Welcome to another instalment of your favourite weekly TV round-up
Kicking off this week we have the big ITV1 drama event that was Collision. Set over five nights, ITV were trying to make their equivalent to BBC’s over-one-week dramas such as this year’s Occupation and Criminal Justice. The story revolves around six different vehicles and their inhabitants most of whom have got something to hide. There’s Sidney Norris, who changed his name from Sidney Morris (not very imaginative) who was carrying a CD Rom a friend burnt for him and seems to have a dodgy past as a music teacher in a boy’s school. Karen Donnelly has downloaded some dodgy files from her boss’ computer and is carrying them in a file during the crash. Then there’s Danny who’s carrying something across the border from Amsterdam in his brother Jeff’s van (the brothers were played by real life brothers Dean and Craig Kelly). The other drivers are a young black couple who are being chased by the police, a man who is taking his mother in law somewhere other than where he said he would and a millionaire property developer who is barely injured in the crash but embarks on a relationship with the service station waitress who he meets following the collision. Through the week we get flashbacks to before the collision and just before and after to reveal parts of the plot that were missing.
Trying to solve the case is the troubled Tolin who has just come back to the force following a tragedy (it later transpires that his wife and daughter were in a car accident which killed his wife and left his daughter in a wheelchair). Tolin is paired with Ann who he hasn’t spoken to in a year and again it is revealed that at the time of his family’s accident Tolin and Ann were having an affair and were together at the time of the crash. Tolin however is able to work through his personal demons and solve the case, even though conveniently the drunk driver that killed his wife also gets released during this time and we get to see Tolin’s reaction. In the end though Ann solves the mystery that Sidney was actually swatting away a wasp and that’s why he swerved, the final scene shows the wasp being swatted at the service station cafe and reverses the events to show the crash not actually occurring. In every Hitchcock film there was always a device that kept the plot moving along which was called the McGuffin and collision presented us with tons of MacGuffins. Sidney’s CD Rom, Karen’s file, Danny’s cargo, the bruises on the mother-in-laws’ wrists and Tolin’s angst all helped the plot move along. The ending was quite clever in that the collision was basically explained through the butterfly effect or in this case the wasp effect and in a way the collision itself was also a MacGufifn. The collision was also possibly the most impressive part of this drama and after that it all went a bit downhill. In the lead Henshall was brooding and angsty and not particularly likeable while Kate Ashfield (best known for her role as the girlfriend in Shaun of the Dead) was also quite subdued as Ann. Possibly the best performance came from Claire Rushbrook as the service station cafe worker who dreamed of better things then her half-assed fiancée and dreamt of running away with her dreams almost coming true courtesy of Paul McGann’s property developer although her performance was strong this storyline was the weakest and didn’t seem to fit with all the rest. With its themes of revenge, industrial espionage, racism, people trafficking, treatment of the elderly and suspected paedophilia, Collision didn’t really have a lot to say on any of these subjects. Good for ITV for trying something of this magnitude but after the collision things fell a little flat.
Also knew this week was another drama this time on E4, Misfits was described by a lot of people as Heroes with Asbos. But that’s selling it a bit short as Misfists seemed to have a lot in common with another E4 drama, Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set, than it did with the jewel in E4′s crown, Skins. That is mainly as it is filmed gloomily and most of its characters, although at first seem to be quite one-dimensional, are more-well rounded than a lot of the Skins bunch (and certainly more than the dire Inbetweeners characters). The premise of Misfits sees six young offenders on community service, five of them and their youth worker are struck by a storm and then strange things start happening. The chavvy girl who has been arrested for fighting can read minds, the slutty girl who was arrested for drunk driving can make any man fall for her by touching them, the weird fellow who tried to burn down a house can become invisible and the disgraced runner who was caught for possession can stop and reverse time. Then there’s the sarky Irish one who has yet to find his power and the youth worker who becomes an ASBO eating zombie whose first victim is the angry kid who is absent during the storm. The clever thing is that most of the powers relate to their character in some way – the man-eater controls men, the runner runs back, the one who is ignored is invisible etc. Misfits is filmed gloomily and is very much a sci-fi comedy rather than a teen show. Most of the script is good if a little clichéd at time and the performances especially from the weird one and the chavvy one are very good. The only problem is that the Irish one, who is supposed to be the comic relief, is incredibly annoying to the point that you can understand why his mum chucks him out and it is hard to empathise with him. However if Misfits can iron out its few kinks it could become as big a hit as Skins.
