‘The City and the City’

“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.

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‘Marcella’ – On the Box

ITV has had a bit of a coup with the new London noir drama series Marcella. Written by Hans Rosenfeldt, the Swedish guy behind The Bridge which was such a success for BBC4, you’d think that naturally this would go to the Beeb. But no – it starts on ITV tomorrow night (Monday 4th April at 9pm).

I think it’s clear that ITV have been inspired by recent Scandi noir successes (The Bridge, The Killing etc) and by the revitalised UK detective dramas that have been must-watch tv – Happy Valley and Luther. The bucolic Midsummer Murders is done. Professor Plum in the dining room with the candlestick didn’t do it. It’s all gotten rather gritty, which is no bad thing. But can this writer shift his focus to London, or will the whole thing be lost in translation?

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‘House of Hypochondriacs’- On the Box

Important note: this blog post was written after watching the show and I’ve left it exactly as written at the time, but please see the comment from Shaun (a participant on the show) below. He’s not happy with how his comments were edited by Channel 4, and I’m very thankful for him contacting me to set the record straight.

I am not well.

It’s a virus, or a weird skin thing, or very possibly both. I need to leave it alone and it’ll get better and I need to hurry to Clinical Photography and get pictures taken to aid diagnosis. I need to continue life as normal and I need to stop using soap, cut myself off from all contact with humans and animals and never even look at another kiwi fruit for the rest of my life.

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