While thinking about potential topics to waffle on about on here, I often found myself distracted by some top televisual treats; as such I felt it was only sensible to perhaps pass on some recommendations, thus effectively killing two birds with one stone.
First out the gate is the gripping Danish murder mystery, “Forbrydelsen”, or “The Killing” in English. Rather pleasingly, aside from being a hit internationally (there’s an unnecessary US remake in the pipeline *groan*), “The Killing” seems to have been a hit for BBC4, where it currently airs, prompting them to agree to air the second series soon after. This show was actually made back in 2007, but has only just found its way to our TV shores earlier this year, airing in double-bill installments with English subtitles.
The general premise of the show is nothing ground-breaking: the eldest daughter of a family turns up dead in the boot of a submerged vehicle and the local police force come to investigate, led by the head-strong Sarah Lund (portrayed brilliantly by Sofie Gråbøl, centre in the above group shot). What makes it a cut above the rest is its execution. The cast is flawless and the cinematography is grim and depressing, yet it draws you in setting the tone perfectly. I shall avoid mentioning spoilers here, but the drama basically follows three threads: the fallout of the death on the family of the girl concerned, the police investigation and the knock-on effects this has for Sarah and her plans to move to Sweden, and finally the political goings-on with the impending election and how various members of the government get implicated and vindicated.
The culmination of this fantastic show is on tonight, but if you haven’t caught it, look out for the second series later this year which will be a wholly separate case, I would imagine, so won’t be a problem for new viewers; alternatively keep an eye out for a repeat airing of it, which is not unlikely in my opinion. The show has only been enhanced for me by having a number of people on Twitter be similarly engaged by the show, tweeting various incoherent messages like “OMFG!”, “Run, run away!”, “I can’t believe that!!” and even one made entirely of exclamation marks. This is mainly out of respect for fellow viewers who may not have seen the latest goings on, or for people who have only recently yielded to the ecstatic endorsing of the show by people they follow.
You know when the show is a success, because, as is written in the Twitter Constitution, a spoof account has been set up for the Sarah Lund character, affectionately poking fun at the protagonist. The tweets usually consist of comments about solving the case by picking names out of a hat or merely tweeting photos of various pieces of hideous knitwear worn by humans or, as is true of late, animals; this latter habit is borne out of the amusing fascination viewers seem to have for Sarah’s favourite piece of clothing: a black and cream coloured heavy-knit jumper. So, my advice is, if you haven’t already caught it and aren’t averse to reading subtitles (alternatively, you could always learn Danish!) then you should definitely check out The Killing.
Next up is “Silk”, a new legal drama starring the fantastic Maxine Peake; the woman who’s certainly avoided being typecast. Her roles include playing gobby dinnerlady Treacle in Victoria Wood’s short, but brilliant sitcom, “Dinnerladies“, the Moors murderer, Myra Hindley, in a television dramatisation of these murders and her relationship with Ian Brady, and now, here in “Silk”, a strong, independent barrister on her path to getting silk, which means to attain the rank of Queen’s Counsel, or QC for short, in the British legal system.
The appeal of “Silk” for me, aside from the casting, was that it was a legal drama, and I’m a big fan of the excellent US television franchise “Law & Order“, so hoped it may be something in that vein, or at least of that quality. Well, one out of two isn’t that bad, especially as the “one” here is the quality aspect.
The big difference is “Law & Order” is very much a procedural show, with a set pattern followed every episode. “Silk” on the other hand, while based in the world of law, focuses slightly more on the relationship of the cast, with the legal world being the backdrop rather than the driving force of the show. Much like some of the interactions of the politicians in the “The Killing”, there is plenty of back-stabbing and bitching going on between the characters, with the additional plot of Maxine Peake’s character, Martha Costello and another of the main characters, fellow barrister Clive Reader (played by the dashing Rupert Penry-Jones) competing for Silk. On top of all of this, Martha is preggers, though in case you’ve not seen all the episodes (or any for that matter, but intend to) I won’t spill the beans about who it belongs to and what she decides to do about it.
Aside from the relationship focus, there is also more overlap with cases between episodes, which I find more realistic than the stand-alone episode idea; the general feel of the show is therefore made much more believable. The show isn’t perfect, though I suspect my niggles are more personal to me than widely acknowledged qualms. The one thing I thought was odd was that one of the Junior Clerks working at the law firm all these characters are based at looks like someone who’s just wandered in from a some grungy Emo film, his look seems totally at odds with the rest of the cast; surely someone would say something to him? Anyway, this is a minor gripe against the show as a whole which I think is superb and hope comes back for a second run.
Finally there is the sublime Nurse Jackie.
Currently airing late on Saturday evenings on BBC2 is Nurse Jackie, a dark but hilarious comedy drama. Currently midway through its second season while the third season is about to start in the States, this little gem is not to be missed. In case you are wondering, it’s nothing like the zany goofballery of Scrubs, which I also loved, for a start I don’t recall Dr Cox ever screaming fuck during one of his many rants. Do correct me if I’m wrong, though. Nurse Jackie is very much an adult sitcom with it’s fair share of drug taking, adultery, boob-grabbing and plenty of salty language. The cast of characters are a joy, with each of them arguably as good as the other.
The eponymous Jackie (played by Edie Falco) is an over-worked nurse with a drug addiction and an adulterous relationship on the side with the hospital’s (now ex) pharmacist, Eddie, while at home she has a husband, Kevin, and two daughters, Fiona & Grace. She works with her super rich, British best friend, Dr O’Hara (the wonderful Eve Best), a rotund diabetic male nurse, Thor, and the delightfully scatterbrained Zoey, a first year nursing student (portrayed by the hilarious Merritt Wever). Completing the line up and trying to keep them all in check is the officious yet highly amusing figure of hospital administrator, Gloria Akalitus (played with great aplomb by Anna Deavere Smith). The way the characters interact is superb with the show effortlessly changing gear between tragic drama and laugh-out-loud comedy. In case you haven’t checked this show out yet you definitely should as you’re missing out on television gold.