The Ice Cream Girls

528173_450367825048618_1651344366_nSo a few weeks ago I somehow ended watching the first episode of ITV’s three-part miniseries The Ice Cream Girls. Based on a book of the same name the series tells the story of two girls. One has just been released from prison after serving a very long sentence for a murder that she maintains was not her. The other has built herself a family and lives to keep it together but when she moves back to her home town to look after her mother it brings back her dark past. It is gradually revealed that both girls got involved with an abusive older man, he was the teacher of one of them. This bloke plays them off against one another and forces them to do things against their will, their relationships become more and more volatile until this bloke ends up murdered. Then Poppy, one of the girls, takes the blame for the killing when it comes to court and is locked up while the other girl is left to roam free. The show holds the mystery as to who did the actual killing until the very last episode.

It’s a shame that they don’t manage to fully utilise the tension of the story. While the acting of the show was very well done and the final reveal is fittingly surprising for me the show didn’t work as a whole. The characters are to built up enough and, in particular, Poppy’s motivation and generally what makes her character tick is never touched upon, its left to you as the viewer to figure out which asks too much of you. The detestable male character is very well portrayed by Martin Compston with his sickly grin and well placed outbursts, it shows that Compston is a well-established actor to keep an eye on, but when it comes to his killing everything seems off key. That’s the whole thing about this miniseries, really, is that it just doesn’t feel quite right. It partly wants to be a mystery, it partly wants to be a tragedy but never delivers fully on either front and it loses its thrill as a result. Also while the twist is surprising it doesn’t make any real sense with the way you’ve got to know the characters.

While for ITV this was one of the better drama series I’ve seen when you compare it with the things that BBC and Channel 4 are bringing out its clear that ITV have got a fair bit of work to do before they can reach the standard. Having said that I still need to watch Broadchurch which could prove me completely wrong.

 

Black Mirror – Series Two

black-mirrorWell the second series of Charlie Brooker’s dark futuristic visions, Black Mirror came to it’s close on Monday and if you’ve read my review you’ll know how much I loved the first series. Series two saw three new ideas of how technology is going to ruin the world. Episode one told the story of a girl grieving the death of her husband or fiancee, I can’t remember, but she finds out about a service which collects all the data he left behind online and create a fully functioning online version of the deceased, as she gets more and more attached to the fact that she can talk to him she moves up in the levels of this idea eventually experimenting with this new technology that makes a fully human version of  her loved one resulting in a deeply disturbing series of events. Episode two took a slightly different outlook. Starting at in a somewhat 28 Days Later style setting with a girl waking up a strange world that seems to have been taken over by murderers and faceless watchers who do nothing but film her on their mobiles. I won’t give away the twist but it turns out to be something much darker than you would expect. The concluding part of the trilogy was about comedy cartoon character, Waldo, who ends up becoming a political figure due to the way in which takes the piss out of existing politicians and his ‘fuck-everything’ mentality.

It must be said though that I found this series a great deal less insightful and original than the first.  The best episode was definitely the best in this series, and that, really, was just a modern day Frankenstein but it was done very well and managed to put a new, thought-provoking spin on the idea. Episode two was much the same, the twist at the end was excellent but there were too many scenes that I felt like I’d seen before, as I mentioned earlier it really was very similar to 28 Days Later. And the final episode, I thought, was the worst one yet it didn’t seem clear in what it was trying to say and when it came to the end I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to think. The trailer for the episode threw me off to as I was getting very excited by the bit about Waldo being the perfect assassin but in the context of the episode this line made virtually no sense.

It’s still a whole lot better and much more thought provoking than almost any other tv show but series two of Black Mirror lacked the originality of its predecessor, ultimately feeling like a more rushed series that bears its influences to close to the surface making them all too noticeable. Still definitely worth a watch though.

 

The Fear

The Fear

 

Channel 4’s four-part miniseries tells the story of Richie Beckett (Peter Mullan), a Brighton-based entrepeneur who has a history of organised crime, and his two sons  Matty (Harry Lloyd) and Cal (Paul Nicholls). The series begins as a fairly normal British crime story with our three protagonists getting themselves involved in some less than savoury goings on but it’s not really until episode two that the show gets its own unique identity. The difference being that Richie is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s causing him to lose control of his actions and memory, his reformed personality starts to merge with his ruthless past and his worsening memory means he doesn’t know some of the crazy stuff that he’s doing through it all.

