I completely forgot to put a blog post up about this! I spent so much time actually discussing it in person with friends and colleagues that I overlooked my dedicated blog audience. So just a quick catch-up for the sake of completeness – it’s rubbish. I had been looking forward to it; I love a good disaster movie and I love Downton Abbey, so combining the two should be perfect. But something went horribly horribly wrong.
The biggest mistake – the characters were almost without exception utterly hateful and I found myself hoping that they all went down with the ship. For a start there were so many of them that I couldn’t keep track most of the time so the first class passengers just turned into a fuzzy cloud of self-righteous, narrow-minded xenophobes, whose concern with everyone’s relative places on the social ladder was only outdone by the paranoia of their servants. The crew were a rather ineffectual bunch in uniforms and/or dirt and the passengers not in 1st class did little but express deep seated bitterness with comedy accents.
The second biggest mistake was the structure, by half way through the first episode the boat was already sinking and I was a little confused about how they were going to stretch that out for the next three episodes. As the ‘next time on Titanic’ indicated though, each episode would go back to before the boat set sail and we’d meet yet another group of characters, presumably in the vague hope that somewhere in the cast of thousands they might find one actual likeable character that we didn’t hope would drown. Meanwhile the audience is left in the worst groundhog day in history.
Generally I will try to find the positives in shows, and even if I don’t like it, try to see if there’s anything that other people would like. But, given my aforementioned conversations, there’s nothing in Titanic worth salvaging, beyond possibly the sets and some nice CGI. The problem when telling the story of the Titanic is that everyone knows the boat is going to sink, the band is going to play and people are going to die. The only novelty is in the choice of which characters to follow. By having so many characters and rushing to the iceberg the viewer has no time to build any connection to the character.
I didn’t watch the second episode, and over a third of the audience made the same decision (7.36mill for the pilot, 4.66mill for the 2nd episode – wikipedia). You can write your own jokes about how fast the numbers are sinking.
The Guardian – Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, has predictably focused on the social divisions represented by the ship’s tightly regimented class system. Yet he’s done so with so little imagination that the resulting archetypes are as subtle as an iceberg.
Telegraph – There was both too much and too little to concentrate on, and no-one to care about. If I were forced to judge Titanic on this one episode alone, I’d call it a damp squib – but having seen part two, I can assure you it gets better.