This week is a very special Matt on the Box as for the first time I focus on a drama that is premièring online before making its way to the TV.
That’s because this week saw the return of Ripper Street which, following cancellation from the BBC, has found a new home on Amazon Prime. Although the third series will make its way to the BBC eventually, the online streaming service will be the only place you’ll be able to watch the episodes in their entirety. Indeed, not being restricted by the confines of a timeslot, Richard Warrilow’s series three opener is almost an hour and ten minutes in duration. The story takes place four years after the events of series two and sees a despondent Edmund Reid (Matthew MacFayden) completely alone with only his criminal files for comfort. Reid is more concerned when his superior Chief Inspector Aberline (Clive Russell) informs him that he’s to be promoted following the boss’ retirement. As somebody devoted to his work, Reid is horrified by the proposition of sitting behind a desk but more pressing matters soon occupy him as a train crashes write into the centre of Whitechapel. This visually spectacular sequence soon reunites Reid with his former comrades Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn), who was on the train, and Dr Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) who helps tend to the victims. One element of Ripper Street’s earlier episodes that I wasn’t keen on was the fact that the series appeared to favour style over storytelling but this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. In fact, the complex relationships between the characters, especially the resentment that Jackson has towards Reid, perfectly anchors the episode. By the end of this episode we get a satisfying conclusion as well as the commencement of two stories that will seemingly see a power struggle between Reid and Drake as well as a conspiracy involving brothel madam Long Susan (Myanna Buring).
Reading the comments that have been left by Amazon Prime users under episode one it appears that Ripper Street’s revival has indeed been a resounding success. Although I was never a fan of Ripper Street I’m still glad that it’s found a new home online as it allows Warrilow to finish what he started. As always, Ripper Street looks fantastic with the set piece of the train crash being an absolute triumph for director Andy Wilson. A lesser series may have peaked with the crash but the story became more gripping from there as Reid tirelessly did his best to track down the crooks. The period detail and the fantastic score are other elements of the drama that I’ve always admired and neither disappoint. Meanwhile, the four central performances continue to improve as the lead actors have now become comfortable in each other’s presence. Whilst their chemistry is undeniable; Macfayden, Flynn and Rothenberg convincingly portray the fact that their characters have become separated over time. MacFayden in particular is great as a man who has let his work consume him and has forgone human contact as a result. Myanna Buring is also intriguing as the waspish Susan who looks to have gone from manipulative madam to full blown villain. If I have one criticism it’s that the extended running time, which has been used as a hook to entice viewers to watch the drama on Amazon Prime, feels unnecessary. I believe that the episode would’ve had a much more satisfactory pace had it had ten minutes shaved off its running time, something that will inevitably happen when it makes it way over to BBC One in the New Year. But ultimately it’s great to see a much-loved TV drama such as Ripper Street get a second lease of life and I’m hope its revival is the first in a long line of British series experiencing revivals thanks to the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Whilst tense, stylish drama was populating the internet, our TVs have been dominated with the return of the reality TV behemoth that is I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! Now in its fourteenth series, the majority of the big names willing to participate in the show have already done it. This means that the celebrity names aren’t as big as they once were and even somebody like me, who spends most of their day writing about TV, had to do some serious research into the identities of one or two of the key players. The headlining acts this year had to be Craig Charles and Michael Buerk; the latter of whom looks to be wasting away after a week or so with very little food. Other names I recognised on the list including TV presenter Melanie Sykes, rapper Tinchy Stryder and Vicki Michelle; star of one of my favourite sitcoms of all time ‘Allo ‘Allo. Rather predictably, the first couple of days were dominated by Towie hanger-on Gemma Collins, who had a panic attack straight away when she was forced to go into a helicopter on her way to the Jungle Jail. Collins then spent a couple more days winging about lack of food before finally leaving on day three. A publicity stunt it may have been, but Gemma’s presence in the camp was the most interesting thing to happen in the first week and I’m guessing producers are still glad they hired her. An unexpected walk-out occurred the next day when the entertaining and likeable Craig Charles had to leave camp following his brother’s passing. I felt that this left a gaping hole in the show that needed to be filled by one of the late arrivals.
Unfortunately one of the late arrivals happened to be X-Factor non-entity Jake Quickenden, who became the first contestant of the karaoke show to be part of a reality programme whilst the original show was still running. It’s clear that the producers planted him in the jungle in order to have a hunky guy for the ladies to lust over and to create a jungle romance with fellow charisma vacuum, model Nadia Forde. The arrival of Edwina Currie was more of a success and has at least created a bit of tension in the camp between her and American reality starlet Kendra Wilkinson. So far the majority of the entertainment has been provided by ex-footballer Jimmy Bullard who has proven himself to be a genuinely likeable personality. I’m not surprised that Bullard is the favourite to win as he’s impressed me with his reactions to the tasks and his friendships with both Quickenden and superbike champion Carl Fogerty. I’m personally a big fan of I’m a Celebrity as it always marks the countdown to Christmas for me although recent series have been a little patchy. That trend continues with this latest run although the majority of the characters, with the exceptions of Forde and Quickenden, have at least kept me interested. However, the success of the series can be attributed to two people; Ant and Dec whose gags and comic timing are what I keep tuning in for year after year. This year their reactions to certain trials have been priceless and they seem to enjoy having characters such as Bullard to pay around with. I feel that once Ant and Dec decide they don’t want to spend three weeks at the end of the year playing golf in Australia then the series will end. But, for now at least, this is still an enjoyable slice of reality fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously nor outstay its welcome.
One programme that outstayed its welcome almost as soon as it began was BBC3 sitcom Some Girls. Regular readers of the site will know that I’ve had a rocky relationship with the show since it first debuted back in 2012. Although I’d really like to see a sitcom that deals with the problems that modern teenage girls face, I’ve never felt that Some Girls is based in reality. I’d even be willing to forgive it its lack of laughs and thinly-drawn characters if it had been brought to us by a first-time writer. But instead Some Girls is created by Bernadette Davis, who wrote Game On in the mid-1990s, and therefore has little knowledge of what life is like for teenagers in the 21st century. The comic mishaps that befall our young heroines in this episode include one of them getting her hand stuck in a letter box and another believing that her sometime boyfriend had gone on witness protection. Some Girls’s saving grace was the central character of Viva (Adelayo Adedayo); a level-headed young woman who I feel was a fine example for teenage girls. But I feel that Davis has somewhat spoilt the character after she agreed to marry her dopey college dropout boyfriend. As we are now in series three, it’s also getting harder and harder to believe that our quartet of female protagonists are still only eighteen. I know that not many teenage characters on TV are actually portrayed by teenagers; but the lead actresses in Some Girls all look like they should at least be at university now rather than hanging round sixth form college. Thankfully, as the foursome are set to depart college in the near future, it looks like this will be the final series of Some Girls and I for one won’t be mourning its departure.
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