TV Review: Silent Witness Series 16

Series 16 of Silent Witness benefits hugely from the introduction of David Caves and Liz Carr as Jack and Clarissa and the booming final scene

“The Lyell Centre will need to change or die”

Starting with the off-screen departure of Harry and ending quite literally with a bang that further shuffles the cast, Series 16 of Silent Witness finally bites the bullet of the significant change that it needed probably 2 or 3 seasons ago. The introduction of David Caves and Liz Carr as Jack and Clarissa allows for the incorporation of forensic science more explicitly in the Lyell’s work. And if nothing else, the addition of new blood just freshens up the whole place.

In reality, there isn’t a huge amount that is altered fundamentally in the show. The cases run the usual gamut of dodgy police, dodgy military and dodgy foreign countries (Afghanistan in this case) and the Lyell remains holier than thou in pursuit of the truth. It takes Jack just a couple of episodes to learn the ropes in that respect, opting to call Nikki with a vital update about a suspect rather than the police officer managing the active crime scene. Priorities eh?! Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 16”

TV Review: The Girl Before

A glossy psychological thriller that twists and turns entertainingly, The Girl Before is a nice bit of luxury TV

“I don’t think Facebook follows me into the shower”

Adapted by JP Delaney from his novel of the same name, The Girl Before does a clever job of taking all-too-familiar TV thriller tropes and if not subverting them, actually uses them efficiently and effectively, which feels like a more radical act in some ways. So there’s an incredibly glamorous house and a narrative unfolding in two time-periods simultaneously but for once, these choices are entirely justified.   

That house is 1 Folgate Street, an ultra-minimalist architect’s wet dream which has been made available by that architect for an incredibly cheap rent. Only thing is, there’s a whole set of rules you have to abide by, if you pass the interview, in order to maintain the place in keeping with its impossibly stylish aesthetic. And of course, that landlord has a handsome face and a mysterious past which doesn’t bode well for any prospective tenants. Continue reading “TV Review: The Girl Before”

TV Review: A Very British Scandal

Claire Foy and Paul Bettany headline some rather alternative festive fare in the BBC’s Christmas special A Very British Scandal

“Canapes and cock, is there anything else?”

A drama about the first major case of slut-shaming in the British media, a warning note about the dangers of dick pics, a harrowing example of how vicious divorce can get, the BBC really do know how to wish us a merry Christmas! A spiritual follow-up to A Very English Scandal, A Very British Scandal was written by Sarah Phelps whose Agatha Christie adaptations briefly threatened to become a welcome festive institution but instead, there was a pivot.

And make no mistake, this is still a high quality 3 hours of a miniseries, blessed with two strong leads in Claire Foy and Paul Bettany and taken from a true story (with the requisite dramatic license) that is eye-wincingly lurid. The 1963 Argyll v Argyll divorce case was groundbreaking in terms of the salaciousness and scandalous detail that it included that was then widely published by the media in a way that had never been done before, not least in revealing the existence of explicit photos showing non-marital relations. Continue reading “TV Review: A Very British Scandal”

TV Review: Doctor Who Flux (Series 13)

Opting for a miniseries for Series 13 of Doctor Who certainly changes up the pace well, as Flux comes to a breathless end with some great work by Jodie Whittaker

“Do you think running will help?”

And so the end begins for Jodie Whittaker, and for Chris Chibnall. The 13th Doctor and her showrunner had a three-series-and-out deal which they are honouring and so this final season – a miniseries called Flux and three specials – will take us up to the centenary of the BBC in late 2022 and the regeneration of the Time Lord into…well, whoever the returning Russell T Davies decides.

