effects - better than last year's Christmas special, mainly because it didn't have Catherine Tate in it.

Boxing Day: Old Curiosity Shop, Ballet Shoes, Lead Balloon - don't care. My Family was clearly a bid for the 100 Worst Television Programmes Ever compilation. Truly execrable. Hard to imagine that this concept (Christmas in a hotel, ghosts and the dear old murderous escaped loony device) ever got past a commissioner who wasn't confined in an institution.

Extras (December 27) came and went and no one seemed to notice. Two-part New Year Casualty was a further descent into soapdom; silly stories and a wasted appearance from Lindsey Coulson. Sunday December 30, high hopes were dashed when Shadow in the North was nowhere near as good as last year's Ruby in the Smoke. The dramatisation was by chain saw and shovel. Promising characters became transitory vignettes. Jared Harris was a sadly halfbaked villain.

Double Time (ITV NYE): who commissions this shit? Are they unfamiliar with the work of Plautus? Sense and Sensibility (BBC January 1) - another Andrew Davies special with spurious sex crowbarred into the work of a woman who shunned physical intimacy. The new series of Shameless (C4), to be fair, started much better than anything in series 4.

So, finally, we come to another of ITV's one-off comedies: Guy Jenkin's Bike Squad on Friday January 4. I won't be alone in having approached this with trepidation. It had all the hallmarks of an aborted sitcom - and yet it turned out to be the original drama highlight of the festive fortnight. It wasn't great but all shortcomings were redeemed by decent writing, well-rounded characters and restrained performances by well-cast, well-directed actors. Mark Addy and Maxine Peake were the leads, Hattie Morahan and Darren Boyd were excellent in support and the discovery for me was Tunji Lucas, who I haven't seen before but look forward to seeing again.