Sunday, January 29, 2023

Quality telly in busier times

Me afer watching too much telly (Fauda)

One of the things I've missed the most in the time this blog has been neglected has been writing about telly. At the same time, while life has got busy, I've probably been a bit more picky about what I watch.

In the last telly round up almost a year ago, I promised to wean myself off zombies and British gangsters. I can update a partial success on that goal. Blissfully I've completely stayed away from The Walking Dead, which I am really pleased about. I'm not even curious.

I thought the second season of Gangs of London (Sky Atlantic) was absurd. Even more so than the first one, which wasn't subtle but had a slightly more magnificent and stylish touch about it. I'm not sure I'd invest the time in a third series, there's no loyalty to any of the characters and it's all a bit confusing as to who's who.

Elsewhere, there's a bit of return to familiar themes that I keep leaning back onto.

My penchant for Australian outback drama was satiated by the very well crafted Mystery Road Origin (BBC), with a young aboriginal detective Jay Swan returning to the dark secrets and hidden tensions of his home community of Jardine in rural Western Australia. As with the present day version, all the most interesting characters are the women, notably the younger version of his wife Mary and how they met. It has it's flaws. but it doesn't hold back from decent social observation and commentary.  

Spies are usually a safe bet and one of the discoveries of the last year has been Slow Horses (AppleTV) with Gary Oldman as the boss of a renegade group of MI5 agents. Much as I liked the portrayals of the dogs (MI5 thugs), the incompetance of the toffs and Kristin Scott Thomas as the jaded boss, the whole show belongs to Oldman as Jackson Lamb. On balance I liked the first season more than the second, the diversion to the cosy Cotsworlds and the flying club was borderline silly.  

On a spy theme, but lurching further east to the DDR was Kleo (Netflix). It felt like a blend of Killing Eve and Deutschland 83/86/89 without ever being as good as either. Though to be fair we completely gave up on Killing Eve. No, Kleo was decent, stylish and eccentric, but the further you get away from the DDR the harder it is to rinse any more character out of that source pool of chaos. 

By contrast the terrible, horrible truth of Isreali series Fauda (Netflix), meaning chaos, is the tense conflict remains the dramatic gift that keeps on giving. Fauda isn't for the feint of heart. It's violent, tense and takes you on an emotional roller coaster. It doesn't pull its punches in depicting the Isreali anti-terrorist unit as a flawed bunch of driven psychopaths. It also leans in to the plight of the Arab opponents as having crap lives and therefore bad choices to make. But there is absolutely no doubt where your sympathies are driven towards. On the whole the Arab characters are wholly unromantic, though brave, but quite often absolute dickheads. It seems to be a way of tilting your sentiment. But none of that emotional manipulation takes anything away from the incredible acting. We've now watched all four series and have been absolutely stunned. At a time when Netflix is chucking out some substandard mush, this is top top class.

Capture (BBC) was futuristic smart geo political drama, but too strung out. It could have been two episodes lighter and more impactful. The twists were predictable and the panto villains two one dimensional. 

The Walk In (ITV) had everything going for it, largely in the shape of the life force that is Stephen Graham. The quality of acting from the whole cast was outstanding, but I felt it came up short. Partly this is because I read Nick Lowles unsettling book on which the depressing tale is based, which didn't feel as redemptive as the screen version. TV never seem to get far right maniacs quite right. All in all, it was compelling enough but hard work. 

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