Category Archives: BBC

Poldark – A 2 minute review

So, about three weeks ago, a mate of mine mentioned that he had caught an episode of Poldark on the Beeb the other day and that it was just terrible.

Then, a fortnight ago, this same mate pointed out that there was a new series, called Poldark and it was the worst sort of bodice ripper.

Last week, my mate out rightly asked me to start watching Poldark as he thought that I’d enjoy it and he was just HOOKED.

Three episodes in and it’s just glorious. A shining steaming pile of crap that I find myself utterly addicted to!

Poldark

Ross Poldark returns to England after fighting in the American Revolution. His family and friends thought he was dead. The woman he hoped to marry is now engaged to his cousin. His father is dead, and the property he has inherited has been allowed to deteriorate. It is the late 1700s in Cornwall, England. This is a family drama, but is also about the challenges and conflicts between the rich and the poor. It is a time when fishermen are not catching much fish, tin and copper mines are closing down because prices are too low, but the price of food and rents are high. Ross faces the challenge of making his land productive, caring for the tenants who rely on him, and trying to win back the woman he loved – or finding a reason to live without her.

poldark brooding

Go on then Aid, get your brood on.

 

This is not the BBC at its best. This is not on a par with the superb 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice that made Colin Firth a household name – the sets are neither as impressive nor as meticulously authentic. Though closer in terms of subject to the 2004 version of North and South; Poldark never quite manages to maintain the same build up of tension and anticipation.

poldark 01

No…it’s really good…honest…

This is much more swashbuckily.

Much more raunchy.

Much more ‘lets-build-up-tension-across-three-minutes-and-then-have-them-act on-it…by-getting-their-kit-off’.

poldark 03

The show itself is pretty good. Upstairs and down are well represented. There is a not terribly subtle social commentary on the treatment of workers and women (which frankly makes a nice change. Also – Ruby Bentall is simply enchanting as the much maligned Verity). Our intrepid hero is not only all moody and dramatic; he is also honest, choc- full of integrity (if you ignore the smuggling that got him expelled from the army) and actively works to better the lives of his tenants. Occasionally this involves…threshing of …wheat…or other grain based foodstuffs while totally, utterly and completely topless. Out of the goodness of his heart.

The Cornish setting is just gorg and clearly every effort has gone into ensuring that the audience doesn’t get bored. The pacing is just MENTAL. Months fly by in the blink of an eye – a character announces a pregnancy in episode 2 and is a mother by the mid-way point of the third. This is actually a huge mistook. Aside from rushing the various situations, actions and consequences, I would argue that it is – after all – the build up and will-thy won’t-they that we period drama aficionados can’t get enough of. Mind you, that’s the same argument that I had with season 2 Downton Abbey and that became completely turgid and self obsessed by its third.

poldark 05

Updating the Mr Darcy wet shirt scene a touch

 

Aidan Turner takes on the titular role – that of Ross Poldark. Turner has been a delight to watch over the last several years (Being Human, The Hobbit, Desperate Romantics, The Hobbit) and it’s terrific to see him in such a prominent role and receiving acclaim! Demelza is played by Eleanor Tomlinson as all light and music and joy – a terrific heroine that just about manages to avoid the manic pixie dream girl trope. In supporting roles are veteran actors Phil Davis and Beatie Edeny, who provide not only local colour and flair, but also the comic relief portion of the show.

 

Shades of grey…

Cop shows have changed.  I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone.  Where the change happened however, is something I can’t decide upon.  was it ‘The Sweeney’ taking the focus away from ‘proper’ police procedurals? Or was it ‘The Wire’ making us care as deeply about the criminals as the cops? In many cases, we care more for the criminals.  Certainly with The Wire, most of the cops are deeply flawed individuals, and some of the criminals are highly moral characters.  Either way, the police procedural of 2011 is very different even to the procedural of 2002.  Back in the late 90’s we had shows such as ‘A Touch of Frost’ and ‘Dalziel & Pascoe’ here in the UK while America was being treated to the tail end of ‘Diagnosis: Murder’ and the burgeoning ‘Law & Order’ franchise.

I grew up on ‘A Touch Of Frost’ and many a Sunday evening were spent in front of a warm fire watching the legendary David Jason solve crimes in his own unique way, having a lovely cup of tea and a chocolate digestive (the king of biscuits!).  It wasn’t until Warren Clarke rolled up as Andy Dalziel, based on Reginald Hill’s series of novels, that I really got gripped by a detective show.  The easy going nature of the show, combined with the classic contrast between gruff, old school Dalziel and his new, rookie partner Pascoe made for essential viewing in my house.  We were on the verge of a whole new generation of cops, fresh from university, armed with cell phones and the internet.Pascoe was one of these, leading him to clash with Dalziel on a regular basis.
As is often the case, these mismatched investigations combined the old school tactics of gut feelings, hunches and ‘knowing a wrong ‘un’ tended to combine with new science, DNA profiling and other technological advancements, to solve the crime and put the bad guy away.

