Tag Archives: TV Drama

ALL 4 TV REVIEW – THIS IS ENGLAND ’86 (2010)

ALL 4 TV REVIEW – THIS IS ENGLAND ’86 (2010)

Created by: Shane Meadows

Directors: Tom Harper, Shane Meadows

Series Producers: Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger, Rebekah Wray-Rogers

Cast: Thomas Turgoose, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gilgun, Stephen Graham, Andrew Shim, Stephen Graham, Andrew Ellis, Rosamund Hanson, Danielle James, Kriss Dosanjh, Chanel Cresswell, Johnny Harris, Michael Socha, George Newton, Jo Hartley etc.

Cinematography: Danny Cohen

Music by: Ludovico Einaudi

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

Having watched Shane Meadows classic British film, This is England (2006), again of late – review can be found here – I thought it would be fascinating to catch up with the subsequent television series via ALL 4. Thus, Meadows and co-writer, Jack Thorne re-introduce the gritty lives of beloved and some not-so-beloved working-class characters, within the satanic Midland mills of England.

I would strongly advise, if interested in watching this drama, you begin with the film first. That way you can familiarise and experience the events and characters of the show in the correct order. Indeed, this classic series works best when you watch the film and subsequent series, This is England ’88 (2011) and This is England ’90 (2014) as a continuous whole. That way you get the full power of Shane Meadow’s vision for the characters and the period it is set.

The series for me is an engrossing mix of nostalgia, comedy, drama and socio-political exploration. Opening some three years after the original film, we re-join the “gang” going about their lives attempting to breach the difficult gap between youth and adulthood. After the tragic events of 1983, Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) has lost contact with the group but over the course of the four episodes he integrates back in. The others are either unemployed or in Woody’s (Joe Gilgun) case employed and attempting some form of upward mobility. Moreover, Lol/Lorraine (Vicky McClure) and Woody are planning to get married. However, the return of Lol’s father (Johnny Harris) brings back painful memories for her and his presence gives the series the villain of the piece.

The structure of the series echoes that of the film. We start with mostly lighter episodes containing a comedic flavour. The seeds of drama, such as Woody backing out of the wedding at the altar, are planted early on. Nonetheless, the early episodes contain some really funny scenes. These include Shaun’s run-in with the local bullies and a party which gets completely out of hand too. There’s much in the way of bawdy and sexual humour, especially when Gadget is used as a sex toy by local divorcee, Trudy. These scenes make us feel safe and warm, yet we know that trouble isn’t far away for the characters.

Once again, the soundtrack is a fantastic mix of eras with a classic collection of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s rock, ska, punk and pop music. Similarly, the fashion of the characters is a postmodern melange of punk, mod and new wave looks. Politics and sport are also thrown into the mix with the 1986 “Hand of God” World Cup dominating the backdrop of the series.

As the characters and era are established and some laughs have been mined, the drama really kicks in. Lol and Woody’s relationship breakdown causes her to make some poor decisions, as she capitulates in the stress of her father’s return. Vicky McClure is fantastic as Lol. You can feel the trauma in her whole being during the scenes with Johnny Harris’ evil patriarch. The culmination of their conflict is one of the most harrowing scenes I have ever witnessed on a television screen.

Overall, This is England ’86 is full of complex emotions, humour and drama. There’s a real honesty to the characters who are just trying to live their lives in the Midlands, despite all the disadvantages it brings. Ultimately, they are striving to be decent but find their loyalties tested by friends, family and their lack of opportunities. Amidst the humour and camaraderie of the series we get some brutal and unforgettable moments of drama which remain long after the credits have rolled. The politicians of Westminster may not care and want to forget about such lives, but Shane Meadows won’t let us forget, delivering a powerful character chorus of laughter, tears and togetherness.

Mark: 9.5 out of 11

ALL 4 FILM REVIEW – LONGFORD (2006)

ALL 4 FILM REVIEW – LONGFORD (2006)

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Producer: Helen Flint

Written by: Peter Morgan

Cast: Jim Broadbent, Samantha Morton, Andy Serkis, Lindsay Duncan, Robert Pugh etc.

Original Network: Channel 4

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

Continuing my look back on the films and shows on ALL 4, this drama is really Premier League television filmmaking of the highest quality. Written by esteemed screenwriter, Peter Morgan and directed by celebrated director of Oscar winner, The King’s Speech (2010), Tom Hooper, Longford (2006), features fine acting from Jim Broadbent, Samantha Morton, Andy Serkis and Lindsay Duncan.

