It got over 6 million viewers on Sunday night, but some complained new BBC1 period piece The Village was “too miserable”. If you’ve been following this site for a while you’ll know I’m not a big fan of period drama. I like dramas with characters I can relate to and feel some empathy with and for some reason if they are wearing bonnets I haven’t been able to. I went into The Village wary that I would confronted with the same amount of twee-ness that has long been associated with period drama, this was Sunday night after all. To my great surprise what followed was a revelation! There’s no doubt that writer Peter Moffat’s ambition of telling the story of the whole 20th century through the eyes of one village will be tricky, but this first episode gives me hope we’ll see a lot more of these characters in years to come.
I think the reason I revelled in The Village quite so much was the fact that it was the complete antithesis I’ve come to expect from your ‘write by numbers’ period piece. I do not get, nor will I ever understand the mass appeal that Downton Abbey manages and even recent hits like Mr. Selfridge have failed to win me over. The Village felt completely original. A true piece of British drama. The characters, though not instantly likeable were at least interesting and well rounded enough to want to spend an hour with on a Sunday evening and the young lead actor was mesmerising. Actor Nico Mirallegro said in a recent interview that The Village “tells the story of all our lives” and when watching this I instantly understood what he meant. The story doesn’t feel as beyond our reach as Downton or Selfridge, it feels real and true to life. I hate to state the obvious in any reviews I write but John Simm and Maxine Peake are wonderful and the setting a treat for the eyes.
So is there any truth in the ‘it’s too bleak’ complaints? I wasn’t quite prepared for anything other than high praise to come flooding in at 1 minute past 10 when it ended but instead a good few people complained it was too “dark” and too “miserable” for them. I suppose it’s fair to say that the hour was short on laughs but so is Jimmy McGovern’s Accused which I also love (and use as an example in far too many reviews). My theory is that people expected a version of Upstairs Downstairs and those people would’ve choked on their tea as a young boy was locked in a cupboard as his parents had sex upstairs. Much like Ripper Street a few months ago,this wasn’t your grandmother’s sit back and relax on a Sunday evening drama.
So is the scheduling what confused people? With the BBC playing around with the placing of a few dramas I wonder if those same doubters would be saying the same things about it if they’d place it in the same slot as Prisoners Wives which doesn’t get the same things said about it. I simply cannot understand the idea that a piece of television drama could ever be ‘too bleak’. Life is often bleak and I see the job of a drama like this to reflect a true representation of life. I felt and cared for those characters, and I know I wouldn’t if they had been wearing bonnets and running through fields of buttercups. The Village is a truly unique and important piece of drama and I for one hope that Peter Moffat gets the opportunity to have his visions for the series realised.
The Village Continues at 9.00pm on Sunday on BBC1