Review: Paula (S1 E1/3), Thursday 25th May, BBC2

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Fending off the attentions of randy colleague Philip (Edward Macliam), sozzled, thirtysomething chemistry teacher Paula Denny (Denise Gough) embarks on a one-night stand with James (Tom Hughes), a younger man who is trying unsuccessfully to keep two women and two children on a builder’s wages. And so we were off on this new, three-part thriller. Continue reading

Review: Twin Peaks (S3 E1&2/18), Tuesday 23rd May, Sky Atlantic

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It has been a long time since 1990 – 27 years, maths fans – and since those heady days, when Twin Peaks took over the world for a short while, we’ve had all kinds of dramas on television that have elevated the medium to new heights. Just think, we’ve had The Wire, The Sopranos, Sex And The City, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Detective, The Killing, The Bridge and the rise of Netflix and other streaming sites. All genre-defining – era-defining – dramas that have raised the bar. But at the start of it all was Twin Peaks. It struck a chord for so many people – me included – thanks to its beguiling alchemy of whodunit, police procedural, soap and a melodrama (unashamedly so), as well as Lynchian expeditions into other dimensions and the subconscious. There were memorable characters, cliffhangers, emotionally engaging moments, as well as terrifying scenes aplenty that are still branded onto my retinas. Despite its many influences, it became a post-modern masterpiece, something genuinely fresh and new. But 27 years is a long time, and even though I’ve been impossibly excited by its return there was a kernel of dread fomenting in my belly. How would it hold up after all these years and after so much good envelope-pushing drama? My only hope was that this new run of 18 parts, this return to the world of Twin Peaks, would not be engulfed by the new benchmark in quality we’ve seen develop over the past decade or so. I just wanted it to hold its own and be good. It was more than that.

NB: Spoilers inside Continue reading

Review: Inspector George Gently: Gently Liberates (S8 E1/2), Sunday 21st May, BBC1

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(C) Company Pictures – Photographer: Mark Mainz

I do like Inspector George Gently. I know others who think it’s as dull as dishwater, but I’ve always enjoyed the way it has tackled social issues and documented life in the northeast of England in the 1960s; a region that was both geographically and culturally a long way from Swinging London. Instead, Inspector George Gently has always set its detective stories around working people and their communities. Over the past decade, we’ve seen stories set in factories, working men’s club, rubble-strewn cityscapes, nicotine-stained hostess clubs, northern soul clubs and even holiday camps. But always at its heart of George Gently is the relationship between Gently himself (Martin Shaw) and his partner, John Bacchus (the always-watchable and versatile Lee Ingleby), one of the more successful copper partnerships on British television during the past decade. It was great to see them back for two final stories. Continue reading

Review: Three Girls (S1 E3/3), Thursday 18th May, BBC1

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(C) BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

I had to drive down to Bristol to CrimeFest on Thursday night, so I missed the final episode of Three Girls in real time. So, yes, this review is a bit late, but I felt I needed to post something about it because it affected me so much on an emotional level. I try and be as objective as I can when I review tings for this site because I take pleasure in looking at themes and structure and all that mularky. But sometimes the objectivity has to give way to pure emotional reaction, which is what Three Girls provoked. Continue reading

Review: Three Girls (S1 E2/3), Tuesday 17th May, BBC1

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(C) BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

Last night, the first episode of the three-part Three Girls kicked us all in the solar plexus and made us hover on the verge of tears. It told the story of Holly and her young teenage friends who were lured into a hideous paedophile prostitution ring, populated by men in Rochdale. At the end of the episode, Holly was given hope in the form of Maxine Peake’s sexual health worker, Sara Rowbotham, who, unlike the social services and the police, saw Holly as a human being rather than just another teen who lived a certain lifestyle.   Continue reading

Review: Three Girls (S1 E1/3), Tuesday 16th May, BBC1

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(C) BBC – Photographer: Ewen Spencer

The BBC continuity person doled out lots of warnings – sexual violence, physical violence and all the rest – before this three-part drama (stripped over three nights) started. There was no doubt – if there ever was any doubt – that this was going to be a harrowing, difficult watch. It was the story – another drama based on real-life events – of three girls who had been groomed and horrifically exploited by a paedophile gang (mostly containing, the story goes, Pakistani men, a fact that wasn’t lost during the reporting of the case by the British media when it broke in 2012). Nope, this wasn’t going to be a helter-skelter, fun procedural. It was going to be a very, very difficult watch. Continue reading

Review: Little Boy Blue (S1 E3&4/4), Monday 8th and Monday 15th May, ITV

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One of the series I’ve gotten a bit behind on is ITV’s four-part adaptation of a true crime, Little Boy Blue. For two episodes we’ve seen how 11-year-old boy Rhys Jones was shot senselessly in a car park in Croxteth, Liverpool in the summer of 2007; and how investigating officer DS Dave Kelly struggled to bring the teenage gang responsible for the killing to justice. It had been powerful and emotional thus far, but – being super-objective – had it been a decent drama? Yes. And no.  Continue reading