The performance from Mullan is the shows greatest triumph as he masterfully portrays both sides of the character. On the one side he’s a violent, unpredictable mob boss who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty and on the other he’s a poor, old man trying to do right by his family but can’t because of the state of his mind. It’s not really till the final episode that we see the character’s full sensitivity. Unfortunately his supporting cast are not quite of the same calibre, both Lloyd and Nicholls are often unconvincing and nearly always generic in their roles and are completely eclipsed by Mullan. I found I didn’t care about these two only their dad.

Overall it’s the shows inconsistency that means it doesn’t fill it’s potential. While the idea of this character falling further in dementia and the way it is dealt with is superb the other areas of the plot just don’t have enough about them to be memorable. All the criminal goings-on feel bland and un-inventive. What is an incredible premise for a programme is unfortunately not fully realised by it’s more generic plot areas. The ending as well seemed a bit of a let down. For The Fear there is as much to praised as there is criticised ultimately making it an entertaining watch but nothing much more than that.

Peep Show – Series 8

peepshow588On Sunday night Channel 4’s longest running sit-com ever, Peep Show, finished it’s eighth series. Continuing the story of Mark and Jezz, two housemates who really are polar opposites. While it’s viewing figures have never been particularly good the show remains one of Britain’s best-loved programmes hence its long lasting appeal.

Series eight sees exactly the same kind of thing we’ve come to love about the show. Mark is trying to get Jeremy out of the flat so Dobby can move in, but throughout the series is overcome by doubt as to whether Dobby even really wants to as she keeps making excuses as to why she can’t do it yet. Meanwhile Jezz discovers that he’s actually madly in love with Dobby himself. The result is the usual mix of hilarious confrontations with each other and their outside acquaintances all backed with the usual the commentary from inside their heads that never ceases to being up hilarious pop culture references and thoughts that may seem surprisingly close to home.

Writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong have consistently proved that they can produce comedy that both reflects real life and commentates and socially and politically relevant situations. On top of this they have created a sit-com with a completely unique style that gives it it’s own signature charm. Series eight is just as good as any of the ones before it, Peep Show certainly has more left in the tank, it can’t seem to do anything wrong.

 

Misfits – Series 4

misfitsseries4trailersFollowing from arguably the weakest series of E4’s superhero’s-with-asbos drama Misfits series four stripped itself back down to basics. Introducing us to two new gang members Finn (Nathan McMullen) and Jess (Karla Crome) both of whom are much more well-rounded personalities than the main cast that preceded them. Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is the only remaining original member and he meets a rather abrupt end only halfway through the series. Joseph Gilgun’s Rudy also returns having joined the gang in series three. The gang are overlooked by the series’ enigmatic, scary and at times laugh-out-load hilarious new probation worker, played by Shaun Dooley.

This series focusses much more on character study than any of the previous ones opting to flesh out all members of the gang into relatable, yet still fucked-up, youths and their super powers take the back seat. Finn, in particular, is an everyman that the show has lacked in the past, one that actually cares about girls and aims to do good generally, he is fantastically portrayed by McMullen too, a great newcomer. Much the same can be said for Jess, she’s a girl with a bite but is much subdued and ultimately more realistic and believable than both Alicia and Kelly who left the show at the end of series three. Rudy is a much more likable centre-piece than his predecessor too and in series four he is given much more of a chance to show his true colours and Gilgun masterfully brings the character real gravitas.

In series four creator and main writer Howard Overman is much more concerned in human drama than the comic book style action we grew used to in previous series. Often looking at the relationships these teenagers have with each other and outsiders and how they deal with boyfriends/girlfriends, parents and people in authority overall giving a very impressively realistic overview of the lost youth of today. That’s not to say, though, that the series has lost it’s action side there are episodes here which flow into the darkly violent, horror movie-style action scenes they’ve done so well in the past, enemies the gang face include the four cyclists of the apocalypse, the return of some zombies and, in perhaps the shows greatest episode of all-time and a perfect example of the absurdity the show can do so well, a golf-club wielding killer rabbit in a suit. If that isn’t enough to make you watch it then what  is?

What series four has done so well is brought things back down to earth, it seemed at times in the past it was all getting a bit too complicated but by losing the majority of the cast it’s given the programme a chance to review what it’s actually about and gives these criminal youths some real personality again. It reminds you of what made you get into Misfits in the first place and with the news that Overman is trying to get funding for a film version and the overwhelming possibility of a fifth series it seems that it could go on to become one of Britain’s most succesful exports in years, and rightly so.