Luke on TV – Wire in the Blood, Mutual Friends, The Children, Lost in Austen, Joanna Lumley

by | Sep 14, 2008 | All, Reviews

The Children, ITV1

Are you one of those people who thinks there isn’t enough blood gurgling screams and mutilation scenes on TV nowadays? Well all your prayers for gruesome brutal scenes have been answered. ITV’s Wire in the Blood is back with Robson Green as Tony Hill, the plastic bag-carrying physiologist who rambles to himself and reenacts crimes.

Now that News at 10 is back, ITV has had to abandon the 90-minute format and air every story in two parts. But otherwise it was back to normal with brutality and sheer violence in the opening scene. Wire in the Blood is almost like a horror film disguised as a TV drama and makes for a great and tense hour of television. Green has mastered Hill wonderfully and, even though the show is now its in sixth series, the stories remain as tense and mysterious as they ever were. It’s all brilliantly spooky with everyone a potential suspect providing proper edge-of-your-seat stuff.

It’s ironic, though, that among the scenes of people being strung up and having their limbs cut off that the real torture is having to wait till next week for the conclusion of the story. Most series in their sixth run would start to show signs of slowing down and getting slightly repetitive but Wire in the Blood seems to be as strong as ever and I’ll be sitting by the TV till Friday to make sure I don’t miss part two.

Putting Bonekickers aside, which was quite possibly the worst excuse of a television programme I’ve seen in my life, the BBC1’s drama output has been very impressive this year. The new comedy drama, Mutual Friends, may not be a ratings hit but I’m enjoying the talents of the two stars – the brilliant Marc Warren and the scene-stealing Alexander Armstrong. It manages to be hilariously funny and quite deep and serious in places.

Before its first screening, critics were comparing it to ITV1’s Cold Feet but Mutual Friends does have its own engrossing style and the story is very different. Warren and Armstrong bounce off each other brilliantly while there’s good support from an ensemble cast including Emily Joyce as Martin’s boss and Sarah Alexander. Being very easy to watch and surprisingly very funny, it’s the kind of drama only us Brits could achieve with a good mix of proper drama and human, normal characters. The only possible flaw is that I’ve yet to warm to Keeley Hawes’s character.

ITV’s drama output on the hand has been a huge disappointment this year with flop after flop such as Harley Street, and Echo Beach. But there’s been a return to form with three-part drama The Children, a tense thriller. The only worry with something which starts as well as this did is that the climax will let it down, but the cast including Lesley Sharp and Kevin Whatley are superb and the intensity of the story very rarely slows so it feels like the kind of well-written, well-acted drama ITV did so well a few years ago. I just hope the pace keeps up and that my prediction of who killed Emily doesn’t come to fruition. In a world of ITV flops, this made for a refreshingly good change.

After the success of The Children came the disappointing new ITV drama Lost In Austen. This four-parter which sees a Jane Austen obsessed single woman transported into the world of Pride & Prejudice via a Narniaesque door. What started so well quickly turned into your bog standard period piece with the main character Amanda Price confusing folk with her 2008 tongue and wasn’t nearly as charming or intriguing as the similar Life On Mars.

A great opportunity was missed as the majority of the most interesting characters including Amanda’s colourful mother played by the brilliant Pippa Haywood were quickly glanced over and left behind in 2008. The other problem was that Austen’s tale has been televised so many times that we all know the story inside and out and there’s little new here to entice you to keep watching if you’re not an Austen fan. This could have made an interesting two-part drama but I don’t think the story is strong enough to warrant a four-week run. I wasn’t lost in Austen; I was barely sucked in.

Its very rare TV can be described as magical but that’s the only apt word I can think to describe the sheer wonder of Joanna Lumley and the Land of the Northern Lights on BBC1. Unlike Lost in Austen, this was perhaps one of the most enchanting hours of television I’ve seen in a very long time. On paper the idea doesn’t seem brilliant but Lumley is so elegant and wonderful and the photography and sheer size of the images in this documentary had me in awe. It had a wonderfully festive feel to it (and may have been better suited to Christmas). I can’t praise this enough. A real gem of a TV programme. If you get the chance do watch it, take it. You won’t regret it.

It was really hard to decide who gets my CRUMBLETASTIC award this week but it has to go The Children which shows a long overdue return to form for ITV drama. But I have to give my BLACK PUDDING to the sheer boredom of Lost in Austen, one of those forgettable ITV dramas that makes series such as The Children stand out.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

14/09/2008

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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