37 Days was a bit like an Open University docudrama, the type of thing that normally airs at 3am on BBC Two, but with a bigger budget and more recognisable actors. There were individual moments of captivating drama but they were continually broken up by pointed and unsubtle history lessons.
The first part of this three-part drama, airing over three consecutive days, followed the lead up to WWI – from 37 days before the war to 13. The episode focused mainly on the British Foreign Office’s attempts to read the situation in Europe, and the German high command’s instigating of the conflict.
The most recent episode of Jonathan Creek was an awful abomination with one of the most ludicrous endings I’ve ever seen in a mystery programme. This episode never reached those lows but it was still a long way short of what this show used to be.
The Letters of Septamus Noone had Jonathan investigating two mysteries: the first, the death of a woman involved in a play Jonathan and his wife Polly went to see, and the second the mysterious goings on around the death of Polly’s father.
[This article is spoiler free: specific scenes and dialogue is discussed but I've kept it as vague as possible. Links to external sites may contain spoilers]
We are, supposedly, in a golden age of television, but with Breaking Bad finished, and Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire taking their final bow over the next year, it’s been difficult to see what great televisual achievement people will be talking about a few years from now. Enter True Detective. Episode one airs on Sky Atlantic tonight, February 22. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve seen the first five episodes of the American show, and it is possibly the most enjoyable first five episodes of television I’ve ever seen.
True Detective follows Louisiana police officers Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), as they investigate the murder of a woman ritually posed in a burning field. That synopsis, and the generic title of the show, could well lead you to believe that True Detective is another gruesome police procedural. It isn’t, instead handling its unimaginative-seeming set-up using masterful storytelling coupled with depth, intellect, humour, originality and two outstanding central performances. Below are five reasons in particular to watch the show.
Babylon had noble enough intentions and I’m glad they made it but it didn’t quite work as a form of entertainment. It was too slow, too large in scope, and not funny enough. Creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong have writing credits on some great British satire, including The Thick of It, In the Loop and Four Lions, but Babylon fell short of those standards.
The show followed various sections of the Metropolitan Police as they dealt with a shooting spree. A new head of communications, freshly hired from Instagram, marshalled the PR side of things, an armed response officer struggled with his mental health and a police unit dealt with the day-to-day ground work while being filmed by an in-house videographer.
Sardines, episode one of Inside No 9, was a fantastic example of expert storytelling; a very well written dark tale, economically staged and acted by a fantastic cast. This compact 30 minute film could be used as an argument in favour of the supremacy of the script in filmmaking; get that right, and everything else follows.
Sardines took place in one room of the childhood home of two siblings. One was getting married, and to celebrate, her father had arranged a game of Sardines between the invited guests.
Unlike with the Baftasor the Comedy Awards, The National Television Awards winners are decided via a vote by the British public. Five million votes were cast. That’s a number approximate to 8% of the UK who, collectively, decided to vote Joey Essex onto the stage to mindlessly utter ‘what are you saying’ repeatedly like a performing seal taught a single human phrase. Millions of the British public think that one of the greatest TV moments of 2013 was Matthew Wright forcing himself to eat animal brain and that ‘Best Detective’ is a legitimate award category. These are the things people vote for when given access to democracy. David Cameron is a product of the same system that deems I’m A Celebrity the most entertaining programme on television.
Appropriately enough for a TV show giving awards to other awful TV shows, The National Television Awards was painful to watch. It is a show in which the audience greeted the phrase ‘Death Row with Trevor McDonald’ with cheers and ‘WooHoos!’ It is a show whose hero is Danny Dyer, shouting ‘Oi, Oi, O2’ to an audience of screaming mouths.
The Musketeers is the latest in a long, long line of adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ 19th century stories about d’Artagnan and his three swashbuckling friends. Like most BBC drama these days, the show is a co-production with an America network (BBC America in this case) and is aimed in large part at US audiences, hence the HBO-esque production.
Episode one followed principled hero d’Artagnan as he sought vengeance for his father’s murder. He eventually crossed paths with the three musketeers and joined forces with his new friends. Together, they fought a plot by the villainous Cardinal Richelieu to discredit the musketeer’s organisation
The show certainly looks the part. The costumes are fantastic and grabbed attention right from the opening scene; the rain battering down on the wide-brimmed hats of some nefarious guardsmen. The sets are all fully realised, in-depth and interesting to look at.