“Nowhere else works like the cities”. This is the first line of BBC1’s new drama based on the 2009 ‘weird fiction’ novel by British author China Miéville, an exotically named man actually born in Norwich. His book has been adapted for TV by screen writer Tony Grisoni.
The cities in the title are Besźel, which looks like the Eastern Bloc of 30 plus years ago mixed with cafes and people from 1970s Istanbul and Ul Qoma which is glimpsed only briefly in the first episode. These streets look brighter, cleaner, and more advanced. The colour pallets are quite different in each city; dingy yellows for Besźel and clean blues for Ul Qoma. Like the inhabitants, the viewer always knows where they’re looking.
The two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but the inhabitants wilfully ‘unsee’ the areas they’re not allowed to view. Early on Commissar Gadlem (Ron Cook) gets out his overhead projector, and lays two acetate maps on top of each other. That’s a good way to get your head around it.
Continue reading “‘The City and the City’”
This formulaic drama would have passed me by, but some interesting casting turned my head and I decided to check out episode one. Female copper Helen Weeks (MyAnna Buring) is haunted by childhood tragedy so returns to the sleepy Derbyshire town of Polesford which must be twinned with Happy Valley – the odd array of accents certainly place it much further into the vague north than Derbyshire. She’s back just in time to help support her childhood friend (wife of the lead suspect in the disappearance of two girls) and rub up the local police force the wrong way as they hunt for a murderer.
First, the plus points. There’s an excellent supporting cast. I love to watch comedy actors stretch themselves in drama. Helen’s friend Linda Bates is played by Emma Fryer who is so perfectly funny in Channel 4’s Phoneshop and BBC’s Ideal. Her character is proud, angry and defiant. Her man Stephen could never be the murderer – by sheer force of will she’d keep him on the straight and narrow. It’s a great performance but I’m expecting her to roll her eyes or stick her tongue out at any second. And another great spot from Ideal was Sinead Matthews seemingly playing another nice but dim character.
Continue reading “‘In the Dark’”
I’m assured that Harlan Coben is a huge deal in thriller writing with his books prominently displayed in stores at airports and train stations. Somehow I seem to have missed him entirely. But his name is writ large on this new Sky drama series and if this is anything to go by I’m going to be keeping an eye out for his stuff in the future.
The Five is an eight-part original thriller made for Sky, which promises to be a stand-alone series with a proper beginning, middle and end. He says “The one thing I do think that I’ve brought to TV from the novels is a real ending. I guarantee that the end of this show is well earned.” If that’s true, that would be so sweet!
Continue reading “On the Box – ‘The Five’”
Unforgotten is ITV’s new crime drama. From the off it’s very strange. For a start, it seems to be entirely well-lit. In some scenes there are zero spooky shadows and you can see everything. There’s even daylight! The investigating detectives are DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunny Khan. Not only do they seem well-adjusted, friendly and generally decent, but there’s zero sexual tension and no mention of alcohol or substance abuse. They might just be normal coppers doing a good job – an extremely rare sighting in drama or fiction of any kind. I especially like the way that episodes 1 and 2 haven’t shied away from how much methodical admin work goes in to a murder investigation. In fact, that’s the most mysterious thing about the show so far. Why is the Guv so keen to work a cold case full of dead ends? Nicola Walker‘s emotional stuff is a bit heavy-handed, but I’m sure it’ll all make sense when we find out about her brother/ sister/ husband/ mother who went missing when she was a child and left unresolved feelings that poor Jimmy’s case brings up.
Continue reading “‘Unforgotten’ – On the Box”