Meanwhile on E4′s parent channel, 4 were screening a very controversial almost-drama which reimagines the reintroduction of the death penalty and its first victim – Gary Glitter. In the imaginatively titled The Execution of Gary Glitter, the Leader of the Pack is bought back to England to be charged with the offences he was convicted of in Thailand. The first half of the show involves Glitter’s trial and the explanation of why the death penalty was introduced. The latter part was quite reactionary and discussed in depth the Ian Huntley case and how that was the catalyst for the death penalty reintroduction. This section also featured Ann Widdecombe (as herself) discussing how bad the state of the country was since the death penalty disappeared. We also got the history of Gary Glitter and this featured cameos from Gary Bushell and the ubiquitous and trout-pouted Miranda Sawyer who is sent to cover the trial. Once Glitter is found guilty he is then sentenced to death and the final third of the film sees how Glitter reacts as he finally accepts that he is being put to death but refuses to admit that he has done anything wrong. Extremely reactionary and controversial, The Execution of Gary Glitter seemed to be written by an ardent Daily Mail reader. A drama about the reintroduction of the death penalty would’ve been quite good but the fact that it featured a notorious popstar whose crimes have been well documented meant that it was needlessly controversial. Apart from a very convincing and at some point heartbreaking performance from Hilton McRae as Glitter there was nothing to particularly like or commend. At the end we are told that 54% of people want the death penalty reintroduced but then who took part in this poll? And that means that 46% don’t want it back anyway so this meant all of this seemed a bit like a fantasy that would never happen.
Two comedies to finish off starting with Phoneshop, which has bizarrely already been commissioned for a full run on E4, that might have something to do with the script editor being Ricky Gervais. Yes if Gervais is involved then everyone suddenly thinks that a comedy is going to be a mega hit but I think in this instance, no-one at Channel 4 checked to see if it was any good. A workplace sitcom, Phoneshop is oddly set in a Phoneshop which features obnoxious staff, a full-of-himself boss and a nervous trainee. The cocky salesman are instantly unlikeable they are horrible to new boy Andy calling him Newman and talking about slutty high street girls. They played the race card with the black guy early on and the white guy spoke in a stupid funny voice which was instantly alienating. Meanwhile the boss hid away and was full of stupid management techniques none of which were remotely funny. Then there was the girl who was on the pay-as-you-go booth which was seen as the purgatory of the phone shop. She was the stereotypical nervous female character and played by Emma Fryer who was in the dire BBC2 sitcom Home Time and seriously needs to find a new agent. The only kind of likeable character was Andy the new boy who seemed to nice and normal to be in the Phoneshop you were almost screaming at him to get out. Although some of the lines were funny, the characters were so obnoxious it was hard to care about any of them. This proves what I’ve known for years, that Gervais isn’t that talented and Merchant was the brains behind their operation.
Finally this week’s second sitcom comes from the radio and is from Miranda Hart, better known by viewers from her work on Not Going Out as Barbara the cleaner and before that in the little-seen space-based sitcom Hyperdrive as Officer Teal. In Miranda, she addresses the audience directly about her lack of male company and her mother’s wish to find her a husband. Because of Hart’s height and plainness she is often mistaken for a man and this is played upon ad nauseum. She also owns a jokeshop, a comedy device that is mainly used for comedy props such as fake poo and chocolate willies. So far, so eighties sitcom but Hart is so likeable and vulnerable that even the scene where she is mistaken for a transvestite is oddly sweet. Miranda also falls in love with the chef next door but constantly scares him off with the comedy props and in one scene where she wears a wedding dress. In any other hands, Miranda would be poor but I love Miranda Hart so this show gets my approval. Patricia Hodge as Miranda’s mother is typically prim but again is very talented and also adds some class to proceedings. Its just nice to see a woman in the lead role of a sitcom so long may Miranda continue. But hopefully with some smarter gags.
Next time: I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and Doctor Who