TV Review: Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine (2003)

Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine keeps the gruesome intensity of this series effectively and chillingly high

“For every wrong conviction we’ve made, an innocent person could die”

Following on from the success of the first series, Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine continues in the same vein though it does so with an original screenplay from Lizzie Mickery, who adapted Boris Starling’s novel first time around. And much like the first series of certain successful Scandi-dramas, it manages the transition away from a highly personal narrative for its leads into something (slightly) more general.

That’s not to say that the cases here aren’t intimately linked to the key investigating team of Red Medcalfe (Ken Stott), Kate Beauchamp (Frances Grey) and Duncan Warren (Neil Dudgeon) but there’s only so far you can drag a tortured soul so directly through the mire. A subplot featuring Red’s brother does it best but you can’t deny its effectiveness in mirroring the key themes here, humanising the conflicts. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine (2003)”

TV Review: Messiah (2001)

The first series of Messiah only occasionally shows its age, mostly remaining a powerfully effective serial killer drama and franchise opener  

“Maybe we’re getting too bogged and missed the connection”

Whilst theatre is off the menu, at least to the extent that I used to consume it, I have enjoyed being in of an evening and watching a lot more TV than I have done for a long time. And seeking the comfort of nostalgia, I’ve been delving into some of the shows that I enjoyed in the past – this week’s fun and games is the Messiah series.

Based on Boris Starling’s highly successful debut novel, the first series of Messiah (well, two feature-length episodes) holds up well nearly 20 years after it aired. And you can see the influence it has had on shows like Luther and River to name just a couple, as its gritty realism aligns with this country’s obsession with serial killer serials. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah (2001)”

TV Review: Ted Lasso, Series 1

A giant warm hug of a show that really shouldn’t be as good as it is, Ted Lasso is a huge success that deserves more people watching it. Also, Hannah Waddingham!

“Hell I’m coaching soccer for heaven’s sake, in London”

Well who saw this coming? Apple TV’s original programming can often seem a bit random so on the face of it, a series based on a character created by US actor Jason Sudeikis for adverts for the American coverage of the Premier League fits right into their wide stable. But Ted Lasso actually emerges as an outrageously successful underdog comedy that is far more than just a football show.

Sudeikis plays the title character, an American football coach with an indefatigably optimistic personality who is hired by Premier League strugglers AFC Richmond despite his inexperience with real football. It turns out that the recently divorced owner has done it in order to sabotage the beloved club of her ex-husband but naturally, his easy charm can’t help but start to win everyone over. Continue reading “TV Review: Ted Lasso, Series 1”

Film Review: Peterloo (2018)

I wanted to like Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, I really did…

“You must be famished coming all the way from Wigan”

I’ve been a big fan of Mike Leigh’s film work, since discovering it in the last decade or so, and loved his last film Mr Turner. So news of his return to period drama, albeit through his idiosyncratic process, in Peterloo was a plus for me. The reality though is an epic that proved a real slog for me, even boring by the end. Continue reading “Film Review: Peterloo (2018)”

TV Review: Years and Years

Years and Years sees Russell T Davies take on dystopian near-future sci-fi to startling effect

“We’re not stupid, we’re not poor, we’re not lacking. I’m sorry, but we’re clever. We can think of something, surely.”

What if…? What if…? What Brexit happens, what if Trump is voted in again and fires a nuclear bomb towards China, what if global warming happens today and not tomorrow, what if Lee from Steps is the most successful one…? Such is the world of Years and Years, Russell T Davies’ latest TV venture, a six-part drama that dares to ask what if it is already too late.

He uses the Lyons family as a prism to explore what the next 15 years of human history might look like, as technological advances make leaps and bounds alongside the political and social upheaval that strikes at the very heart of this sprawing middle-class Manchester-based family. It’s a daring piece of drama, full of Davies’ typically big heart and bold emotional colours and I have to say I rather loved it. Continue reading “TV Review: Years and Years”

TV Review: Chernobyl

In its exploration of the human stories around the nuclear accident, Craig Mazin’s mini-series Chernobyl is simply superb

“You are dealing with something that has never happened on the planet before”

Yeesh! TV dramas surely don’t have the right to be as good as Chernobyl, particularly when they’re ostensibly about such grimly horrific a topic as this,  But as creator, writer, and executive producer Craig Mazin has adroitly identified, the 1986 nuclear disaster – and the human impact it had on those closest to it – is relatively under-explored, in mainstream Western culture at least. 

Chernobyl seeks to explain what happened on that fateful day, and its terrible aftermath, on two distinct levels. Focusing in on the microlevel, we follow stories such as those of the power station workers, the first responders, the people who watched the fire burn up close. But it also takes a strategic look at the Soviet system at large, tracing the institutional problems that allowed it to happen.

Continue reading “TV Review: Chernobyl”

TV Review: No Offence Series 2

“Now is not the time for your Bronte Sisters-saurus act”

In what’s been a blistering start to the televisual year (Unforgotten, The Moorside), the second series of Paul Abbott’s No Offence is definitely up there, offering at least a little comic relief along with its deadly serious dark side. My views on episode 1 set the tone for the rest to come – the glorious return of the Friday Street team, led by Joanna Scanlan’s inimitable DI Viv Deering, having met their match in the arch-villain Nora Attah, a glorious performance from Rakie Ayola.

And typical of Abbott’s oeuvre, along with his co-writers, there’s a fantastic complexity to his characters. Attah may rule her gangland with a rod of iron, issuing icy reprisals against rivals who dare cross her path, but as subplots about FGM and sexual violence are threaded through the season, there’s strong hints about the harshness of the world that has shaped her. And that makes her the ideal counterpart for Deering’s anarchic policing style, our sympathies caught in the complex conflict between their respective shades of grey. Continue reading “TV Review: No Offence Series 2”

TV Review: Silk, Series 3

“It’s not what any of you want”

And so it ends. A little unexpectedly, it was announced by creator Peter Moffat that this third series of Silk would be the last and whilst I would love to say that it was a fitting finale to the joys that were Series 1 and 2, I have to say I was quite disappointed in it. After showcasing Maxine Peake marvellously as the driven QC Martha Costello, here the character was barely recognisable; after securing the fabulous Frances Barber as a striking opposing counsel as Caroline Warwick, her incorporation into Shoe Lane Chambers neutered almost all the interest that had made her so fascinating; and with Neil Stuke’s Billy suffering health issues all the way through, the focus was too often drawn away from the courtroom.

When it did sit inside the Old Bailey, it did what the series has previously done so well, refracting topical issues through the eyes of the law – the kettling of protestors, Premiership footballers believing themselves beyond justice, assisted suicide, the effects of counter-terrorism on minority communities. And it continued to bring a pleasingly high level of guest cast – Claire Skinner was scorchingly effective as a mother accused of a mercy killing, Eleanor Matsuura’s sharp US lawyer reminding me how much I like this actress who deserves a breakthrough, and it always nice to see one of my favourites Kirsty Bushell on the tellybox, even if she melted a little too predictably into Rupert Penry-Jones’ arms. Continue reading “TV Review: Silk, Series 3”