Northern Lights, ITV1

by | Jan 16, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Dramas such as Northern Lights are the Monday mornings of the TV schedules, something to be tolerated, and, although it may contain one or two delights, will sap the will to live through the knowledge that there will be another facsimile next week.

What was good about it?

• Mark Benton brings his likable self to the role of Howie who must balance the perks of his new promotion with the estrangement from his brother-in-law Colin as he is now his boss. And the acting overall was of a pretty good standard.

• The scene in which Howie (Benton) must convince Colin (Robson Green) to tell his wife he’s been suspended for consuming alcohol at work.

• When Howie and Colin have to telephone their wives to prevent Pauline popping over to Jackie’s and telling her Colin has been suspended after he was too scared to tell her.

What was bad about it?

• Robson Green carries his usual charm to the part of Colin, but he’s still on probation for his awful recording career and must serve at least another four years in purgatory before we’re willing to forgive him.

• It’s an exact replica, bar the faces, of the dreary dramas that teem from ITV1 like worms through the empty eye sockets of a skull after being disturbed as they feast on the last remnants of brain tissue. If half a billion years ago organisms had shown as much ambition, innovation and desire for improvement as ITV1, we’d all still be single-celled amoeba swimming blind in the primordial soup.

• The problem isn’t so much the drama itself, in much the same way as teenage girls need to be sucked dry of their money and self-respect by a bland, soulless boyband, so there’s a need for bloodless, passionless drama – it’s just that there are so many of them, Where The Heart Is, Peak Practice, Heartbeat, and that they are filed alongside the equally vacuous reality shows like Soapstar Superstar and Dancing On Ice.

• The contrived, hackneyed devices used to create conflict between the characters. As Howie is promoted he must sit at the executives’ table during the night out, thus causing a rift between him and Colin. Jackie, Colin’s wife, feels guilty that she can’t afford to go on holiday to Florida at the prices her sister Pauline, Howie’s wife, seems able to consider. Jackie and Colin’s daughter has her first boyfriend. Colin can’t tell Jackie he’s been suspended. Pauline is frustrated Howie is spending too much time at work, and when he is at home he dotes over his baby daughter. Variations of all these scenarios have been filtered into TV dramas thousands of times and none of these were, or will be, resolved by an original solution.

• That problems and frustration are solved by a bestial reaction rather than through intellect and wit. Both Howie and Jackie vent their rage through physical violence – Howie knocking out the comical, pantomime villain of the piece Nigel, while Jackie punches Colin when she discovers he has been suspended.

• The inappropriately cheery “we’ll get through this mess and we’ll still be best pals” theme tune which kicked in once Howie had revealed he’s be joining Colin looking for a new job after laying Nigel out.

Christmas Lights, ITV

What was it?

A one-off drama about two brothers-in-law trying to outdo each other with increasingly extravagant Christmas lights outside their houses.

What to say if you liked it

An unashamedly heartwarming, yet finely balanced, family drama for the season of goodwill.

What to say if you didn’t like it.

An unashamedly sentimental piece of advertiser-friendly Yuletide tosh.

What was good about it?

• It starred Mark Benton, Nicola Stephenson and Maxine Peake

• The plot was only 90% predictable.

• The lights were brilliant.

• Our hearts were genuinely warmed by the ending (or perhaps we’d just had too much pre-Yuletide spirit).

What was bad about it?

• It starred Robson Green.

• The Christmas lights gag’s been done before

• The script was about as original and challenging as a repeat of the £100 questions from Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?

• It pandered to the advertisers’ target female audience by peddling the sexist cliche that men are immature and destructive while women are the rocks who hold society together.

• Years passed without anyone changing their clothes, hairstyle or car (or the children appearing to grow).

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


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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