20,000 Streets Under The Sky, BBC4

by | Feb 11, 2006 | All, Reviews

20000 Streets Under The Sky, BBC4, Tuesday

What to say if you liked it?

A stark, sombre adaptation of Hamilton’s novel which excruciatingly observes the impossibility of love between the three protagonists.

What to say of you didn’t like it

Get out your greyest raincoats, there’s a tempest of utter gloom on the way! But be prepared also to be chilled by the fractured, forced dialogue that seems to have spilled from an overflow drain of sentimentality.

What was good about it?

• The performances from the three lead actors Bryan Dick as waiter Bob, Zoë Tapper as prostitute Jenny and Sally Hawkins as barmaid Ella. Hawkins in particular was excellent in the opening sequence in which, without a word of dialogue, she conveyed her repressed affection for Bob with a few warm glances towards him.

• And when Ella talks to Bob she does so in such a manner that it’s evident she just wants to hear his voice such as when she brings up his reading of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – a book she is utterly ignorant of.

• The indelible menace of the odious Ernest Eccles was manifested by the superb Phil Davis as he afflicted the meek Ella like a disease until she acceded to his requests to accompany him on a date.

• The direction that quickly established the flow of affection between the three protagonists as behind the bar Ella looks forlornly on at Bob, while he in turn

ogles Jenny and she casts her flirtatious eyes about looking for custom.

• Bob’s futile belief that he can rescue Jenny from her plight as a prostitute through his savings that she rapidly eats away at, and his reluctance to have sex with her as though he has more noble intentions.

• The incredibly gloomy sets that are reflections of the subdued ambitions of the characters.

• The Pinteresque quality of the dialogue where virtually all that is said is merely trite sentiments between acquaintances, yet the subtlety with which it is spoken suggests a great deal more psychological depth than is ostensibly apparent.

What was bad about it?

• The repetitive nature of Bob’s tale in which he is constantly charmed by Jenny’s hard-luck stories and pays her out of his own pocket accordingly hoping he can buy her soul in the same way as clients can buy her body. But each time they arrange to meet, she never turns up for one reason or another (although the reason always necessitates Bob shelling out).

• Bob turning to drink when Jenny thwarts his romantic intentions like a lame EastEnders script to avoid detailing the inner turmoil of the character through dialogue with others, which is incidentally done with great skill elsewhere in the drama such as Ella’s simmering jealousy of Jenny being exposed when she calls her a “creature”.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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