Thursday 7 March 2019

GlassGlossGloom: In TV Dramaland

Last night, being too weary for anything else, I found myself watching BBC2's new, much-hyped, much-trailed big-name drama series, MotherFatherSon. My expectations weren't terribly high – but what I saw was even worse than I'd anticipated: a highly polished showcase for every tired cliché in the 'serious contemporary drama' book, and all enacted with such ponderous solemnity that it would have taken very little tweaking to turn the whole thing into a rather good spoof.
  Richard Gere – yes, that Richard Gere (he should have been better advised) – plays one of those immensely powerful media barons who, as we all know, are running the world. He's flown into Britain to sort out various business and family affairs – but first he drops in on the Prime Minster (who turns out to be a genial black man) and they have a loaded conversation about shortbread and fruit cake. Yes, really – you might not have thought it possible to have a loaded conversation about shortbread and fruit cake, but it is. Every single exchange of words in this massively self-important drama is taut, portentous, loaded with subtext, punctuated by pregnant silences, and delivered to the accompaniment of long meaningful looks.
 What's it all about? As the mists clear, we are given enough clues to gather that – as the title suggests – there's all sorts of trouble between Gere and his son, who edits his London newspaper, and between said son and his mother, Gere's ex-wife (played by the excellent Helen McCrory, who manages to breathe some life into her part – no mean feat), and between Gere and his ex-wife. There's a story brewing about the ex-wife getting too friendly with a man at a homeless centre where she volunteers. And there's a mysterious, much bigger story lurking beneath that, being investigated by two ethical journalists (the maximum permitted number in any TV newsroom), one of whom is newly sacked and, of course, dying.
 The editor, Gere's son, is a complete mess. He spends his time staring anxiously into the middle distance, rarely showing a spark of life except when he stirs himself to stuff his nose with large quantities of cocaine. Even as TV drama newspaper editors go, this one is deeply unconvincing – as is the high-gloss newsroom, full of underoccupied 'journalists' with nothing better to do than stare silently at the passing scene. As we know from last year's ludicrous TV drama, Press, newspaper editors live in expensive glass-and-chrome apartments with fine views across the city, and have depersonalised sex with high-end call girls. The sex this editor has is so weird it's hard to watch – with a straight face, anyway. And he follows it up on this occasion by snorting even more cocaine than usual, washing it down with whisky, and ending up the next morning collapsing with a brain haemorrhage. This brings his parents rushing to the operating theatre to watch as a surgical team opens his skull – a final treat for the viewers. The parents watch from a kind of VIP viewing gallery – behind glass, of course. There's an awful lot of glass in this drama – great sheets of the stuff everywhere in this high-rise glass city, a city of glass and gloss and gloom. It's the Anywhere capital of TV Dramaland. 

1 comment:

  1. Haha, fabulous Nige! It must be fun writing freely about bad television these days... funnily enough we drove past a billboard for this show today and I thought to myself how pretentious it looked. Thanks for confirming!