Monday, June 22, 2009

TV Viewing Diary

I've just finished watching the first (1974) episode of Red Riding. It's grim oop north, but was it ever that grim? The writers have said they set about trying to create a new TV genre called 'Yorkshire Noir' yet there's something almost science fiction-like going on here: this is such a stylised, palette-limited, dystopic alternative Yorkshire of a couple of generations ago that it could almost be something that originated in a graphical novel. Sean Bean was truly superb. "All this over a fookin' supermarket...?"

Watch the Newsnight Review bods discussing it.

Paul Morley makes comparisons with The Wire. That's a bandwagon it's taken me a while to jump on, largely because of an aversion to David Simon acquired through interviews broadcast by the BBC. Now halfway through the first season I have to admit that there is indeed a lot to admire in this much chattered about series. I'd still have to quibble however that the scripts share some of the self-regarding qualities of its creator and the whole thing has some of the structural weaknesses of fictional drama penned by individuals with a non-fiction/journalistic sensibility.

Dominic West (McNulty) also appeared as Oliver Cromwell in another excellent Channel 4 series I caught up while here in the UK was The Devil's Whore. This too was readjusted, hyperreal history disguised as unchallenging costume drama, and unlike Red Riding it appeared to be determinedly beaming back a consistent message for our own times.

And how good is True Blood? Actually, I've come to realise I like just about any dramas set in America's pestilential south, but this is really terrific. I discovered it almost by accident when listening to the New York Times book podcast. They were being rather sniffy about the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel from The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris (then at the summit of their bestsellers' list) yet somehow inadvertently sold me the HBO series based on the books. It has been created by Alan Ball (of Six Feet Under fame) and he brings a sort of unfettered Russell T. Davies sensibility to this tale of vampires coming out of the coffin in rednecky Louisiana.

So, three excellent TV dramas set against strikingly hyperreal backdrops, and one which is perhaps a bit too real for its own good.

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