Monday, January 24, 2011

Movie treatment

There's a beautifully concise guide by Fenella Greenfield to making your two-page movie treatment as good as possible on It's been said a thousand times before but this as neat, digestable and encouraging as any I've seen. Recommended!

Monday, January 10, 2011

More new season shows

Watched first two eps of No Ordinary Family, supposedly a US hit starring Michael (The Shield) Chiklis. It's live action Incredibles. It's rubbish.

Shameless returned to Channel 4 for what I believe is Series 8, the first 5 eps striped across 5 nights of w/c January 10. The character of Frank has been a problem for some time and they tried to ameliorate this by sidelining him into a fantasy world following a drunken stag night. Otherwise, everything much as before. It's tired in some ways but still better than most drama series currently showing. I'm pleased they finally updated the title monologue.
Glee also hit E4 for what I was surprised to discover was only season 2. I thought we had already had two series. The first ep was a bit turgid as new storylines started up and new characters were introduced. It is still better quality than most of its rivals.
The hit of the week, though, was Patrick Harbison's new three-parter, Kidnap and Ransom.

They always seem to start the year with a bang on ITV1. On paper there was little appeal but the storytelling and acting were superb. Is Trevor Eve the consumate British TV actor of his generation? The direction was the only drawback - some ad director, presumably, with designs on Hollywood. But the way they built the tension towards the cliffhanger was extraordinary. What can possibly go wrong, we wondered? The ransom is to be paid - we have checked that the hostage being handed over is the one being paid for. I was on the edge of my seat. I have a horrible feeling the standard might slip next week. John Hannah is the baddie, the trailer informs us. He is certainly not the consummate TV actor of this or any other generation. He is budget grade ham.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Alan Bleasdale's 90'x2 Sinking of the Laconia (BBC2, Thurs & Fri) was his first TV original in more than a decade, yet received scarcely any build-up. If it had been Poliakoff, there would have been ads every hour and an Imagine special. Is it because Bleasdale is irreverent and working class, we wonder?

Anyhow, the film, based on real events from 1942, was a masterclass in serious TV writing that offered interesting and involving characters whilst never getting bogged down in soap opera tosh and never losing sight of the theme, the essential humanity of both sides in a lethal conflict.

Some of the acting was superb. I am not a big fan of Andrew Buchan in Garrow's Law (although my dislike of the series is basically the stories) but his performance as Junior Third Officer Mortimer was brilliant. Likewise Ken Duken as the German U-boat commander and Franka Potente as the inevitable half-English/half-German character caught in the middle. There were no bad performance.

Perhaps the most reassuring element was that, for once, terrestrial BBC did not operate on the basis that its audience is made up of halfwits. The Germans spoke German and we read the subtitles.

One petty quibble: it was hard to shrug off the influence of Das Boot, but I don't suppose there's much else you can do aboard a submerged U-boat.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Big new BBC radio dramatisation

Apparently BBC Radio 4 are broadcasting a mammoth dramatisation of Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate (about the Battle of Stalingrad) across all its drama slots (except the blessed Archers) for a week in September.

This will be the biggest one-go dramatisation since Compton Mackenzie's Carnival, the first real radio dramatisation (by Holt Marvell) back in 1929. Properly marketed, it could give the radio form a major boost. Otherwise it's another regrettable loss of airspace for original work.

Aurelio Zen/Primeval

The new series of Aurelio Zen dramatisations began on BBC1 last night. It was superb, even better than Branagh's Wallander, from the same stable (Andy Harries). The story was risible but in my experience all Dibdin's plots are, and there was an odd mix of British TV stalwarts and actual Italians. None of this mattered. The always brilliant Simon Burke kept the worst nonsense out of his script, his dialogue and dramatic structure was a masterclass, the visuals were ravishing and the lead performances, especially Rufus Sewell as the titular Zen, were exemplary. Can't wait for next week.

Primeval also crept back onto our TV screens this weekend. I thought ITV had binned it. I always liked it - well done fantasy with great effects. I like it even better now that they've moved Connor and Abby centre stage. Can we hope that the abyssmal subplot about Crazy Helen (the always alienating Juliet Aubrey) has finally disappeared up its own anomaly?