Thursday, October 30, 2014

Autumn TV Drama

It's been interesting.  A couple of returning favourites, some promising new series and a distinctive import from Down Under.

ITV's Scott and Bailey aired the series finale last night.  There have been developments - Rachael promoted because Janet turned it down, the boss on the sauce and about to retire - but Scott remains boring and Bailey's catastrophic lovelife has reached new heights of improbability.  However the strength of the series is that extreme crimes are treated from a woman's point of view, rather than women behaving like men which was always the curse of Prime Suspect.  The writing standard was especially high this series, largely because Amelia Bullmore did most of it.

On BBC2 Peaky Blinders is back big time.  Arthur has become insanely violent and Tommy is planning to go legit - but only after he has seized the London Underworld from the Jews (Tom Hardy, improbably enough) and the Italians (Noah Taylor).  Rarely for a returning series, season 2 is even better than season 1.  The mighty theme music - Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" - is becoming iconic and has been developed in many ways by the priceless P J Harvey.  Simply unmissable.

Also on BBC2 is Intruders from BBC America.  It's an odd concoction, with John Simm, my fellow Nelsonian, as an ex-LA detective who now writes books in Seattle and is married to Mira Sorvino who thus far hasn't troubled us much with her presence.  It is stylishly done in strong, punchy 45 minute episodes, and is utterly incomprehensible.  It's based on a novel so doubtless there will be closure and it's the paranormal end of mystery so the resolution can be as preposterous as it needs to be.  Worth watching though for the baddies, James Frain as the killer of more or less everyone and Millie Brown as the mandatory scary kid, in this case so scary she drowns the cat.

The Missing is BBC1's autumnal offering.  Tony and Emily's five-year-old son Ollie is snatched in rural France.  Eight years later Tony (James Nesbitt) is back with a tenuous clue.  Emily meanwhile has moved on and is about to get married to Mark Walsh (Jason Flemyng) who was the British police liaison in the original inquiry.  The French detective who led the hunt (Julien Baptiste, played by Tcheky Karyo) is interested, as is predatory journalist Malik Suri (Arsher Ali).  So far so good.  The story unfolds smoothly in both present time and flashback, and the snatch itself - Tony turns his back literally for a second and the boy is gone - was truly chilling.  The acting is very good.  Nesbitt has apparenty been wasting his time on The Hobbit, so I for one had forgotten how good he can be when provoked.  Karyo I haven't come across, although he is a French movie star and classical actor; it shows.  The weak link acting-wise is Frances O'Connor as mum Emily.  I can't be sure if this is her fault or just a poorly developed character.  Perhaps her time is yet to come.

And finally The Code in the foreign thriller slot on BBC4.  It's an Australian conspiracy thriller in which every current genre trope seems to have been thrown into a bag and shaken up to see what happens.  Surprisingly the outcome was very good indeed.  It starts with a couple of mixed race youngsters out for a drive in the far outback colliding with a massive truck.  The boy survives but the girl is trapped in the car - which the truck driver and those escorting him then push into a ravine so the girl dies.

We then cut to the heart of government and the world of spin doctors and internet journalists, one of whom, Ned, is the carer for his autistic brother Jesse, who in turn is on a suspended prison sentence for hacking where he didn't ought to.  Ned is slipped the name of the town in the outback where the girl died.  Jesse hacks into a major company and downloads sensitive files.  Cyber crime is alerted, they despatch Dan Wylie (who was so good in the original series of Underbelly) to bring in his partner (Paul Tassone) who has gone rogue and is up to his ears in intrigue.

It sounds absurd - it may well have been - but you couldn't take your eyes off it for a second.  Dan Spielman and Ashley Zuckerman, who played the brothers, were compelling.