Hi folks, as we’re are in the run up to Christmas it appears that TV highlights are thin on the ground however I’ve managed to scrape together three rather big and incredibly diverse shows to talk about this week.
We kick off with BBC One’s latest drama Capital which reunites Marvellous writer Peter Bowker with actors Toby Jones and Gemma Jones. Adapted from the novel by John Lanchester, Capital is set on Pepys Road; a London street that has seen a number of changes over the years. These changes are perfectly encapsulated in an opening sequence in which we see Gemma Jones’ Petunia Howe’s varied life on a street that has now become a sought after location for many of the city’s high fliers. These high fliers are represented by banker Roger Yount (Toby Jones) and his wife Arabella (Rachel Stirling) who bicker about bonuses and weekend houses whilst their neighbours are simply struggling to make ends meet. The street is also home to a local shop run by Ahmed (Adeel Akhtar), who is worried about the company his brother keeps, and Zimbabwean traffic warden Quentina (Wunmi Mosaku); an illegal immigrant who goes to extreme lengths to keep herself in the UK. As the drama begins, all of the characters start to receive ominous notes with the message ‘We Want What You Have’ and throughout the first episode these threats begin to get more intense. This mystery element adds some bite to what otherwise would be a commentary on the ever-changing face of London and the gentrification of what was once quite a poor area of the capital. As the episode dragged on the resident of Pepys Road began to receive more threats that came first in the form of DVDs of their houses and then those ominous words painted on the street during Christmas. It was this intriguing aspect of Capital that was definitely one of its strongest aspects and one that would definitely propel me to watch the other two episodes of the series.
Although I did enjoy certain aspects of Capital, it was nowhere near a perfect drama due to one or two major issues. The first of these was the fact that there was just too many characters which meant that you never really got enough time to know everyone and that some of Capital’s key players got lost in the shuffle. For example the story of the Yount’s Polish builder was lost in the shuffle as was to an extent Ahmed’s many problems with his family. Conversely I felt there was far too much time spent with Roger and Arabella two characters who I didn’t find to be particularly likeable. Additionally I think those who’ll get the most from Capital are those who live in London whilst others such as myself will struggle to identify with some of the dilemmas the Pepys Road citizens are experiencing. Meanwhile I found Capital’s worst quality was Dru Masters’ intrusive central score which was utterly repetitive and did little to enhance the drama. Thankfully for Capital it has assembled a wonderful cast all of whom do their best to try and make their characters as likeable as possible. In my opinion Capital’s best performance came from Gemma Jones as the well-drawn pensioner Mrs. Howe who has just found out that she has cancer. What I liked about Jones’ turn is the fact that she brought a subtlety to the role which was perfectly exemplified in the scene in which Petunia is waiting to see her doctor. Although it was odd seeing them as a couple after Detectorists, I think that Toby Jones and Rachel Stirling tried their best to make the Younts as likeable as they possibly could. Additionally I really enjoyed Wunmi Mosaku’s performance as the sympathetic Zimbabwean traffic warden who finished the episode on a real low. Aside from the excellent cast I think one of Capital’s biggest strengths is that it’s not a series about the police or the medical profession but instead is looking at modern British society. Ultimately, even though I had my problems with it, I think Capital is an intriguing drama with an excellent cast and I’m just hoping that it comes with a somewhat satisfying conclusion.
Moving countries now we look to Scandinavia for the third series of Nordic Noir hit The Bridge which recently returned to BBC4. I was worried about this series of The Bridge for a number of reasons namely the fact that the wonderful Martin Rodhe wouldn’t be joining oddball detective Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) for her latest investigation due to him being arrested for murder and all. The partnership between Martin and Saga was what made The Bridge so interesting as the former tried to bring out the good qualities in the latter. Writer Hans Rosenfeldt also had to come up with another reason to team Saga up with a detective from the Danish police force and did so by having the body of a Danish woman found on Swedish soil. The Danish woman in question was Helle Anker, an LGBT pioneer and the creator of Denmark’s first gender-neutral school. The discovery of the body was brilliantly done as Helle’s dead body was propped up on a chair around a mock dinner table with mannequins representing the rest of a nuclear family. As is always the way with The Bridge several characters were introduced with us assuming that they had some part to play in Helle’s murder. One of these characters was Henrik Saboe (Thure Lindhardt), a family man who regularly did drugs and slept around albeit with his wife’s blessing. However, instead of being revealed as a suspect, we later learned that Henrik was to be Saga’s new partner after her initial partner Hanne had her legs blown off following a bomb explosion. So far I’m not particularly keen on the Henrik/Saga partnership as the new Danish cop on the scene seems like as much of a loose cannon as his Swedish counterpart. Instead I would’ve like to have seen Saga and Hanne team up for the duration of the series as an all-female duo would’ve been an interesting prospect whilst the odd chemistry between the ladies was only just starting to get interesting.
