Monday, March 10, 2014

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: January 2014

I have a little backlog of posts which I'm finally going to publish over the next week before I take a little blogging break.  Let's jump into the telly time machine and rewind back to January. 

So I started the year as I finished the last one: in backlog-mode.  Over the new year period I finally finished "BORGEN" (BBC4) which all wrapped up nicely, although left me in some turmoil nonetheless - I couldn't understand Katrine's new relationship, and Torben just frustrated me.  But it all ended reasonably triumphant anyway, se third series saw Birgitte forming a new party and Katrine balancing family life with her new career as spin doctor for the New Democrats, and trying to keep up with Kasper's ever-changing hairdos.  Some new arrivals too, notably evil TV1 baddie Alex Hjort, complete with that all-important scarf.  Gratuitous picture time:

Another show in my to-watch list was the acclaimed Swedish three-parter "DON'T EVER WIPE TEARS WITHOUT GLOVES" (BBC4).  Again, I caught up with this at the start of the year.   This award-winning drama drama was set in the 1980s, in the time when AIDS came to Sweden.  If you were living in Britain in the 1980s you may remember the scaremongering, the sensationalism and the "Don't die of ignorance" ads.  I get the feeling that things would have been very different indeed in Sweden.  This series was sad and moving but also warm and funny at times.

Whilst we're on the subject of Danes, let's talk about Claire Danes (!) which leads us onto another highly rated TV show which also just recently finished its third series.  "HOMELAND" (Channel 4) spent much of its third season jumping the shark, and being, dare I say it, boring.  That Dana storyline...yawn.  And several Brody-free episodes - what were they thinking?  Yet at other times it never lost its ability to be compelling and frustrating at the same time. Following that ending, it would have been a very good idea to bring the series to a natural end at this point, so the news that there will be a fourth series just puzzles me.  But this is an American TV show, not a Danish one, and they'll flog a dead horse as long as the ratings are high enough. 

Whilst we're on the subject of series overstaying their welcome, I was ready to quit "DOWNTON ABBEY" (ITV) after that awful Christmas 2012 special, with that ending.  But I stuck around for the 4th series which managed to hold my interest, although it's now past its prime.  If there is going to be a 5th series, can we have some happier storylines after what has been a pretty dark series?

We're usually used to "WHO DARES WINS" (BBC1) popping up on telly on a Saturday night just after national finals season has ended, so it was a surprise to see it in January.  Unfortunately the early weeks of the quiz were dominated by knowledgeable Joe and his nodding, grinning sidekick Chrissy, who spanned two series....

"COACH TRIP" (Channel 4) returned to our screens with the legendary Brendan taking a group of random Brits around the continent.  Unfortunately they didn't seem to have any respect for European culture, or the places they visited, and that annoyed me enough to bail out after a couple of weeks of the show. 

The biggest story in soapland?  Terminally ill Hayley Cropper's decision to end her own life in "CORONATION STREET" (ITV).  Since the character was diagnosed with cancer, the storyline has been sensitively portrayed and well-acted by Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley) and David Neilson (Roy) - in the hands of other characters in the show, it would have been disastrous.  Despite the potential sensationalism offered by the subject matter, when the end came, it was moving and sensitively acted. 

I end, as I started, with something originally from Scandinavia.  Remakes of foreign-language dramas can be hit or miss, however “THE TUNNEL” (Sky Atlantic) has been a definite hit for me.  It was a remake of “The Bridge” of course, replacing said bridge with the Channel Tunnel and British-French cop co-operation.  Karl and Elise may not be Martin and Saga, but they were a very acceptable substitute.  It was a direct copy of series 1 of “The Bridge” – remember the “truth terrorist”? – but it was still extremely watchable.  This is due to the programme makers’ ability to interpret some of that ‘darkness’ – or as faithful travelling companion calls it, ‘Nordic bleakness’ -  and transfer it to the British/French setting, a refreshing change for a British TV drama indeed.  Highly recommended.  I wonder if there will be a second series of "The Tunnel"? 

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