As heard in the latest episode of Culturally Fixated, one of my favourite shows, of any genre, is ‘Life On Mars’.  Such a unique and innovative take on the cop show is not easy to find.  Starring John Simm, one of my favourite actors since ‘Boston Kickout’ and ‘The Lakes’, meant that I was always going to watch it.  Enjoying it was a whole other experience.  It happened instantly, as soon as Sam Tyler woke up in the 70’s to the sound of David Bowie’s title song, I was with it, totally sucked into the world of Manchester in the 70’s.

One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy it’s sequel ‘Ashes To Ashes’ as much was because the lead character, Alex, was such an insufferable know all.  It also gave us a very distinct finish to the previous show.  One of the reasons people liked Life On Mars, was the uncertainty, as Sam said in the credit sequence ‘am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?’.  For the entire two series run it was not clear, and the ending was amazing.  Interspersed with all the time travel nonsense was the heart of a proper cop show, with proper crimes and one of the most charismatic characters of all time, Gene Hunt.  A proper, old fashioned, un-PC copper. If you haven’t seen it, look it up, or shout me, I’ll lend you my copy!

Speaking of old-fashioned coppers, that leads me onto ‘Luther’, something of a throwback to ‘old fashioned’ coppers, leading with their gut instincts.  John Luther is a whole different animal, although almost cut from the same mould as Hunt, he works very well with the internet generation of police work.

He is very much a man on the edge for most of the (all too brief) ten episodes we have seen thus far.  What he is, is a man who knows right from wrong, and walks the thin line very carefully.  He cares not for himself, or his own safety, but will punish those who hurt the innocent.  His is a more complex case given the relationship of sorts that Luther has with Alice, a sociopath he is tasked with arresting.  I do not want to spoil the show for anyone who has not yet seen it, so go find it, again, I have the DVD if you need! Needless to say, it is badass!!
I wanted to cover ‘The Wire’ in a bit more depth, but the level of the show means I need to cover it in a separate entry.
So, for now, go listen to us talk cop shows on ‘Culturally Fixated’ (link to the right) or go check out any of the shows mentioned, except the US remake of ‘Life On Mars’, which was poo.

Goodbye my Luther…

 

On Tuesday evening, British TV lost one of its heavyweights. I will admit to mostly being a viewer of American TV shows, with the odd notable exception, but I am and always will be a sucker for some of the great dramas produced by the BBC and ITV. Luther is one of these. I would go so far as to say that this BBC production has been my favourite show since Life On Mars (we don’t mention Ashes To Ashes).

When Idris Elba returned to Britain to play DCI John Luther it seemed a slight comedown for an actor who had been the magnificent Stringer Bell in The Wire. Not so.  Elba stepped into the red tie and grey overcoat of Luther, and instantly a classic show was born.  A British cop show that felt like all the great American ones, with a cop going above and beyond to ensure that justice was done, rules were bent, stretched and often broken to get his man.
When we first met Luther, he was hunting down a child kidnapper, and the first show started with Luther letting, no helping, the bad guy fall off a building.  Here is a man not to mess with.  Along the way he lost pretty much everyone he cared about, all in the pursuit of doing the right thing.  We saw him build a great chemistry/friendship with DS Justin Ripley (the underrated Justin Ellis) and alienate friends, allies, co-workers and pretty much anyone else who got in his way.  At the end of the day, justice was served, and damn the personal cost to himself.
What other show would be brave enough to have our ‘hero’ team up with a confirmed psychopath, Alice Morgan (an utterly beguiling Ruth Wilson) because she is more trustworthy than his fellow cops.  My favourite scenes from the three series of Luther have been the ones with Elba and Wilson, sparkling with chemistry and sexual tension.  Idris Elba as John Luther is an actor entirely right for the role, hunched over, hands in pockets, he inhabited a tortured character and made us care about him, gave him a humanity often lacking in these roles.  Can somebody please give him a good role in Hollywood now please? Or do I have to write one for him?  He can come and be in our film if he wants…
I didn’t want this to be a memorial for a TV show, that would be crazy, but creator Neil Cross and Elba have said they would like to continue the adventures of John Luther in a series of films. Can I buy a ticket now?
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