Thursday, August 21, 2014

#TVDoneRight- the British edition

Thanks to Caroline and Isabella for starting off the TV Done Right blog hop! This is my first installment (I told you, I love television). Today I'm going "across the pond" to talk about two of my most favorite shows ever.

Here’s what makes British television so good: brevity. It’s not that the episodes are shorter, but the seasons themselves. Whereas our seasons tend to go on for 22 episodes, in Britain eight is generous- and getting to five years is amazing. Why is that a good thing? Because it keeps everyone focused on the core story they’re trying to tell.

My picks: Luther and Footballers’ Wives. Other than the setting, they could not be more different, but they’re both equally well-done.

Luther is only 14 episodes long, spread out over three seasons. It’s the story of Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, who’s brilliant, hard-working and hot-tempered. That temper has cost him his marriage, and his wife has already moved on. So it’s that bit of instability plus the desire to solve a challenge that leads to what eventually becomes an obsession with Alice, a woman who called in the shooting of her mother but whom John realizes is actually the killer. Just one problem: Alice is as smart as Luther is, and whereas he’s constantly waging a war between his demons and his angels, she’s blithely thrown her lot in with self-preservation and has no qualms about breaking the law to get what she wants...or to help John.

While John and Alice are escalating their game of Will They Or Won’t They, John’s increasingly threatened at work, which I suppose you have to expect when you’ve pissed off one too many people. Everyone knew John cut corners, it was just a matter of catching him in the act. To top it off, John had horrible judgment in his personal life, which came back to bite him when  a good friend on the force not only found himself caught up in a crime ring but then killed John’s wife as part of a convoluted plot to protect himself. And who was the number one suspect? You guessed it- John.

"What? Isn't this what you look like during an interrogation?"

John found himself depending on Alice at the most interesting times, despite all protestations that she needed help (which, of course, she did). Most telling was when he pulled her out as his ace-in-the-hole when he needed to control a ruthless organized crime family- even though she hadn’t been in those episodes. Once we saw that, we knew that he was hooked even if he didn’t want to admit it.

Guess who's filled with respect for him and guess who's dying to take him down?

At the other end of the spectrum that is British television was Footballers’ Wives, the most trashtastic television ever produced. “Narcissistic” doesn’t begin to describe most of the characters, and yet you couldn’t help root for some of them, in spite of (or because of?) it. And, of course, sometimes we watched just to see someone get taken down...that, and the stories were brilliantly out of control.

Footballer Jason and his grasping wife Tanya (the eventual star of the show) caused team owner Frank to have a terrible accident, and while unconscious he’s repeatedly raped (!) by nurse Jeanette. Tanya uses this information to try and get Jeanette to kill Frank, but he makes a miraculous recovery. (Tanya’s tears during that scene were darkly funny.) Frank is convinced he and Tanya are having an affair, then remembers both being attacked and being raped. It takes him a little while, but he finally gets what he needs to blackmail Tanya- into marriage!

Please! This was just two guys having an affair- boring compared to the rest of the show.

What about Jason? Tanya’s philandering husband got around- including with his team mate Kyle’s mother Jackie. (Kyle’s model wife Chardonnay never looked twice at him, surprisingly.) When Jackie ended up pregnant, Kyle and Chardonnay passed the baby off as theirs...until Jason figured it out and brought baby Paddy to Jackie. His marriage to Tanya on the outs, he and Jackie might have lived happily ever after if it hadn’t been revealed that Paddy was really an intersex baby. Jason freaked out and went back to Tanya, and when Kyle finally found out that Jason was really his brother’s father, he almost killed him. Tanya, fed up with Jason’s constant indiscretions, humiliated him during their vow renewal ceremony in one of the best takedowns ever. After Jason punched Tanya, he went to drown his troubles in a bottle of champagne while sitting on a ledge- and there was killed by none other than sweet Chardonnay, who had been devastated over the loss of Paddy. Her comeuppance? Death by anorexia.

*This*, on the other hand, was nuts

Then Kyle started hitting his mother Jackie; Tanya..."fornicated" Frank to death so she could be with Conrad, who was ending his marriage to Amber; then Tanya passed off her baby with Frank as Conrad’s by switching her baby with Amber and Conrad’s- and then saw her baby suffocated to death by Amber’s poodle; Tanya grieved for about three minutes, then turned around and tried to gaslight Amber, who wasn’t as stupid as she’d previously acted and realized her baby was still alive. And...that’s just the first half of the episodes. I promise, the rest was just as consistently, amazingly trashy. 

As they say, go big or go home- and don't waste your time doing it.

What was your favorite, just-about-perfect television show?

Thanks for reading! Please join Danielle tomorrow as she takes on her favorites.

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