Archived entries for Television

Romanzo Criminale

When turning on the TV in a hotel room in Italy, the primary experience, amidst the welcome clips of football, are old men in suits, with cheesy smiles, presenting alongside much younger women with little on, looking for cheap laughs from a studio audience. It is a reoccurring theme on every visit that does little to inspire confidence in Italian made television. However, ‘Romanzo Criminale’, which has been hailed as the greatest Italian programme ever made, is the counter to that, and television series of substance in its own right.

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Boardwalk Empire II

There is no doubt television serials allows characters and plot to develop more than cinema ever could, and the second season of Boardwalk Empire has shown how the more time a quality drama is given to develop, the better it gets.

The first season was decent, but second season has matured to magnificence as layers of characters’ past are gradually revealed, continually shedding a different light and understanding to all that has gone before.

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The Killing II

After season one’s twenty episodes, Forbrydelsen returned to BBC4 with half as much airtime, but still many of its favourite features: there is running in the woods, video tapes from beyond the grave, the chasing of hooded characters in dark disused buildings, exhumations, camera shots against the sun, the tinkle of the piano whenever a penny drops in Lund’s head, and best of all, the climactic action-packed wrap to the pulsating score that ends each episode.

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This Is England ‘88

Prior to the airing of the first episode of ‘This is England ‘88’, the continuity announcer on Channel 4 warned viewers of upsetting archive footage. Within moments Margret Thatcher was outside Downing Street signalling the start of another harrowing ride at the hands of Shane Meadows.

As with the film that started the ‘This is England’ story, a montage of clips from the era sets the scene, this time to The Smiths ‘What Difference Does It Make’. And as with all Meadows’ previous work, music is once again a star, not just setting the mood, but also integral in this series in defining the era, as much as it was in the film in establishing the identity of a group of reggae and ska loving youngsters.

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The Killing



On the Saturday evenings when I stayed in at the start of the year, I was watching ‘Boardwalk Empire’, on Sky’s newly launched channel Sky Atlantic. Though it never reached the heights of some of the great American Drama serials of the last fifteen years, it was decent enough television; there were strong lead performances from great actors including Steve Bescumi, Kelly McDonald and Michael Shannon, and an opening episode that was easily identifiable as being directed by Martin Scorsese.

It was admittedly hard work sitting through episodes I hadn’t recorded, and couldn’t fast forward between the ridiculous amount of ad breaks, but I stuck with it, because the best American drama (such as The Sopranos, The Wire, West Wing, Dexter and Six Feet Under) has shown that television can be a superior medium to cinema. The long-running serial allows multiple-storylines, complex plots, characters to have real depth and personality, as well as a sub-context only previously achieved in great novels.

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Top Boy

In The Clash’s film ‘Rude Boy’ Joe Strummer tries to explain to the moronic title character, Ray, that there are flaws in a system where the few prosper at the expense of the many: “I don’t see the point in getting all rich and locking yourself in a country mansion because sooner or later some cunt is going to come round with a shotgun and blow your head off”, he says, in a staged conversation about political ideology, set in a pub.

‘Rude Boy’ was filmed in 1980, a year into a new Tory Government that adopted harsh monetarist economic polices, amidst the backdrop of rioting on the streets, bleak London council estates, and mass political protests. Fast-forward 31 years, and we are back to the future, and the contemporary home-grown drama Top Boy last week focused in on a fictional East London council estate, where on different levels, money is a key motivating factor for many of the characters.

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