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Posts Tagged ‘bbc miniseries’

The Escape Artist (2013)

In BBC, Crime, Law, new, Recommendation, Review, series on 19/11/2013 at 5:04 pm

A modern three part justice/crime tale starring the effervescently great David Tennant as a star London barrister. He gets a complete psychopath off the hook for a murder charge and then  his life changes dramatically. I won’t spoil it – but I will say the plot has quite a classic twist, which works in its benefit.

Escape Artist is indeed well worth the watch because it is a story well made and told. But it’s not ground breaking or revolutionary in any sense and unfortunately, you’re likely to forget about it.

However much I appreciate the quality of these BBC drama series, it does make me wonder if our collectively owned broadcaster is trying hard enough to deliver spectacular drama. I feel this is reaffirming, but not artistically anywhere good enough to meet our high standards.

The Secret of Crickley Hall (2012)

In BBC, Crime, new, out of this world, Recommendation, Review, series, supernatural, war on 04/12/2012 at 7:53 pm

There’s nothing like a big old house that used to be an orphanage as a backdrop for a spooky story. It’s a bit of a cliché, admittedly, but then this 3-part BBC mini do is so tense, intriguing and well acted that it overpowers its obvious setting.

Eve and Gabe Caleigh (Suranne Jones and Tom Ellis) are a happy, busy urban couple with three kids. One day, Eve briefly dozes off at the playground and her young son Cal goes missing. A year later they move to the remote Crickley Hall, where Gabe hopes his wife might be able to start letting go of their son. But, Eve has a sort of telepathic connection with Cal, and she can hear his voice inside the heavily haunted house.

Crickley Hall was a small orphanage during WWII, and all the children supposedly drowned in a flood. However, there’s a complex mystery to be unravelled, especially since Mr Cribben (Douglas Henshall) is spooking about with his cane, terrorising the ghosts of the children as well as all the living people in the house.

The plot is complex, running between present (missing son and family dynamics), past (what really happened to the children?) and past meets present (survivors who get involved). It’s not predictable and avoids sappiness and melodrama, even though the heavy emotions involved easily provoke both. A good watch. Not if spooks spook you out, though. It’s not terrifying, but very intense and absolutely quite spooky.

 

Hunted (2012)

In BBC, Crime, new, Rant, Review, series, Spy on 25/11/2012 at 11:56 pm

The BBC has set its standards high when it comes to present-day spy thrillers thanks to a successful decade of Spooks. When Hunted was announced – supposedly by the makers of Spooks – no doubt many of us were anticipating something good. And no doubt, we’re all disappointed.

Hunted tells the story of a young woman spy, Sam Hunter (Melissa George) and her perilous quest to find out who wants her dead. She works for a private agency and neither she nor her colleagues know why or for whom they put their lives on the line daily. They don’t know if they’re killing goodies or baddies. In my view, that’s about as wobbly a plot as anyone can come up with.  Some morals are written in towards the end, but the mere idea that the protagonist, who we’re meant to believe is fighting for justice, doesn’t care about the rest of the world makes her a fundamentally flawed character.

This 8-part drama also has generous blobs of dialogue that are so appalling I feel sorry for the actors made to say the lines. The bit where some dialogue is supposed to be Dutch is, erm, well, hardly recognisable as said language, and the characterisation is overall weak and obvious when it comes to the smaller supporting parts, and melodramatic when it comes to the protagonist (do we really need to see her terrible childhood nightmares in every episode? Does she really always sleep on the floor because of what happened to her mother 20 years ago?). To top all this off – the final episode builds up to this great unwrapping of secrets – and then they don’t unwrap at all and bits are left dangling.

So far I’ve said nothing good about Hunted, yet I’ve watched all of it. Most of what kept me hanging on was the power play within the enemy Jack Turner’s house (very convincingly played by Patrick Malahide), and the tension throughout to see whether Sam would get away with whatever hazardous venture she was undertaking. And it all looks very cool, in a fast-paced spy kind of way.

Hunted was neither written nor directed by the people who made Spooks, so I think we can safely say it has little to nothing to do with it. As for Auntie Beeb, I hope they do better next time they put our money into such a costly production.

 

 

 

The Silence (2010)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, Recommendation, Review, series on 26/01/2012 at 9:19 pm

An intense four part sensory and thrilling drama about a deaf 18 year old girl and the turbulent events spinning her into adult life at a ravenous pace while she’s staying with her aunt and uncle in Bristol.

Amelia (Genevieve Barr) recently had a hearing operation and is undergoing speech training close to where her police detective uncle and his family live. Her character is beautiful: frustrated about her protective parents, eager and curious, frightened and irrational and highly sensitive and sensual because of it. This makes her actions unlikely at times and enthralling all the time. The viewer hears when and what she hears: when she takes out her hearing aid (which paradoxically makes her feel safe), sound drops and dialogue is subtitled.

When she accidentally witnesses a serious crime, she puts herself, her uncle’s career and the family in a tricky situation which builds up steadily throughout the series. The tension between aunt Maggie (Dervla Kirwan) and her husband Jim (Douglas Henshall) is very powerful and real – Jim being something between a hot-tempered work-obsessed prick and a likeable, responsible man. He’s also a man who cares about his niece but is a bit ridiculous at doing it. Meanwhile, the relationship between Amelia’s parents (Gina McKee and Hugh Bonneville) and their relationship with their daughter progresses in its own tense and terribly realistic way.

