Ordinary Television

April 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

Not even Channel 4’s own announcer sounded convinced when she was forced to describe the last episode of Indian Summers as the ‘gripping finale to our hit series’. This was a risible, ham-fisted attempt to lash together the hazy colonial nostalgia of a Somerset Maugham story with modern sensibilities. It failed. Judi Dench’s rousing rendition of ‘Oh! Oh! Antonio’ was the one early highlight, but only because that music hall number is a smash.

Channel 4 are not left blushing alone when it comes to churning out – and churning is the right word, because you couldn’t produce such terrible programmes without some degree of force – third-rate drama: I came to the finale (an overused term, by the way, that oversells) of Ordinary Lies (BBC One) unsullied by knowledge of its existence but this overwrought trouping of tropes did not seem like it would’ve been a wise investment of six hours. The cast was an island of misfit toys: every imaginable former soap performer, falling over their lines to prove that they should go back to them, along with that chap who looks like a grizzled small-screen Ewan McGregor, and Jason Manford. High times!

I cannot imagine the thoughtlessness that enables the BBC to schedule a bunch of miserable, unattractive used-car salespeople – there was certainly a place with a lot of cars involved – 24 hours after the fabulous and pulchritudinous Poldark – and worse, the idea that this is the standard of drama the world’s largest broadcaster thinks is acceptable to put on at the golden hour of nine o’clock, Monday evening.

Of what one hasn’t seen one shouldn’t speak, but of course I didn’t actually watch something as seemingly dreadful as Code of a Killer; it did, however, prompt me to wonder, haven’t ITV made the same programme with John Simm about three times in the last year? I could be wrong, or it could be the unfortunate situation where an actor ends up so typecast, overused, you can only recognise them as themselves (Damian Lewis and Martin Freeman are others).

Now, this has been an attempt to behave like a proper telly critic, not just bask in the latest American import or binge-it-myself on Netflix/Amazon Prime, and what has it brought me? Disappointment and despair, disbelief and despondency.

This bleak chore was prompted by the new series of Louie (FX), that darkest of comedies being the first thing reviewed on this blog and thus heralding a year of fine television criticism – that’s a wheeze, of course, but if Roger Ebert could paint a similar boast on his door then I can here. But back to C.K., in the first episode a simple social gathering with parents from his daughter’s school turns into Louie almost joining a nice bunch of New Agers and, via a lot of fried chicken, banging the surrogate for a couple of lesbians. We are left bemused but pleased – and also half- – nay, two-thirds- – wishing Louie would slap one of the lesbians, or at least verbally defend himself. But he won’t, because he’s essentially a stoic – or just lazy – in the final analysis, is there a difference?

Game of Thrones returned and what’s to be said? All the usual elements were there: Cersei’s stupidity, Daenerys’s petulance, Jon Snow’s compassion, Stannis’s delusion, Tyrion’s self-pity, the manifold accents of Littlefinger – and tits (approx. 13 mins in – restrained). Well, play on, HBO, play on. It’s a pain in the stones just to check the names are spelt correctly, so I shall keep my opinions to myself unless something spectacularly great or awful occurs. Let it be said that it is a first-rate drama with a second-rate cast and script, and if I seem disappointed with this, too, that’s because it has qualities worth fulminating against. Hatred, after all, is not the opposite of love.

Jacob Knowles-Smith

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