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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Survivors, BBC1


Did we like it?
As the nights draw in, the temperature plummets, and we all start to get the sniffles, what better way to cheer ourselves up than by watching this update of the old 70s Terry Nation-scripted serial? Set in Britain after a virus has wiped out at least 90% of the world’s population, we follow a disparate group trying to build a new life in the post-apocalyptic UK. This was a decent stab at introducing the main characters and setting the scene for the remainder of the series. It hooked us enough to make sure that we’ll continue watching.

What was good about it?
• Unlike the original version, where it seemed that the vast majority of Survivors were white and middle-class, there was a far more representative ethnic mix of survivors. Though most of them seem to be young and good-looking, which is far less representative of the British public.
• Max Beesley as creepy convict Tom, who having escaped from jail, is telling all sorts of fibs to his fellow survivors. And Paterson Joseph as Greg who seems to be positively relishing the chance to start life afresh.
• Abby, Greg, Tom and Anya meet playboy Al and 11-year-old Najid having a kickabout on an abandoned motorway, and just as Abby thinks they’re going to form a nice little community, Greg announces his intention to go his own way – swiftly followed by Anya and Al. However, this nice little burst of cynicism is swiftly punctured by Abby’s nauseous plea that they all stick together which the others all agree to.
• When Tom is picked up by a couple of survivors, there is a suitably macabre touch when they ask him if he’s lost anyone. Repeating, the words of the prison officer he’d killed whilst escaping, he says, “Wife and two kids – they died within hours of each other.”
• There were some nice moments of gallows humour. When Al offers to give Najid a lift to find his cousins in Blackburn, Najid asks suspiciously, “You’re not a paedophile, are you?” And after Abby nearly smashes her car into Greg’s on an deserted motorway she asks him, “Do you want my insurance details?”
• There was an intriguing ending to the opening episode as the action moves to a mysterious government laboratory that is clearly up to something sinister.

What was bad about it?
• We must pay tribute to the hardest working man in showbusiness – Julie Graham’s agent. Though far less annoying than in the execrable Bonekickers, what is it about this strident misery-guts that delights so many casting directors? Is she the only 40 something actress in Britain that can carry a lead role like this? Of course not – so can we please see someone different?
• There seems to be a remarkable lack of decomposition in those who have died from the virus.
• The excellent Shaun Dingwall is killed off far too early, whilst Julie Graham’s character affects a miracle recovery from the virus. Shame. And this is one of the weakest parts of the story. Having seemingly stopped breathing, she recovers three days later. Has the virus put her into suspended animation or something?
• The explosion in the petrol station as Abby and Greg dive out of the way featured some extremely ropey CGI.
• The production team sometimes overdid it when trying to create the sense of a deserted Britain. When getting provisions from a supermarket, would someone really park right in the middle of an empty car park?
• The musical score which undermines the attempt to create a stark atmosphere.

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