TV Review: Silent Witness Series 24

After some significant cast changes, Series 24 of Silent Witness is fascinatingly unmoored with some wildly big swings

“I’m not used to dead bodies”

Hmm. After the departure of both Clarissa and Thomas at the end of the last season, you’d’ve thought Series 24 of Silent Witness would naturally have something of the air of a reset about it. Instead, there’s a sense of throwing 100 big ideas up in the air and seeing what sticks which makes for an uneven but often entertaining watch. 

Personnel-wise, there’s the introduction of Jason Wong’s highly qualified Dr Adam Yeun, and latterly Genesis Lynea’s forensic ecologist Dr Simone Tyler. But there’s also the swift killing-off of Adam in just his second story, having established him as a father of two young children this feels particularly harsh, almost as brutal as the way Nikki and Jack never, mention, him, again. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 24”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 17

Series 17 of Silent Witness, in which the show feel very much still in transition, and we’re not just talking about Nikki’s haircut 

“One maverick on the team is enough”

Of course, having finally implemented the significant change that I was longing for, Series 17 of Silent Witness experiences a little bit of turbulence doesn’t quite nail the landing. With the sanctimonious Leo dispatched to the pearly gates, Richard Lintern’s Dr Thomas Chamberlain is introduced as the new forensic pathologist head honcho. But internally, the writers seem to have decided that Nikki is actually the lead and so Thomas finds himself very much sidelined throughout the series.  

Part of the issue is that they’re still figuring out the roles of newcomers Jack and Clarissa. David Caves’ Jack is posited as an insane Action Man figure, throwing himself into rugby-tackling and questioning suspects even with the police right there. It is noticeable that this is somewhat facilitated by more and more stories featuring fewer and fewer police characters, allowing for the appearance at least that the Lyell aren’t stepping on too many toes… And the writers still seem a little hesitant to consider Clarissa’s analyst a full member of the team.  Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 17”

TV Review: I Hate Suzie

Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble reunite and collaborate to great success with the sharply funny I Hate Suzie

“I’m sorry the world’s seen your dick, but also – fuck off, slightly”

Lucy Prebble and Billie Piper’s creative relationship has covered TV (Secret Diary of a Call Girl, the first season at least) and theatre (the excellent The Effect) and was recently reignited with Sky series I Hate Suzie. Drawing something of personal history, the show follows a former teen pop star turned sci-fi actress as she deals with a phone hacking incident which leaves problematic intimate photos of her scattered on the internet.

The eight episodes cycle through, and are titled after, stages of trauma – Shock, Denial, Fear, Shame, Bargaining, Guilt, Anger, and Acceptance – representing the indubitably self-centered Suzie’s processing of her experience. And it is a highly entertaining, linear journey, one which Suzie barrelling forward with an interesting lack of recurring characters – even her family members only get the one episode in which to appear, such is the pace of the high-maintenance that she is alternately trying to salvage and sabotage. Continue reading “TV Review: I Hate Suzie”

27th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal as Ruben Stone
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom as Levee Green (posthumous nomination)
Anthony Hopkins – The Father as Anthony
Gary Oldman – Mank as Herman J. Mankiewicz
Steven Yeun – Minari as Jacob Yi

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Amy Adams – Hillbilly Elegy as Beverly “Bev” Vance
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom as Ma Rainey
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman as Martha Weiss
Frances McDormand – Nomadland as Fern
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman as Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas Continue reading “27th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

TV Review: Bridgerton Series 1

So much to love in the uninhibited Series 1 of Bridgerton, not least the most perfect of roles for the brilliant Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury

“If I were truly courting you, I would not need flowers, only five minutes alone with you in a drawing room”

Created by Chris Van Dusen and inspired by Julia Quinn’s Regency era-set novels, the much heralded Bridgerton arrives on Netflix with the most excitement arguably reserved for the presence of producer Shonda Rhimes. And it’s a presence that we feel rightaway as this version of Regency London is a racially integrated one, starting with Queen Charlotte being a mixed-race woman and trickling down through all levels of society.

It’s a simple innovation but still a radical one in its execution here, of course it took an American woman to do it! The best thing about it is that it offers up a range of roles for actors who might not normally get a look-in – Golda Rosheuvel as Her Majesty, Regé-Jean Page as the Duke of Hastings and best of all for me, Adjoa Andoh as the deliciously wry Lady Danbury. And as with Nikki Amuka-Bird in the recent David Copperfield film, there’s a general sense of knocking it out of the park and regret that it has taken this long. Continue reading “TV Review: Bridgerton Series 1”

TV Review: Bridgerton Episodes 1 + 2

Episodes 1 + 2 set the tone for something rather raucous and raunchy with new period drama Bridgerton definitely doing things differently 

“If this is to work, we must appear madly in love”

Just a quickie as the whole of series one of Bridgerton has now landed on Netflix but who know when I’ll actually get round to watching it all, not least because it is probably advisable to ration the amount of Jonathan Bailey sexiness that exudes all over episodes 1 and 2. See below for receipts!

But on the evidence of these first two episodes, it looks set to be a huge amount of fun, though less of a ‘watching with your parents’ kinda show than I thought perhaps it might be. Created by Chris Van Dusen and produced by Shonda Rhimes, it is sexy and sprightly and showcasing some great acting talent. Definitely recommended.


