British TV: Miscellaneous Reviews

I’m not very good at watching British television. Despite my compulsiveness when it comes to American television, I’m permanently behind on British shows. So I figured that I’d actually watch some stuff live(ish) rather than waiting until other people tell me about shows and eventually picking them up on discount dvds. Unfortunately I may have picked the wrong week to do this as the selection of new, home-grown stuff I watched far from blew me away.

First up was The Shadowline, a crime/thriller thingy which was so awful that I switched off after 15 minutes. It was screaming at me so hard that it was going to be dark and brooding and arty that I thought I should deal with it just like I’d deal with an obnoxious teenager doing the same – I ignored it and put on Grey’s Anatomy instead.

I’m not entirely sure what made me react so quickly to it, usually I will at least sit all the way through a first episode to give it a fair shake, but I had such an instinctive reaction of irritation that it just didn’t seem worth the time. Everything just felt so stereotypical – the over-the-top psychopath, the female cop trying too hard to be hard, the softly spoken police hero just back on the job after some sort of undisclosed trauma… It all felt so ridiculously forced. Maybe if I hadn’t so recently watched Luther which plays with the same ideas I wouldn’t have spotted the clichés, but while I enjoyed them in Luther, here I was just frustrated.

The same can be said for Vera, although I at least made it all the way through the episode as the clichés here are more lazy than obnoxious. Where Shadowline is harsh, Vera is soft; where Shadowline is all snaps and fast cuts, Vera is lingering and slow panning. God it’s dull.

The eponymous hero is all frumpy and acts like a country hick but really she’s a well respected police detective… but also she’s completely self absorbed and drowning in issues. She’s got a couple of young sidekicks who are very competent but she ignores, but she really actually sees there brilliance, but no she’s actually completely oblivious. Oh make your mind up! The mystery of the week meanwhile was hampered by a collection of male suspects who I could never quite tell apart and Juliet Aubrey who I cannot watch on TV without assuming she’s scheming.

I won’t be back for the second part.

The only OK one of the bunch was Exile. The always watchable John Simm crashes and burns from his celebrity journalism job in London and returns to his home town and his Alzheimer suffering father played by Jim Broadbent. The first episode does a good job of setting up the difficult relationship between father, son, and Alzheimer sufferer – there really are three people in the relationship. Actually there’s four because there’s also a sister in the equation and the underlying thread which sees two estranged siblings suddenly back in each others’ lives again is subtle, but actually one of my favourite elements of the first episode.

Less interesting was the mystery that is wedged into the story – a secret that the father was so protective of, he reacted violently when his son started investigating 20 years ago and continues to cover up as best he can. The set up was not massively inspiring to be honest, appearing to be something about corrupt politicians and a journalist taking bribes, hopefully it will prove to be a bit more than that. However even if it doesn’t, there’s more than enough in the drama of watching people work out how to live with Alzheimer’s to get me to tune back in for the other two episodes, although I couldn’t take watching them on consecutive nights as they originally aired.

Finally, last night I tried to watch Atlantis a “Factually-based drama telling the story of the greatest natural disaster to shake the ancient world”. It was awful. A ridiculous combination of historical fact presented in patronising voice over and human impact presented by overacted melodrama. Utter twaddle, I lasted even less time than I did with The Shadowline.

Personally I wouldn’t bother but iplayer Atlantis (until 15th May) and The Shadowline (until 23rd June) which is also still airing new episodes each… Vera is on itv’s player. Unfortunately Exile has already fallen off iplayer but it’s available on Amazon


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