This week we’re full of new comedy and drama, join us why don’t you?
As you know I do like to deliver on a promise and at the end of last week I promised all blog-fans two literary-based dramas however BBC4 have made me a liar after failing to air their version of Room at The Top due to some sort of legal issue. So I’ve had to cut down these dramas to one as we kick off with The Crimson Petal and The White a costume drama that stars both Roy from The I.T. Crowd and Scully from The X-Files. Chris ‘Roy’ O’Dowd stars as William Rackham a 19th century gent with big problems his aspirations as a writer are falling short and he has been disinherited by his father as he doesn’t have a mind for figures something important when you’ve got to do accounts. But biggest of all of his worries is that l his wife is doolally , can’t get through a meal without having a fit and is being felt up by her Doctor every time he comes for a check-up, the fact that that doctor is played by Richard E Grant gives this sinister act of sexual abuse a slightly camp air. Thankfully this is the 19th century and prostitutes are readily available and Rackham finds the prostitute of his dreams in Sugar. Sugar appeals to him on an intellectual level as she understands the literary references that he adds into the conversations and even laughs at his joke plus it doesn’t hurt that Sugar offers sex on a plate and his played by the gorgeous Romola Garai. After sleeping with Sugar, Rackham feels much better he is able to complete the accounts for his father and have his inheritance reinstated and he is also able to start writing his book. Rackham is so taken with Sugar that he pays to have her as his own personal whore and sells his wife jewellery in order to do so. However Sugar isn’t all she seems she wants more than she has at the brothel she inhabits and sees Rackham as a way out of the slums and more importantly someone who can she add to the book of clients that she wishes she could kill. I have to say I really enjoyed The Crimson Petal and The White one reason is the design every scene is given love in its decoration and lighting and the whole thing is shot sumptously. The performances are top notch obviously old hands like Richard E Grant and Gillian Anderson, as brothel madam Mrs Castaway, are adept at bringing their characters to life but the big surprise here is Chris O’Dowd whose Rackham is both pathetic and ambitious in equal measures the fool who is aware that his life is in tatters but can only seem to get into more trouble. Also worth a mention are Amanda Hale as Rackham’s loopy wife Agnes and Mark Gattis as Rackham’s brother who is seemingly entranced with Shirley Henderson’s good Samaritan another storyline which is bound to end in disaster. I think within the coming weeks the drama will get even better so for now the word I will use to describe The Crimson Petal and The White is promising.
The next programme can be described in one way pink actually no it would be described as PINK!!! that show is Candy Cabs. Candy Cabs sees two friends Jackie and Elaine carry on their dream of opening an all-female cab company following the death of their friend and fellow business partner. As the cabs are exclusively for women and driven by women the colour of the taxis obviously have to be pink and the ladies can only wear pink and the whole thing is pink. Jackie and Elaine both have problems at home, Jackie got rid of her husband as he was useless and then discovers he is wanting to sell their house and that he is also seeing an older woman who is pregnant with his child. Meanwhile Elaine has put a second mortgage on her family home something she hasn’t told her husband but then he finds out and is understandably furious. My main problem with Candy Cabs was the whole thing was meant to be empowering and see women going out on their own but the women are portrayed as useless at business matters and having to rely on men for most things. They don’t realise that they have to pass the knowledge in order to drive taxis or that they need permits before their business can get off the ground they are also seemingly useless with money and some of them also can’t drive very well, not really something you want from your taxi drivers. They are mainly saved by Paul Nicholls’ lovely permit officer who also has designs on romancing Jackie while Elaine is also being eyed up by a younger man it is just a bit of a problem that its her husband’s brother. There are more problems for the girls when they discover that their deceased friend’s assets passed onto her feckless ex-husband, played by Paul Kaye, as they were never divorced. This dodgy concept could’ve been saved with a funny script and a decent cast however the script is ridden with clichés and the cast is full of soap actors – Claire Sweeney and Jo Joyner or reality show stars – Jodie Prenger, in fact the brilliant Lisa Millet who was so good in Early Doors and Sunshine is wasted here as the dowdy Elaine. Of course there could be room for improvement and the shrieking, sexist banter and general portrayal of women as bad businesswomen could settle down but from what I saw from episode two this isn’t going to be the case. I suggest if you want to see a portrayal of strong women who do excel in their fields try and catch up on the excellent Silk or flick over to U.S. shows like The Closer or The Good Wife full of positive female role models who are both professional and real as there is nothing particularly real or likeable in Candy Cabs.