Main kudos go to the way all characters play their own essential parts and are so realistically executed. It’s also refreshing to watch a drama where not all emotions and actions are easy to explain. A real gem of a miniseries.

 

The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)

In BBC, period drama, Recommendation, Review, series, war on 12/11/2011 at 6:04 pm

This girl from Amsterdam certainly lived on after her unfairly premature death, for much of what we know about what WWII was like for people in hiding in the Netherlands is determined by Anne’s diary. Her story of life in the secret Annex (famously known as Het Achterhuis in Dutch), has been dramatised quite a few times – and I believe this concise but beautifully made BBC miniseries is the best yet.

Indeed, Anne Frank wasn’t at all a pleasant teenage girl. She was self-centred (as many are at that age), spoiled and couldn’t keep a thought to herself. She was also smart, quite funny and a little too ambitious. Whether this interpretation is based on thorough research or the writer’s vivid imagination doesn’t matter much, because it makes this Anne (Ellie Kendrick) very real. Kendrick is a very talented young actress, and perfect for this part because she much resembles Anne Frank and isn’t (no offence intended) too pretty. All the other inhabitants of the Annex are superbly cast, amongst whom Felicity Jones as Anne’s ‘perfect’ big sister Margot, Lesley Sharp as the too extravagant and dominant Petronella van Dam and Tamsin Greig as the silently tormented mother Edith Frank.

Despite the issue of this series completely ignoring the famous chestnut tree that so inspired and soothed Anne from the attic window, it’s a gripping and absolutely very moving watch. I sobbed relentlessly at the end despite knowing what was going to happen – but I was ill at the time and it makes me very emotional. Do let me know if it had the same effect on you.

Casanova (2005)

In Amazing, based on novel, BBC, feel good, hilarious, period drama, Recommendation, romantic, series on 21/09/2011 at 7:50 pm

David Tennant charms and flirts your pants off on in this 3-part BBC miniseries. At last, Casanova is full of cheek and naughtiness and is only tragic where it serves the story’s purpose. It’s a proper bit of fiction in the sense that this series isn’t forcedly trying to make legend took like fact. Instead, it’s focused entirely on the charming and talented cast.

Peter O’Toole is the old Casanova who makes the young and curious girls he’s telling his life story to blush. His younger self, Tennant, befriends Henriette (Laura Fraser), a girl perhaps even cheekier than himself. Their adoration for each other can never become more than that because she must marry Grimani (Rupert Penry-Jones), thus Casanova’s adventures continue.

BBC’s Casanova is a delicious and feisty watch. Have fun.

Here’s a clip for lack of a proper trailer. The first minute or two will give you enough of an impression.

Fingersmith (2005)

In Amazing, based on novel, BBC, Crime, LGTB, period drama, Recommendation, series on 06/09/2011 at 6:54 pm

This is a truly ingenious piece of writing by the talented Sarah Waters. Fortunately, the BBC did a mini-series so good it had me jumping up from my comfy sofa, exclaiming enthused cheers several times. I hadn’t read the book yet, mind, so every twist and turn taken was a surprise. But: if you have read it, watch it anyway. I do think it’s that well done.

Fingersmith (slang for thief) is set in 19th century Dickensian London and tells the tale of the unfortunate orphan girl Sue (Sally Hawkins), who is made to thieve to earn her keep. The deceitful and tawdry conman Richard ‘Gentleman’ Rivers (Rupert Evans) comes up with a scam to trick the beautiful Lady Maud Lilly (Elaine Cassidy) out of her money – and Sue must be part of the plan.

This plan naturally goes tits up in several ways (quite literally). Kudos to the starry and very convincing cast – and, to any lad harbouring the misconception that every period drama must be a chick-flick: this one isn’t. Not in the traditional sense, anyway.

Single Father (2010)

In Amazing, BBC, Recommendation, Review, series on 13/08/2011 at 6:03 pm

Another amazing BBC miniseries was made last year, and this one is seriously heart-shredding. Actor David Tennant, perhaps feeling he needs to prove himself as more than ‘just’ the greatest Doctor in history, has you glued to the screen even though the story itself has all the ingredients for a soppy cliché-ridden girlie tear jerker. Instead, it’s pure stupendous acting and writing. Torn between love and grief, Single Father shows nothing less than all that is insanely and beautifully human. This is one of those productions that proves that British TV drama has never been as good as it is today.

I chose to share this clip below rather than the trailer, because events are best kept unknown (I’m advising against watching the trailer anyway and reading reviews full of spoilers here). Just watch it.

Oh, yes: grown men might need tissues too.

Desperate Romantics (2009)

In BBC, period drama, Recommendation, romantic, series on 01/07/2011 at 6:15 pm

A six part BBC miniseries about four rebellious romantic painters whose efforts to incite an art revolution certainly aren’t very fruitful in the beginning. There’s also much literal desperate romanticism, laudanum addiction, beautiful female models with thick and wavy red hair and of course, it couldn’t be any good without some serious class prejudice and old-fashioned sexism. It’s a very entertaining, quite brilliantly acted (Rafe Spall, Aidan Turner, Tom Hollander) and sexy period drama series. Recommended.