The Crimson Field (BBC1) ***
I never cease to be impressed by the succinct ability of these period pieces to so thoroughly recreate the historical environment they’re set in (give or take the odd, rogue, television aerial). The Crimson Field is the latest drama to adhere to these high visual standards, recreating First World War France with style and an orange haze. However, despite the high production-value dressing, it didn’t entirely ring true. Maybe it was the dialogue, or the line delivery – perhaps it was too modern, or maybe it was the sense of sanitation. There were splashes of blood and gore every now and again, the occasional amputated toes, but overall it felt rather clean, and not just physically. The titles made it look like a daytime soap, and this was somewhat matched by the actual drama itself. It was daytime-y: somewhere in the area of Father Brown/Land Girls. Hermione Norris was the steely, but struggling and secretly caring, matron. Alice St Clair was the ditsy, flirty, innocent one and Suranne Jones was the one who didn’t turn up for most of it – a cliché in itself (see Miranda Hart in Call the Midwife). Oona ‘I’m not here to make friends’ Chaplin (who, I expect, will at some point tire of being identified by her rather famous grandfather) was good, despite her ‘rebellious one’ role, and the hints towards her secret backstory ahead made up for the less than subtle promotion exposition. None of it surprised me, or grandly impressed me, but I was just pleasantly entertained, which was fine.
Undeniable (ITV) ***
‘Love Shack’ is playing and everything’s brown: it must be a flashback. They’re in the middle of nowhere and this is a thriller – someone’s about to die by my reckoning. This was Undeniable. I’ve got to say, I’m not so keen on the term ‘thriller’. I feel like I’m being told how I should react – by being ‘thrilled’. It would be like calling a comedy a ‘laugher’. This was rather good though. It was fairly obvious and dabbled with cliché – the detective leaving her job returns to the case (her first) – but then again they’re only clichés because they work. Incidentally, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. But then I don’t think mid-afternoon on a sunny day is when it was supposed to be watched.
The Call Centre (BBC3) **
The Call Centre is interesting. Like so many programmes, the entire thing revolves around one figure – here it’s the company CEO, Nev Wilshire. ‘Welcome to Nev’s World’ said the narrator, before a quote from the man himself appeared on screen: ‘it’s more enjoyable doing it my way’. I’ve got to say, if I had to work with him – not that I could – he would drive me round the bend. I really have no idea how the staff cope, least of all the insufferably harassed HR department. His unavoidable presence in the business, and programme, are part of the reason it all feels like a parody. Take Nev’s son Phil. The closest anyone is able to come to identifying what his job actually is, is to say that his job title is ‘glue’ – he holds everyone together.
Comparisons to the recently ended W1A and The Office are inevitable. What’s frightening is that this is actually real. This is what the spoofs are based on. There was a detectable heart in The Call Centre too, such as the job candidate with a stutter. I’m not certain I agree with Nev’s decision to give him the job because of it, and without a proper interview; but, on the other hand, it was nice to see a real person, with a real life to struggle through. The programme’s climax meanwhile, a father-son table tennis match, was positively trivial, even with Phil’s assertions of a deeper, more symbolic, meaning of succession. Sorry Phil, you’re convincing no one.
In other TV, Britain’s Got Talent, which returned this week, has over taken the Strictly format to be named the most successful in the world. It’s easy to see why. It’s fun, light entertainment, with something for everyone. Oh, and I’ll be reviewing Game of Thrones soon too. I’m in the process of catching up on the past three years in true binge TV fashion. Winter’s a way off, but my review is coming.