A much respected but also much maligned character around the House of Lords and Parliament in Westminster, Lord Longford, or Frank as he preferred to be known, came from a very privileged background. However, in various post-war political positions he campaigned vehemently for the underclasses, especially where the prison system was concerned. A complex but kind man he had no issue switching allegiances of politics or faith during his lifetime if he felt it was the right thing to do.

The story begins in the late 1960s with Longford celebrating his programme for rehabilitating ex-convicts. When he receives a letter from infamous child killer Myra Hindley, he takes up her case. Now, I remember Lord Longford when I was growing up and the furore over his constant attempts to grant Hindley parole was often in the news. I’m still struck by what a massive naive and stubborn heart he had. The public outrage was constant, but Longford never gave up this campaign.

Myra Hindley and Ian Brady killed five children between 1963 and 1965 and were described as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity.” This character study shows Longford battling his doubts over Hindley and Jim Broadbent’s performance is so compelling. You feel empathy and horror at his decision to represent Hindley, portrayed with nervy guile by Samantha Morton. The scenes between the two are a masterclass in acting with Morton conveying pitiful vulnerability to draw the Longford in. I personally felt Hindley was manipulating Longford but due, in part to her religious conversion, he chooses to ignore such thoughts.

Andy Serkis’ performance as Ian Brady, on the other hand, is one of pure, unadulterated evil. He warns Longford he is being played for a fool, but this only confirms Longford’s belief that Brady controlled Hindley during the murders. Brady’s character is only in a couple of scenes but his cold Scottish brogue chills the heart like an Arctic wind. Obviously, Serkis has gone onto bigger things, but I don’t think he has ever given a more memorable performance.

Overall, this is an exceptional film about the sad aftermath of one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in Britain. Longford, while admirable in his philosophy, proves the adage, there’s no fool like an old fool. Peter Morgan’s script is just brilliant at catching the emotions of the characters, as Hooper’s direction draws formidable performances from a fine cast. The nation was right to be outraged at Longford’s actions, but this film illustrates his motivations in a highly compelling way.

Mark: 9 out of 11

BILLIONS (2016 – ) – SEASON 3 – SHOWTIME REVIEW – “Television Theatre of the highest order!”

BILLIONS (2016 –   ) – SEASON 3 – SHOWTIME TV REVIEW

Created by: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Andrew Ross Sorkin

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff, Malin Åkerman, Toby Leonard Moore, David Costabile, Condola Rashād, Asia Kate Dillon, Jeffrey DeMunn

Distributor: Showtime Network

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

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After experiencing the dizzying, serpentine narrative cul-de-sacs and mazes of Westworld Season 2, I was grateful to drink in the relative comfort of some genre drama that actually made sense. I mean I don’t mind working hard to gain pleasure from the TV viewing but non-linearity for the sake of it, or because the writers are so self-aware, they believe it is demanded of them irks me somewhat. The writers of Billions on the other hand rely on: good old proper plotting; sharp and witty dialogue; well-rounded archetypal characters; fantastic scenery-chewing performances; and an uber-ensemble cast of television and cinema actors to die for.

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Once again, Season 3 posits a similar question to the last two: how do you make the rich and privileged empathetic? Well, firstly you have the aforementioned brilliant cast of vintage screen actors, notably: Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff, David Constabile, Jeffery DeMunn, Malin Akerman, plus exceptional newcomers such as Asia Kate Dillon; and finally parachute in veteran warhorses like John Malkovich and Clancy Brown. Secondly, you make these greedy and power-hungry legal and financial based individuals brilliant at everything. Thus, pleasure is derived from the characters trying to out-brilliant and out-do themselves. In Season 3, the writers manage to find some more exceptional ways which the characters can fuck each other over.

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The first two seasons saw Giamatti’s Attorney General, Chuck Rhodes try and take down financial demon of Wall Street, Bobby Axelrod. Watching these two rich-privileged-masters-of-universe-types ripping each other apart from a legal, family and financial perspective is absolutely riveting drama. I’m not always down with the fast-paced nature of the economic markets but essentially you don’t have to be because the writing always puts the human drama first before the jargon.   Season 3 followed in a similar vein to the previous two and contained a very interesting structure. The writing continued to be whip-cracking funny and twisted and the plots were a joy; full of arch Machiavellian machinations galore. The twists around episodes six and seven were absolutely brilliant and I was gripped. The final few episodes then manoeuvred the characters like chess pieces, carefully laying the foundations for what promises to be a monumental, melodramatic and mesmerising Season 4.

(Mark: 9.5 out of 11)