Moving onto daytime drama now with Justice, the second five part drama to fill the post-Doctors slot in two weeks after the patchy 32 Brinkburn Street is Justice a programme about a judge returning to his Liverpool hometown and taking residence in the newly built justice centre. Although the programme did look at some of the cases heard in the centre the main story at the heart of Justice was the mystery of how Judge Patrick Coburn left Liverpool and journalist Louise Scanlan was determined to get the truth. There was also the story of local hoodlum Jake Little who ran a boxing club for delinquent teens but this was simply a front for his drug dealing racket and he also owned a bar in which he employed young girls only to later try and pimp them out to his more wealthy clients. There was also the two care home girls Shauna and Kaz the latter of whom started working for Jake while the former had lost her mum after she became one of Little’s hookers. Obviously the whole story of Kaz and Shauna, Jake and the mystery of Paddy Coburn’s midnight flit all became intertwined and by the final episode there had been several revelations about parentage and past crimes and, unusually for a daytime show, there wasn’t a fully happy ending but it seemed to set up for a second series that hasn’t been given yet. It is very rare for me to watch a daytime drama across all five episodes but I was drawn into Justice thanks mainly to the brilliant Robert Pugh. Pugh breathed life into the long-in-the-tooth but secretly very emotional Coburn who sped about on a pushbike and for most of the time could be seen wearing a very fetching porkpie hat. For a daytime show it also dealt with quite a lot of tricky subjects drug abuse, homelessness, care homes, prostitution and abandonment some of them in a very sensitive way. Obviously there were some issues with the script and all the characters were incredibly broadly written and played especially the horribly slimy Jake Little and for me there were far too many ex-Brookside actors in it but then I suppose there’s not much work out there for them. But there was a definite likeability in Justice and I feel that if it had been a primetime drama it would’ve had a bigger production budget and script and to be honest I would’ve much rather seen Robert Pugh dishing out the verdicts than all those harridans over at Candy Cabs.
And finally in this compact blog we have Campus a comedy from the maker of Green Wing and a show that had previously been seen as part of Channel 4′s Comedy Showcase. For me I felt that I’d already seen the first episode of the show in which the maniacal vice chancellor of Kirke University, Jonty De Wolfe impressed upon layabout English lecturer Matt Beer write a book and bring some money into the university like impish Maths Tutor Imogen Moffatt has already done. Meanwhile nervy accountant Jason has accidentally paid all the members of staff twice and nobody is giving the money back and dim housing officer Nicole is to blame. The final main character is the incredibly butch engineering lecturer Lydia Tennant who spends most of the time narrating her life into a Dictaphone and generally being fairly masculine. I feel the problem with Campus was that they had to stretch the original 30 minute pilot into an hour long format which involved introducing a new character in Matt’s post-grad student the sporty Flatpack and also have all the characters say the word vagina at least about three times each. Despite this there was a lot to like about Campus and I feel that it will get better now the rest of the episodes have been written to fit the new time slot. Some of the praise has to go to Andy Nyman as De Wolfe who is insulting to absolutely everybody and also isn’t afraid to physically abuse members of his staff. I also quite liked the relationship between Jason and Nicole he a very sensible and grounded man and her incredibly flighty with a very short attention span. There was also a lot of surreal background stuff to enjoy, which was also one of the joys of Green Wing, my favourite gag so far is that everybody who works as DeWolfe’s secretary is called Grace and one of the Grace is a man that wears a dress. For me though I feel somewhat loyal to the show as it is filmed in my old stomping ground of Brunel University and every so often I would point at a certain scene and go – ‘I’ve been in that library’ or ‘that’s The Hub’, thankfully I wasn’t watching the show with anyone or I probably would’ve been given a slap. Overall I feel that once Campus irons out its kinks it could be a successful sitcom however I don’t think it will hit the heady heights of Green Wing which was almost in a league of its own.
What did you think of this week’s programmes? Leave a comment below
Next Week: Britain’s Next Big Thing, Eastenders and the conclusions of Jamie’s Dream School and Love Thy Neighbour.