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Monday, 4 May 2009

Boy Meets Girl, ITV1


Did we like it?
An impressive edifice of drama, supplemented by a good cast, but blighted by the inexplicable decision to build over the gleaming foundations with a gaudy, vulgar comedy shopping ‘mall’, gushing with derivative conceit.

What was good about it?
• The very impressive cast that featured Rachel Stirling’s convincing metamorphosis from flight fashion journalist Veronica into paranoid recluse once her body had become infested with the spirit of Danny.
• Equally Martin Freeman, even though he took a back seat in this opener, awarded the character of Veronica some pathos beneath the glossy veneer of a superficial caricature of a mindless hack.
• And the supporting cast included Angela Griffin, whose morose dismissal of Danny’s affections soldered some sympathy to Danny’s carapace of what was otherwise a crumbling shell of selfishness. While Paterson Joseph made Veronica’s apple-peel deep partner Jay both likeable enough that you shared the pain of his ejection from the life of Veronica/ Danny.
• Once the misguided funny elements that borrowed from all body-swap scenarios had been cleared out of the way, Boy Meets Girl really settled into its stride. The compassion of Danny’s friends as they hunted him down after he went missing, or the solemn rejection of Jay as he battled on with Veronica’s cataclysmic change in character were particularly effective, especially as Danny learns that she was having a fling with one of their friends.
• And it’s moments such as these that elevates about the dismissible bit of fluff the improbable plot had originally set up.

What was bad about it?
• The unnecessary polarisation of the original characters of Danny and Veronica. This had the doubly-crippling impact of acting as a conduit for the irritating humorous chapters and also undermining the sympathy the audience felt for them because they were such ciphers.
• The detriment of each was heavily mitigated by the acting, but to mould Veronica as a ditzy journo, obsessed with nothing more than the latest horoscope or painting her fingernails, and Danny as entombed in his bedroom ranting about conspiracy theories to like-minded delusionals and eating breakfast cereal for tea served the singular purpose of lazily confirming the scant generalised impressions of each tribe; stereotyping them in the process.
• This will make the erasure of these idiosyncrasies easily illustrated through resolving to seek more depth in their life and work – Veronica – and learning to appreciate their friends and attain a little more self-respect, in Danny’s case. The danger is that it becomes akin to Dante’s Inferno with the jaundiced disembodied ideology of Noel Edmonds taking the role of Virgil, with only these surface societal extremities being corrected, bending them into the nice shape of conformity people only seek in bland dramas.
• The humour corrupted the dramatic tension, and what made it much worse was that it was highly derivative from other body-swap comedies, usually Hollywood-stained. Here Danny became fascinated by the concept of breasts, and struggled to put on a bra or walk in high heels. But this was most starkly accentuated in a scene where Danny (as Veronica) had rejected the advances of the spurned Jay (Joseph) for the umpteenth time, but as she did so recorded the anguish on his face. It should have been the zenith of the episode as it showed Danny’s burgeoning sensitivity, and the splendid acting of Stirling, instead it was the nadir as we immediately cut to the jaunty music that presaged a ‘humorous’ interlude.

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