Did we like it?
We didn’t just like it, we adored it. A profound, flawlessly acted drama which dealt with universal themes with a subtle yet illuminating dexterity.
What was good about it?
• The perfect casting. In the lead roles, Damian Lewis was astounding as the capricious entrepreneur Paul Reynolds, and Jodhi May was his equal as the repressed Lizzie who was a perfect foil for Paul’s extravagance but was also infuriated by his meandering mind.
• The supporting cast including Robert Lindsay as toadying journalist William Sneath, were brilliant too.
• The lingering scenes which were utterly orientated by the characters, whether it was the decadent party in Paul’s stately home he’d bought with his first fortune or the greasy spoon the impoverished Paul took William to.
• The surface themes of employment and enterprise from the early 80s to the late 90s were adroitly mixed with musing on more classical ideas. Paul, for instance, had all his ideas for future ideas scattered about his study, and he had employed Lizzie to file and organise them. But once she had done so, she suggested the plans be put into action thus tethering Paul to a “planned” future, something he seemed to have a phobia of. At the decadent party a gang of reprobates, hired by Paul, wrecked all of Lizzie’s hard work, provoking her to quit her job.
• And this pattern was present throughout the piece. Each time Paul said “I promise” to Lizzie it was evident he would soon break his promise, as a promise infers stable future conduct, whether it was never to hold another of his parties, adding guests to agreed list for the party he promised would never happen, or to behave himself when Lizzie hired him to work in her venture capitalist firm, only to end up spending five months on a one-word business plan – bookshop (which he ultimately made a success of, alone).
• But Paul’s philosophy that the past invariably determines the future and that things, and people (especially himself), never really change (like the crocodiles of the title which have remained evolutionary inert for millions of years) was shown to be the wiser. Lizzie was promoted to the board of a company in the late 90s who invested all their money in the internet and telecommunications, both new, futuristic markets, while a doubtful Lizzie imagined Paul noting the benefit of holding on to their vacuum cleaner factory as people will always need to clean their floors.
• And Lizzie’s fault of having a need for her future to be set out and ingrained was crystallised when she sobbed on the phone to Paul after her firm collapsed that she wakes up and her first thought is “what would Paul do”, and thus is so entrapped in her routine of planning ahead she seeks guidance from a man who abhors plans ands security.
• The episodic format was never clearly rooted in any one era. Information about the year was disclosed naturally in conversation whether it was the last days of Thatcher’s premiership or the advent of the Labour government.
What was bad about it?
• Because people from the 70s and 80s look about 20 years older than their actual age, because of the topiary-style haircuts, it became a little confusing that Lizzie and Paul looked younger in 1997 than they did in 1981. But this is a minor quibble.
• As the story was rooted in recent history, the viewers were sometimes offered a preview of the consequences of some of the rash actions of the characters. When Paul’s notion of bookshops with a coffee shop was scorned by Lizzie’s firm, the viewers knew that they would emerge in the near future. And the same when Lizzie’s arrogant boss poured all their resources into the internet and telecommunications, before the “dot.com bubble burst”.