In addition to the main investigation, Rosenfeldt has seemingly allowed this series to see Saga question her relationship with her family thanks to the reappearance of her mother. After briefly learning about some of Saga’s issues with her parents, this series looks at whether or not they were responsible for her sister’s death. Additionally Saga seems to be without any friends to rely on after her boss Hans was kidnapped by a criminal who felt like the cop had blackmailed him into giving evidence against some other crooks. After the end of episode two it does appear as if Hans’ dilemma is only going to get worse especially if his new captor is indeed this series’ central bad guy. While I absolutely loved the first series of The Bridge I had a tough time getting through what I felt was an uneven second run. Judging by the first double bill alone, The Bridge III is a return to form thanks in part to the fantastic pacing of Rosenfeldt’s script. From the discovery of the body onwards I was completely hooked into this new investigation with my interest only increasing after the second murder. I also like how this series is giving Hans more prominence especially seeing as one of the subplots completely revolves around his kidnapping. Meanwhile Sofia Helin is once again perfect in the role of Saga even though at times I feel she’s re-enacting some of her character’s greatest hits. That being said I still loved when she tried out the small talk that Martin had taught her on a bemused Hanne as it was a scene I feel had been inserted for long-time fans of the show. I also like the way in which Helin is embracing the new side of Saga’s character as she wrestles with her own past and tries to decide if her parents actually did have anything to do with the death of her sister. The only element of The Bridge III that I’m not currently on board with is the partnership between Henrik and Saga however this may change given time. But apart from that minor niggle I’m more than happy to have The Bridge back on the box if only if we get to spend time with the fantastically complex Saga Noren one more time.
From the sublime to the ridiculous now as we journey from Sweden to Australia for the latest run of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! Although we’re well deep into this year’s series I have yet to pass comment on the latest group of recognisable faces that have made their way into the jungle recently. It’s fair to say that when the line-up was first announced nobody expected royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell to be the star of the show but suffice to say she’s become its biggest talking point. With her random outbursts, kooky behaviour and divisive actions Lady C has been front and centre of most of the arguments that have taken place in camp so far. Lady C’s clashes with some of the camp’s biggest personalities, including Duncan Bannatyne and Tony Hadley, have made this one of the best series in recent memories. I also think that the inclusion of reality TV royalty Fearne McCann and Vicky Pattinson has made the public change their minds about two young ladies who didn’t have the best image before they came on the show. Due to the way the show has been edited to portray her as something of an everywoman it’s clear to me that Geordie Shore’s Vicky is the front runner to be this year’s Queen of the Jungle however I do feel she’ll have some competition from Union J’s George Shelley. But despite the strong line-up the biggest draw of I’m a Celeb once again is Ant and Dec’s great banter during their segments on the show. The duo seem to be having a lot of fun this year and have made each trial a joy to watch especially when they’re able to poke fun at the star doing the trial. Whilst some reality shows seem to be on their last legs, I’m looking at you X-Factor, I’m a Celeb is a programme that still isn’t showing any signs of flagging. I think part of the reason for this is that it never outstays its welcome and also because the hosts make the show seem more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Overall I’m a Celebrity has become a televisual institution and has also become a great marker of knowing when Christmas is on the way.
That’s your lot for now, join me again in another couple of weeks for another Matt on the Box and before then remember to follow me @mattstvbites for more of my TV-based thoughts.