Monday, May 28, 2007

Clean And Sobering

Earlier last week I gave Holby Central another shot. Really big of me, I know. Certain plot threads may not have stood up to closer inspection but then it wasn’t the story I was interested in but the production.

It certainly proved to be a drama of two halves. The location work had energy to it, with the camera very much in motion. Then came the police station scenes, obviously filmed in a studio with virtually static cameras, which started to fall flat.

It reminded me of what actress Angela Richards called “standing around acting” when I interviewed both her and Juliet Hammond-Hill about the BBC drama Secret Army. After location filming for the wartime drama took place around Peterborough and Norfolk in the UK, Brussels and the surrounding countryside in Belgium, the interiors were all shot at Television Centre.

On the Restaurant Candide set the members of Lifeline would invariably congregate in the office to discuss their ongoing strategies. With only two bulky studio cameras available for the scenes, the actors simply stood on their marks as the drama unfolded.

“We were always responding to an event,” Juliet explained, “We had to affect poses of interest and I remember a classic one where I had to walk in between Alaine and Angie to make up the shot. Those things were the least favourite aspects because they took away your creative flow.”

Almost three decades later nothing much seems to have changed. Perhaps the problem with Holby Blue is the police station interiors looks like sets where the last lick of paint dried before the cameras rolled and they haven’t fully moved in. In fact I half expected Sarah Beeny to appear and itemise the budget, explaining that they hadn’t set enough money aside for props.

It doesn’t have the worn and lived in look of NYPD Blue’s 13th Precinct, Hill Street Station or the squad room in Homicide: Life on the Streets, or even the English locations used back in the days of The Sweeney or Prime Suspect. Maybe the cleaners employed at the Holby station work their butts off tidying everything away to make it look spick-and-span. The characters certainly make sure they come in fleshly laundered, having scrubbed under their nails and behind their ears.

Speaking of NYPD Blue, watching the episode it became clear who the John Kelly character is, especially with his estranged wife causing grief at the station house. When the episode finished with the DCI taking a bung from the sneering Euro-villain in the back of his car it had me thinking Janice Licalsi and Angelo Marino all over again.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the DCI puts a bullet in him next week. Either way I don’t think I’ll be around to see whether it happens or not.


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