Monday, October 09, 2006

Out Of The Past

April may be the cruellest month, but when it comes to seasons, Autumn can be pretty dire. The nights start drawing in, SAD does the rounds, and the new television season begins transmission.

In the wake of endless trailers promoting the new confections ready to excite and entertain, ITV kicked off with the return of Cracker. Which showed what a difference a decade makes.

I was told it was going to be really good. And having watched the show back when it first came out in the 1990s, I expected it to be really good. Once Fitz waddled back onto the screen with the same old vices, it only went to show that ten years is a long time to be away. What seemed new and edgy back then, looked old and tired now.

What made the show interesting when it first arrived were the collection of police officers Fitz butted heads with through the course of the investigation. Dead or disappeared, this time around the DI on the case was played as the clichéd copper by a woefully miscast actor who SHOUTED at every opportunity and did little else.

From the offset, each Cracker introduced the killers, each trying their damn best to get struck off every Christmas card list. Which meant that the show was a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit, leading up to the inevitable confrontation between the big man and the rancid little miscreant who would usually rage about the unfair hand they felt they had been dealt.

This time around regular flashbacks merrily explained the killer’s motivations. Again, and again, and again. And again. America funding the IRA. America’s involvement in Iraq. And 9/11. Obviously. Where would a drama be without one shot of Tower Two with a big smoking rent in the side of it?

So instead of whydunnit, we got polemic. The vital final confront between the two characters was virtually blink-and-you’ll-miss-it compared to the first go around. And there was only one decent joke.

Maybe its because they’re living in the shadow of the Liverpool Poets or the Liverpool Playhouse, but there’s a coterie of Liverpudlian writers who see the television drama format as a soapbox for increasingly tedious tub-thumping. The subjects they choose are incredibly obvious. The reaction to their bleating is usually for the love of God, SHUT THE FUCK UP! Followed by the Off switch.

Still, it was better than The Outsiders which was just plain awful. A spy drama that purported to have its roots in the likes of Danger Man, The Prisoner, and all the other nonsense that looks frankly laughable now, it was so hopelessly useless that it made the likes of Danger Man and The Prisoner look superior by comparison. Hell, even the script by our Short Film Writer looked half-decent by comparison.

The review in The Times summed it up best:

But if you were looking for something on TV last night to really strain your credulity, you could always have turned to The Outsiders (ITV1). Did you watch it? All the way through? You did? Are you related to someone in the cast or on the production team? Thought you must be!

The script alone was the sort of drivel that a teenager would have come up with after watching the stable of 1960s ITC spy dramas while having no knowledge of 24 or Spooks or even Alias. It was leaden and humourless and utter nonsense. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the script was written in crayon.

Allowances could have been made if it had been filmed half decently. Instead we got lame action sequences that had a beginning and end but no middle and a miscast cast virtually sleepwalking through a 90-minute timeslot. What Brian Cox was doing in it is the greatest mysteries of the 21st Century.

Then, on Saturday, came Robin Hood, this time on the BBC, filling the early evening slot vacated by Doctor Who.

The trailers looked abysmal: Robin and his band of Merry Men reimagined as the little hoodie-wearing wankers that scuff their heels around housing estates. And Keith Allen channelling Alan Rickman as The Sheriff of Nottingham. Whereas Rickman, in Prince of Thieves, was the only entertaining character, Allen, in just about everything he does, has a talent best appreciated by someone who is deaf and blind.

The preview in The Times stuck the boot in with:

After all the hype, this looks set to be the biggest disappointment of the year... Instead of being exciting, it is predictable to the point of inertia. It tries to be funny in a knowing, street-smart sort of way, and instead produces lame badinage.

For me, Robin Hood begins with Michael Curtiz and William Keighley’s The Adventures of Robin Hood and ends with Richard Lester’s Robin and Marian. Everything before, after, and inbetween, is superfluous.

As for the show... I wasn’t one of the 8.2 million viewers. I went out, had a steak dinner and got laid instead. Which was an altogether better option.


At 10:23 pm, Blogger Lee said...

The only thing I can find here to disagree with is your Robin Hood timeline. Starts with Allan Dwan and Doug Fairbanks, ends with Richard Carpenter and Michael Praed.

Even Spooks was shite tonight - not a single believable interaction among any of the characters. Poor Ruth deserved better.

I despair.

At 12:44 am, Blogger Good Dog said...


Never seen Fairbanks in action. Didn't like the Praed stuff, although it added Green Man mysticism and gave Anthony Horowitz a start in TV.

Had a phone call about three-quarters through Spooks tonight. Suddenly Ruth was off on a barge and nothing seemed to have been resolved.

What the hell was that all about?

At 10:14 am, Blogger Lee said...

God knows. New blonde one pretended to be Ruth, despite being a foot taller and, well, blonde, and got arrested. Then Harry got arrested too because he wanted to get Ruth off the hook, but real Ruth beat up the fake witness to get Harry off the hook, faked her death and left the show. I can't remember what happened to the new blonde one after she was arrested, nor did we find out where Ruth's drowned doppelganger came from.

It was a mish-mash of bits of episodes from old seasons, incoherantly slammed together - like a clip show without any clips.

It was terrible, really. This whole season has been below par so far.

At 11:37 am, Blogger Good Dog said...

I thought the opening two-parter was a bonkers attempt at 24, squeezed into two hours. Pretty soon it became apparent that the set-up allowed them to get rid of some old characters and bring in some new faces.

Liked last week's with the WTO meeting. Only because it told a good enough story in half an hour and then tightened the screws with each new twist.

Given Hermione Norris has joined the show, they should bring in John Thomson as an IT donut, Robert Bathurst as an oily government suit, then gradually add Fay Ripley, Helen Baxendale and Jimmy Nesbitt. MI5 run by the cast of Cold Feet!

Would still be a darn sight better than The Outsiders.

At 2:41 pm, Blogger Dom Carver said...

Hated Cracker, it really was dull. I couldn't have cared less whether Cracker staid in England or went back to Oz. Oh, yes I do - put him on the next boat.

As for Robin Hood, what utter drivel. Cliche after cliche. It was quite obvious to me it was action driven only so it could be sold to the stupid Americans. Where was Hurn The Hunter, the mystical elements, a decent plot?????

Now I'm really worried for Prime Suspect 7. Please don't let it be shit.

At 8:01 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Have a good feeling about Prime Suspect. Only because Helen Mirren doesn't need to do it.

In all the other useless dramas, the leads probably danced a goddam jig at the thought of getting their useless mugs on the box. Dame H, on the other hand, has a career. And good taste.

ITV are being real teases, transmitting the drama on successive Sundays, rather than burning it off over consecutive nights.

At 8:59 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

Shame - I was such a huge fan of original Cracker (To Be A Somebody...swoon)...

At 10:18 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Cracker - passable but a bit tired.

The Outsiders - [sigh] Who is commissioning this crap? And why?

Robin Hood - watched most of it (sadly). An archetypal English myth that gives you enough material to have produced something far better than this frankly trite bilge. The lead's got some potential, but not in this.

Still, Studio 60 on Sunset Strip is great, so I'm watching that instead and it's brightening my days. :-)

At 11:54 pm, Blogger Lee said...

I'm not sure what to make of Jonas Armstrong. He's trying, that's for sure - he was probably one of the best things in the otherwise abysmal Ghost Squad - but on the evidence so far, he ain't having a lot of luck with his material. Very early days, though.

I'm sorry I can't share the enthusiasm for Studio 60; my happiness comes in the form of leaked DVD screeners of The Wire, ya feel me?

At 12:15 am, Blogger Good Dog said...

Mmmmmm...... The Wire.


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