Magnolia, BBC1

by | Sep 22, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

An undemanding drama – about three men making their way in the tough market of painting and decorating as well as seeking redemption for past sins that had landed them in prison – that was a decent, watchable vignette. But don’t expect the bars on the cage of mundane TV plays to warp and bend with innovation.

What was good about it?

• Essentially, the action split into three strands each involving one of the three workers in the decorating firm run by Paul (Ralph Ineson). The best of these by far was Deano’s adventure as he had to return to a job he’d just completed in order to clean up microscopic flaws in his work spotted by the forensically fastidious owner Roger Forsyth. While at the Forsyth home, Deano struck up a tender rapport with Roger’s oppressed wife Marjorie, who was at her husband’s beck and call, as the two shared an interest in writing and both were frustrated novelists.

• Although a little contrived in places (Deano accidentally picking up the TV control instead of his phone thus sending Roger apoplectic with rage that he couldn’t watch Agatha Christie), when Deano and Marjorie were on screen Magnolia was mesmerising and endearing.

• In fact, Marjorie was probably the most intriguing character on show as it was revealed that she was sacked from her job as café manageress after she selflessly took the blame for a colleague’s misdemeanour.

• Ralph Ineson as the world-weary Paul who watched helplessly as his business lurched from one crisis to the next, and ultimately had to sacrifice his principles in order to secure a big contract by buttering up the vile Greg.

• While Greg receiving his just desserts by having his face singed by a lighted alcoholic drink was quite dull, Roger’s similar comeuppance was more satisfying as he dropped a lighted match into the toilet bowl (while still sitting on it) after he had mistakenly cleansed it with the turps that the neglectful Deano had left behind. The boorish domestic despot was next seen being wheeled into hospital, whimpering.

• Dave Spikey added a comic dimension as the deluded Chernobyl (so-named because of his catastrophic decorating accidents) who rejected the advice to wear suncream on his half-marathon run as he had “swarthy skin” because of his “gypsy blood”. Needless to say he joined Greg and Roger in the hospital burns unit at the end of the piece.

What was bad about it?

• The irritating jaunty incidental soft rock music that tracked the lads as they went from job to job sounded like the warm up band in a pub frantically filling time while the headline act dragged their inebriated carcasses from the bar to the stage.

• Too many grotesques. The grotesque is a typical device to quickly sketch in a repugnant role who can receive their rightful comeuppance at the end of a one-off drama or novella, but to have three in one hour was too much.

• Roger Forsyth was the most relevant as he needed to be a big, bad wolf to contrast with the timid Marjorie, but Harold the security guard was a tiresome jobsworth. And Mark Benton was wasted in the overly despicable Greg, who seemed to want to cram as many racial insults in to his scenes in order to show how horrible he really is, but ended up coming across as though he’d been hacked out of an adult cartoon and inappropriately stabbed into a realistic drama.

• Someone must have dumped some raw Where The Heart Is sewage nearby as there was a pungent stench of sentimentality. The odd bit of over-romanticism aided the plot. such as Marjorie’s troubles, but when combined with Terry’s concern over the closure of the care home and Paul waiving a bill to an old couple with bare cupboards and rotting window frames the slushiness became a little intoxicating.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

22/09/2006

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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