Thursday, May 29, 2014

TV drama round up

It's been a long time since I blogged about media and culture.  That's because the final year of Coalition misrule in the UK has brought a cultural desert in which no one is prepared to take any risks any more.  The theatre is to all intents and purposes a closer door to me now (the RSC wasting time and effort on Wolf Hall?  Jesus...), British cinema seems to have slipped into a coma recently, and telly is in nostalgia mode, the BBC reeling from the realisation that it's committed itself to four long years of homage to World War I, which no one now remembers and by no means everyone wants to be reminded of. The Crimson Field, a mash-up of Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey,was excruciatingly awful.

That is not to say, however, that there has been nothing worth watching.  Fargo, from America, is great fun, beautifully written and played.  Braquo is back and as bleak as ever.  Sky's revival of 24, however, set in London but still featuring Jack and Chloe, is a bit of a dud despite the clever premise of using drones.  It's only twelve-hours anyway and thus asks to be called half-baked.

Instead of Nordic Noir on BBC4 we've had Celtic Noir - Hinterland, set in Wales and partly in Welsh, was a brave attempt, beautifully shot but not very well acted, well worth another series, and Amber, from Ireland, starts next week.  Also in Ireland, but not in any way Irish, is BBC1's Quirke, based on Benjamin Black/John Banville's novels.  There's a lot of guff in the pointless press about inaudible mumbling, but it's not mumbling, it's filmic sound, meant to be heard in Dolby or surround sound.  It's well enough dramatised by Andrew Davies, and it has Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon to keep the standard of performance up.

From There to Here is an oddball offering from Peter Bowker on BBC1.  It starts with the IRA bombing of the Arndale Centre in Manchester in 1996 but it's really about rebuilding family in the aftermath.  I like Philip Glenister and I lover Liz White, but I can't look at them without thinking Life on Mars.  Episode 2 is tonight and holds considerable promise.  Best of the homegrown stuff by far, though, is Happy Valley by Sally Wainwright, set in Sowerby in West Yorkshire, and starring Sarah Lancashire, the top TV actress by a mile, as the middleaged police sergeant out to get the psychopath who raped her daughter.  Fans of Last Tango in Halifax have complained about the violence.  The violence is what makes it - the drama is about violence.