Last week two crime dramas started. A 4-parter on BBC One and one six-parter on ITV. Bizarrely, these two began with almost identical scenes. A body being discovered by workmen on a building site. There were so eerily similar they were almost interchangeable. Sadly though this was where the similarities between the two ended.
If you’re wondering the two shows I’m talking about are From Darkness (a dreary Sunday night drama from Auntie Beeb) and Unforgotten (a superior ITV drama that offers a twist on the genre). Where From Darkness is plodding, full of uncalled for tension, crime drama cliche and characters you want to slap, Unforgotten whizzes by, its lead investigators are portrayed as real people and it manages to avoid all the cliches that From Darkness seems to revel in.
This review is going to concentrate on From Darkness, and there’s every chance it’s going to get whiny, so, if you’d rather read a glowing and positive piece, here’s what we said about Unforgotten.
Before I get into full on moan mode I want to say I’ve always loved Anne-Marie Duff. She was wonderful as the matriarch in the first two series of Channel 4’s Shameless, and blew me away in her last TV drama performance as a mother forced to protect her son in Jimmy McGovern’s Accused. It just so happens that with From Darkness she’s picked a real stinker.
This is a crime drama that will be easily forgotten by the time it reaches it’s slow and plodding conclusion in two weeks. It features a script that think it’s clever and highbrow, but in actually comes across as self indulgent and laden in cliche. Duff plays Claire, a cop with a dark and mysterious past. That’s one cliche ticked off. Her past is so traumatic she literally runs away from her problems wearing lycra and ipod headphones. She always swims in dark and eerie lakes, because, as we all know the best way to avoid any problems in life is to don your cossie and plunge into ice cold water! It’s later revealed our annoying heroin is training for the iron woman competition.
Another annoyance about this utterly infuriating piece of drama is its pacing. We’re now half way through the 4-part run, but NOTHING HAS HAPPENED! It behaves as if it has the luxury of 10 or more episodes, drip feeding the audience tid bits of information about the annoying leads without the story actually progressing. I appreciate the story of prostitutes brutally murdered and trust up like meat doesn’t lend itself to humour, but this is a show completely devoid of personality. The characters are either shouting at one another, giving each other stern looks or just behaving like teenagers and giving everyone the silent treatment! The only spark of light relief in this unrelenting depression fest is Luke Newberry. His character does get the chance to be a bit comedic but he’s massively underused and it soon descends back into doom and gloom whenever he exits.
In two hours we’ve learnt that Claire had an affair with her current boss when they were both younger, her old shoulder number has turned up in the hands of the newest victim and that Claire has been taking anti depressants since she left the police. I’m not a bit surprised! The first two hours of this have drained my energy levels because it’s so relentlessly dull. Crime drama gets a bad time. We’re too familiar with its tropes, it’s a genre we all know inside out and the truth is that From Darkness offers nothing new at all. If you’re on the look out for a crime drama that doesn’t treat its audience like idiots then may I recommend Unforgotten Thursday on ITV. You’re Welcome.