Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lost The Plot

There’s usually good value to be had in a culture clash. We’ve seen it before in Northern Exposure, which later begat Doc Martin. To give it that extra dimension there’s always the A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court approach, employing a shift in time as well as location, although of course the shorthand reference to such a notion is more likely to be Life On Mars nowadays.

Whereas Hank Morgan simply woke to find himself transported back to the reign of Arthur in Mark Twain’s novel, Sam Tyler had to suffer a more violent approach and be bounced off a speeding car before he could awaken to piss his political correctness all over The Sweeney. Now ITV is trying it on with Lost in Austen, although in a suitably far less aggressive manner.

I should say right away that obviously this isn’t a show for me, but I was curious to see how the construct was set up. Disappointingly it was less Life on Mars and more Mr Benn, although without the fez-wearing shopkeeper or the need to put on a Regency-period dress. Instead the unlucky-in-love, Pride and Prejudice-reading heroine, having set the evening aside to tuck into Austen’s book, was interrupted by the discovery of a hitherto unused door to Longbourn in her bathroom.

Apparently the carpenters who provided select furnishings for Professor Digory Kirke’s country house also did a sideline in plumbing on the QT. Except this time sad little Amanda Price also had the added inconvenience of a befuddled Elizabeth Bennet standing in her bath. After the introductions but before the explanations the pair ended up on the wrong side of the door.

At this point I should have turned over to catch God On Trial on BBC2 but it had taken so damn long to get there that I figured Frank Cottrell Boyce’s play would have to wait until I could watch it on iPlayer. With Lost in Austen crawling along at such a leisurely pace I ended up more engrossed in the crossword. While there might have been some reference to the modern girl’s pubic topiary to enliven proccedings, I was so caught up in trying to solve 21 Across that I missed the set up.

Having watched it through two commercial breaks, come the forty-odd-minute mark and still unsure what the point of it all was, I simply switched the television off. Time travel adventures always feature all kinds of wrongs to right, many of which are usually caused in the first place by the protagonists. The best episodes from the various incarnations of Star Trek involved some kind of time displacement, whether it was The City on the Edge of Forever, Yesterday’s Enterprise, Trials And Tribble-ations or the film Star Trek: First Contact.

In Back to the Future Marty McFly had to deal with the unwelcome advances from his mother in her younger guise before finding his way home. Closer in tone to Lost in Austen, without the Oedipal entanglements, with Elizabeth Bennet apparently still in the bathroom her father appeared to be putting one of his other daughters up for marriage to Darcy before I gave up.

“How will she keep the greatest love story of all time on track when Elizabeth Bennet is stuck in the modern world?” the press notes asks. The past couple series of Doctor Who saw the time-travelling twit cross paths with William Shakespeare and Agatha Cristie, stuffing the episodes with all manner of sly references to the authors’ work. Rather than having Amanda Price rub shoulders with Jane Austen herself, Lost in Austen instead transports her into one of Austen’s fictions, which has no real ramifications.

So surely the question to ask is: If you mess up a fictional world, who gives a shit?


At 5:28 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

I've been getting into telly a bit myself. Did you see My Zinc Bed? The Children? Mutual Friends?

At 6:07 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

I did like My Zinc Bed. A teeny bit theatrical but then... well, duh! Maybe the BBC are taking this potential resurrection of The Wednesday Play a bit too literally. Still, better than some damn lifestyle nonsense. God on Trial looks interesting and next week is an adaptation of Caryl Churchill's A Number.

The Children... I missed. I read about it, why didn't I watch it? Oh, I dunno. Was it any good?

Mutual Friends. I watched the first episode and wasn't too keen. But I gave it another go. By the end of the second episode I thought the characters deserved to be punched hard in the face. I'd refer to spent the time rewatching Cold Feet to be honest.

At 6:35 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

My Zinc Bed felt a bit like a play, and was miscast with both Uma and Paddy. embarrassing to watch. but i liked the idea of it, and like the topic of addiction. thought the husband was great although i didn't understand his motivations.

i watched the children last night on itv playback, which is too shit to be able to judge. when it's on small it's the size of a matchbox, when it's on big its blurry. so will watch on telly next week and decide if it's any good. kevin whatsit made me feel a bit sick being sexual.

mutual friends is watchable but it's not something that makes me gag for the next episode.

will check out God on Trial, and CC's play.

At 12:01 am, Blogger qrter said...

"So surely the question to ask is: If you mess up a fictional world, who gives a shit?"

That is exactly what I thought. Just saying she loves the story isn't enough, unless she's supposed to be mental in the first place.

Did anyone catch Hugo Blick's new monologues on BBC 2 monday night? Three half-hour monologues in a series called The Last Word Monologues. I haven't watched them yet, I have them on standby, but I think Blick is a marvellous writer, really loved Sensitive skin.

Did you read what that prat Alison Graham wrote in the Radio Times on My Zinc Bed? If not, it's online:

What an idiot. Her brain must've imploded during God on trial, if we're lucky.

At 11:57 am, Blogger Good Dog said...

Everyone has said, oh, it looked lovely and the performances were good – although I thought dear old Hugh Bonneville had walked right off the set of Bonekickers onto this one, with only a brief detour through wardrobe – but there’s nothing at stake. Maybe, later on, we get to see Elizabeth go all Enchanted in modern day Hammersmith but really, so what.

You know, I caught the last two of The Last Word Monologues. Rhys Ifans was particularly brilliant in the second one, Six Days One June, and it was great to see Bob Hoskins back on screen in the final part, although I had already worked the story out.

Yeah, Sensitive Skin was a wonderful show with almost painful observations and pin-sharp performances. I have to say I preferred the second series.

I did read what good old Matron Graham said. Bless her for her opinions. When she’d turn up at the press screenings I used to be sent to there’d certainly be an ever so slight change in the atmosphere, as if we were all fearful of being reprimanded for guzzling too much wine before the show.

Perhaps My Zinc Bed didn’t work completely but that may have been in the adaptation from stage to screen. Then again, it’s a David Hare play, what did she expect? Although saying that, I should admit the last Hare play I saw was The Absence of War when it was first staged at the National back in the early 1990s.

From a sidebar in the current RT, I think she like God on Trial. So, miracles never cease!


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