TV Review: The Crown Series 3

Series 3 of The Crown sees new actors in across the board but Olivia Colman is sadly no Claire Foy. Helena Bonham Carter rocks though

“Sometimes duty requires one to put personal feelings…
‘And frivolity”
…aside”

Doing little to dispel rumours that she isn’t a Time Lord, The Crown takes its cues from Doctor Who as Series 3 sees the Queen regenerate from Claire Foy to Olivia Colman. And not just that, the whole cast of main players has been replaced as this new company will take us through the next couple of series. It’s a clever move, considering the spain of history that the show takes but it is also a little sad to lose such excellent performances as Vanessa Kirby’s Princess Margaret, Victoria Hamilton’s Queen Mum, Alex Jennings and Lia Williams as Edward and Wallis and of course, Foy’s exceptional work.     

Series 3 then, takes us from 1964 to 1977, featuring such notable events as the Aberfan tragedy, the moon landing and the arrival of Camilla in Charles’ life. And with its many millions and pick of the white acting talent in this country, it remains eminently watchable. That said, something has shifted for me and it just doesn’t feel as effective as the first two seasons. A large element of this is the way series creator and main writer Peter Morgan has structured the show, choosing to maintain a massive ensemble of recurring characters but keeping the focus, and turnover, of episodes relentlessly tight. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown Series 3”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 3 Episodes 1-3

The Crown returns with Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies at the helm, and Helena Bonham Carter stealing the show

“Everyone at the Post Office is delighted with the new profile”

Gotta get those hits…who knows how far behind I am, given I’m 9 hours ahead of the UK at the moment, but I thought I’d jot down my initial thoughts on the first three episodes of series 3 of The Crown (all written by Peter Morgan and directed by Benjamin Caron), as Netflix kindly offered them up as holiday entertainment. (And since I’m away, I’ve been a little insulated from all the Prince Andrew drama, which from over here almost feels like a random bit of guerilla marketing).

  • I wonder if I have a little hangover from just how good Claire Foy was, but I’m 100% feeling Olivia Colman in the role yet. She doesn’t seem quite as subsumed into the character, in the way that Foy’s every minutely detailed movement seemed to be. That said, there’s some scorching moments when Jason Watkins’ Harold Wilson dares to suggest her response to the Aberfan tragedy is lacking.
  • The excellent Tobias Menzies hasn’t really had enough screen time yet to have his Prince Philip make an impact, though I’ve every faith.
  • The casting of Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret is inspired, the extravagance of the character is perfectly suited to her but she’s bringing a real depth at the same time. 
  • And I have to say I miss Matthew Goode’s hugely erotic insouciance as Antony Armstrong-Jones, Ben Daniels’ much more wearied take hasn’t quite ticked my boxes yet.

Elsewhere, the headlong rush through the years means that we’re doomed to the smallest contributions from some excellent actors – Samuel West’s Anthony Blunt and Angus Wright’s MI5 bod were gone too soon, though I live in hope of more from Penny Downie’s Duchess of Gloucester, Aden Gillett as Richard Crossman and Sinéad Matthews as Marcia Williams (seriously, her accent is a thing of pure beauty).

And given the budget is allegedly in the many millions, it certainly looks a treat once again. From glistening palatial lushness to agonisingly destroyed villages, these are fully realised worlds no matter how short a space of time we end up spending in them. Caron’s direction also makes room for a more uncomplicated cinematic as well though, choosing iconic visual to close out each episode – the regal silhouette, juxtapositions of Margarets old and new, the children playing. This is a Crown that has lost none of its lustre.

Photo: Sophie Mutevelian

TV Review: Unforgotten Series 2

“You might put me in prison but let me tell you this: you can’t judge me unless you’ve had it done to you.”

Blimey, I knew Unforgotten was good (here’s my Episode 1 review, and my Series 1 review) but I wasn’t expecting it to be this soul-shatteringly excellent. More fool me I suppose, Nicola Walker is a god among mortals and her presence alone is reliably proving a harbinger of excellence, but allied to Chris Lang’s scorching writing, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll see much better television than this before the year is out. 

That it managed this by using elements that have been seen recently (historical child sex abuse as per Line of Duty; the Strangers on a Train twist featured in Silent Witness just last month) and imbuing them with a compelling freshness is impressive enough, but the way in which it revealed this at the mid-point of the series and yet still had hooks and surprises aplenty to keep me gripped right until the bitterly haunting end.  Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 2”

TV Review: Unforgotten Series 2 Episode 1

“Maybe we should be concentrating on the suitcase”

In the glut of new crime series that have started this week – Death In Paradise, No Offence – Chris Lang’s Unforgotten stands out for me as a clever twist on a crowded genre, plus it has the bonus of the ever-excellent Nicola Walker in a starring role. Unforgotten’s twist on the crime drama is to completely emphasise the latter over the former, so whilst each series hooks on a cold case brought back to life, the focus is on the lives that have continued in its wake.

The reveal of the format was a highlight of the beginning of the first series, the disparate stories of 4 seemingly unconnected people bound together by the discovery of their phone numbers in the victim’s diary. And this second series wisely sticks largely to the same formula, introducing us to a Brighton gay couple in the process of adopting, a nurse on a cancer ward in London, a teacher applying for a headship in a school in special measures, a young man lying to his mother…all of whom are sure to be linked to the body found in a suitcase in the River Lea. Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 2 Episode 1”