Drop Dead Gorgeous, BBC3

by | Jun 11, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

A well-acted, well scripted drama that peers into the black soul of the fashion world, but ends up being corrupted by its persuasive superficial banality.

What was good about it?

• The structure that relegates schoolgirl Ashley (“our Ash”), played winsomely by Sinead Moynihan, to little more than subplot, and instead concentrates on how Ashley’s success reverberates to those around her.

• Ashley’s elevation is most keenly felt by her twin sister Jade (superbly played by Linzey Cocker) who is the more extrovert of the siblings who already has a ‘serious’ boyfriend and who regularly jousts verbally with her nemesis in the school corridors while her sister looks sheepishly on.

• When Ashley is scouted to become a model, it’s Jade with whom the audience empathises. From being the prettiest of the pair, she is emotionally ostracised by her mum Pauline as she focuses all her energy on making Ashley a successful model and only seems to remember she has two daughters as a guilty afterthought such as when she remarks on Ashley’s beauty, “There’s not another girl in the school who can hold a candle to her… except Jade.”

• And Jade was also made to feel ugly after her average height discounts her from pursuing a career on the catwalk and so far she has oscillated between acts of petty vengeance such as kissing shopkeeper Hardeep, whom Ashley has a crush on, to comforting her sister when the pressures of modelling become too much.

• However, when called upon to be centre stage Sinead Moynihan matches her screen sister in the way in which she conveys Ashley reluctance and endearing shyness that causes her to put her sister’s disappointment ahead of her own ambitions to model, and conversely, her own doubts over modelling subservient to her mother living out her dreams through her daughter.

• Jade and Ashley’s snotty little brother Mikey who comes out with any number of typically little brotherisms towards his big sisters.

• Lee Boardman as the repellent model agent Murray Priestman. Cleverly, Murray oozes those nauseating camp mannerisms that causes Pauline to presume he’s gay and therefore not a threat to her daughter. However, when not in the company of someone who can make him money he reverts to the obnoxious, ruthless heterosexual predator he really is.

• Even though set in contemporary times, there is a disorientating obsession with the 80s, which gives the drama a sense of peculiar eeriness. The song on the radio in the first scene is by The Jam, with The Cure to follow. Pauline refers to Ashley’s new haircut as making her “look like Derek Nimmo” whose pudding basin we only just about recall through the fogged mists of infancy. And our initial presumption that the incessant 80s references were to illustrate the gap between the parents’ generation and their kids’ was dispelled when Jade and her friend started doing impressions of models famous in the 80s and early-90s.

What was bad about it?

• Satirising the fashion industry is as pointless as trying to stab the Atlantic Ocean to death. Because of its inherently stale inertia populated by the kinds of worthless people whom God forgot to give a soul, it endlessly regurgitates itself like a glacier ponderously edging down a mountain slope whose blank façade is only ever altered when some remnant of the past is churned up to the surface and hailed as “cool” (“cool” incidentally is the worst word in the English language through its corruption by ‘fashionistas’). Even something as worthwhile as the brief, specious spurt of morality over the use of fur transpired to be nothing more than a gimmick to inject some vitality into the moribund industry. But of course, fashion will always sit at the top table of culture as it is superficially pretty to look at (at least through the eyes of embittered middle-aged women who gain sadistic pleasure from coercing models who are both more beautiful and younger than themselves to slim to the point of malnutrition under the vile deception that clothes “hang better on skinny girls”). And it’s because of this enduring fascination with pretty things that many paragraphs similar to this have been written before and dramas similar to Drop Dead Gorgeous have been made before and that other than their revulsion of the fashion industry they share only one thing in common – their absolute futility and irrelevance.

• Because the acting is of such a top notch standard you can often forget that Ashley and Jade do not look like twin sisters. Trying to pass Ashley off as 15 is the biggest act of contortionism since DelBoy tried to pass 26-year-old Rodney off as 15 in order to claim a luxury Spanish holiday. Sinead Moynihan, who plays Ashley, is 24 and looks 18 at the youngest.

• The scene in which a vulnerable young model is lambasted by Murray for having acne. The problem here is that Murray was subtly being introduced to the viewers as he switched schizophrenically between his nice-as-pie persona and his callous true guise depending on whether Pauline or Ashley was in the room, and sometimes losing his patience with them and letting his mask slip. This pantomime demonstration of his evil nature jarred and was utterly unnecessary as it seemed to have been crowbarred in to bluntly educate dimmer viewers of his nastiness.

• The skeleton of the script follows a route pretty much how you would expect a drama about models to flow. Jealous siblings, bitchiness at school, downtrodden mother living out her dreams through her daughter, father who is split asunder between pride at his daughter’s achievements and the fact that she may be humiliated and exploited by those in the modelling industry, the odious self-centred model agent, the photographer with the wandering hands and next week the copious drugs.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

11/06/2006

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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