One might have thought opting for the ostensibly more focused notion of a miniseries, of one overarching story stripped over six episodes, would have made Flux a simpler affair than the last few series of Doctor Who but Chibnall clearly had other plans. But having reached the end, I’d say that it was a good deal more fun than anticipated, a full-on caper merely teasing traumatic revelations about the Doctor’s selves rather diving full on into the morass of series lore. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Flux (Series 13)”

TV Review: Broadchurch, Series 2

A return to Broadchurch isn’t quite as effective, as Series 2 broadens the canvas to another mystery rather than just focusing on the ramifications of Danny Latimer’s case

“Look what these men have done to us” “None of us have got anything left to hife”

As a continuation of the traumatic unfoldings of the first season, Series 2 of Chris Chibnall’s runaway hit series Broadchurch continues its excellent work. We rejoin the picturesque coastal Dorset town a few months down the line with the court case against Joe Miller about to start and rather brilliantly, it soon pulls the rug from us as he pleads not guilty to the murder of Danny Latimer. 

And so the revelations of the case are rehashed, old suspicions reignited and new ones stoked, and a gripping legal thriller emerges. Excellent casting choices make this fly as we’re treated to Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste duelling in court under Meera Syal’s jurisdiction. And Matthew Gravelle’s near-wordless performance as the accused is so very well done, as he comes under the glare of the community as they come to either take the stand or watch the trial. Continue reading “TV Review: Broadchurch, Series 2”

TV Review: Broadchurch, Series 1

Rewatching Series 1 of Broadchurch for the first time reminds just how good a TV show it was 

“I’ve got a Google alert on ‘Broadchurch’ and ‘death'”

I’m not sure what drew me back to rewatching Broadchurch but I’m sure glad I did, as I’d forgotten just how very good it is. Chris Chibnall’s murder mystery reveals itself as so much more, a depiction of the way a community is shattered by the death of a child and the waves of suspicion that emanates from it.

Series 1 centres on the murder of 11-year-old Danny Latimer in the small coastal town of Broadchurch, perched on the Dorset cliffs, where Alec Hardy has just been appointed DI. His rival for the post was DS Ellie Miller but as the Millers and the Latimers are good friends and neighbours, her connection to the case is painfully personal. Continue reading “TV Review: Broadchurch, Series 1”

TV Review: Gangs of London (Sky 1)

Some epic storytelling and a mighty ensemble make the hyper-violence of Gangs of London highly watchable

“A war was started when my father was shot”

Sky 1 seem to have got themselves quite the coup in Gangs of London, a major new series which – if there was any justice in the world – ought to break through the limitations of Sky’s minimal audience share. Created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery and boasting a highly exciting ensemble cast, it is a visceral and highly violent look at an immense power struggles between power syndicates in London after the assassination of the patriarch of its premier crime family.

Finn Wallace ruled the streets of London for 20 years but in the wake of his untimely death and with no-one taking responsibility for ordering the hit, it falls to his younger son Sean to take the reins. But Sean is a highly volatile young man  and the careful balancing act required to keep the billions of pounds flowing through the organisation and to maintain the equilibrium between so many warring factions is of little interest to him whilst his father’s killer remains unpunished. Continue reading “TV Review: Gangs of London (Sky 1)”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 1

I had already started a rewatch of Spooks earlier this year as part of a planned Nicola Walker retrospective but as it turns out, I’ll have to use that Britbox subscription for something else!

“When will you tell her that your real name is Tom Quinn and that you are a spy”

It is interesting to look at back at much-loved shows and be reminded of how not everything is always how you remember. So much of Spooks has aged remarkably well – not least its choice of subjects that have remained terrifyingly evergreen – that it is easy to forget that this opening season of 6 episodes sees them still searching for that house style. 

It is undoubtedly a bit shonky in look and feel, the slick Thames House set isn’t yet in place and the focus on the lead team at the expense of too many nameless supporting bods gives the personal dynamics a somewhat off-balance feel as we delve into too much of the personal lives of Tom, Zoe and Danny.

But airing in May 2002 in the immediate post 9/11 climate gives its geopolitics real currency. And the threats they face – homegrown far-right movements, fears over immigration, the push for Kurdish self-government, US abortion rights, Russian spies being murdered on British soil… – are compelling throughout. And any show that has Jenny Agutter and Nicholas Farrell dry-humping in a corridor has to be a winner right?!   

Nicola Walker-ometer
To be honest, I’d forgotten Ruth wasn’t a member of the team from the start, so these six episodes pass by with an outrageous lack of Nicola Walker. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 1”