This is really an ITV programme being shown on BBC1. Following the stories of 4 families who visit their prisoners, the first one focuses mainly on Gemma, a pregnant twenty-something, whose young husband is arrested for murder. He comes home one night while she’s cooking dinner and suddenly there’s a sniper aiming their red dot on his forehead and masses of police swarming their house. Really? The police detective shouts at Gemma, later, asking her what she knows. Ok. But then, he returns later, by himself, to intimidate her further. And I don’t think the police really work like that. Anyway, the husband keeps on protesting his innocence, but for the drama to work and stretch over 6 episodes or more, he’s got to be guilty (and we later find out he is). This is not a court drama, it’s a drama about the prisoners’ wives.
Gemma is played by Emma Rigby, who used to be in Hollyoaks. She’s quite good actually. I can’t think of many other Hollyoaks young stars who’ve gone on to do much except go on to other soaps – apart from that guy who was in Footballers’ Wives – so maybe that is the best progression to go from Hollyoaks to [insert profession here] Wives. Mrs Brittas is also in it, but we haven’t seen her story yet.
The star couple are Polly Walker and Iain Glen. We don’t see much of Iain Glen this week, but apparently the focus is more on Walker’s character next week so hope there’s more to his part than a wasted side character. It’s always nice to see Game of Thrones actors keeping busy in the season break, and Iain Glen has certainly been busy with Prisoners’ Wives and Downton Abbey. Walker is the best thing in it so far – she looks like Melinda Clarke/Julie Cooper with all her eyeshadow and high heels – as a rich mother whose children go to private school, and it’s nice to see her in a contemporary, fun role for once.
So good acting, some annoying music video style directing, and a very pop soundtrack – although nice touch with the Walker character listening to the Whitney Houston album in her convertible. It’s not as good as I think it hopes to be though. It’s acceptable for what it is – a weekday drama serial – but the BBC have really overly publicised it as part of their ‘Original Programming’ trailers.
Now, this is more like it. A proper drama. I thought it was a one-off and was waiting for it to conclude within the hour, but apparently it’s a series of 4 episodes. So it’s the story of 3 workers at a cash-counting facility who decide to become ‘inside men’ on a robbery. It starts in September with the robbery taking place, and one of the ‘men’, Chris (Ashley Walters) being shot in the knee while another of the ‘men’, the boss (Steven Mackintosh) having to give up the security codes while his wife and (adopted/foster?) daughter are being held hostage at their home. It then flashes back to January as we see the men at work (although it was weird that it expected you to understand that the September to January switch denoted by graphics was a flashback and not perhaps a flashforward by 4 months).
Chris is a security guard; Marcus (Warren Brown) works on the floor and the boss works in his office. It sets up their characters – Marcus is in a lot of debt and has links to petty criminals; Chris has an alcoholic mother and a new girlfriend who enjoys petty thievery; the boss and his wife are looking to adopt. The boss is a really nice guy and very very mild-mannered, not someone you would expect would ever be involved in a robbery. Anyway, Chris and Marcus get together and put together a plan to siphon off a few thousand from the facility over a couple of months – taking a few hundred out each day slowly. The boss realises that the money has gone and realises that Chris is in on it. He corners him and Chris and Marcus reveal everything to him. The boss is angry – why waste all that effort, potentially lose your jobs and everything, for just a few thousand pounds? Go big or go home….
And so back to September where Chris looks like he is slowly bleeding to death, and we see that Marcus is one of the robbers in the plastic mask. Obviously Chris was not meant to be shot, but the ruse was that they had to look like they didn’t know what was happening, hence the boss even allowing his wife and child to be taken hostage. I guess the next few episodes will show more flashbacks to show how the team put together their plan but also look at the fallout and see whether they get away with it or not.
US programmes on UK tv
So Gossip Girl is back on ITV2. I don’t really know why I still watch it – habit more than anything. It’s still the best thing Kristen Bell is doing on tv or films at the moment – which says a lot about KBell’s career. It was episode 8 of season 5 (“All the Pretty Sources”) shown this week – with Blair Waldorf’s baby-shower, the departure of Liz Hurley, and Ivy Dickens stupidly asking her ex-boyfriend to blackmail her. In the US, they’re on episode 13 (the 100th episode of GG – imagine) so ITV2 is not that far behind. What is strange is that ITV2 took a hiatus over Christmas when they weren’t particularly behind the US programming and there were still at least 3 more episodes they could have shown without going on a break. I expect they’ve worked it out that if they came back now they will eventually catch up and not need to go on any more programming breaks, as the US has so many over the spring. But I wonder if UK channels, if they’re going to show US programmes a few days or a week after the US airing, shouldn’t just do so and allow for the US breaks in their scheduling too. Sky1 aren’t showing Fringe at the moment, even though it’s been back in the US for a few weeks so that they can build up the episodes to show at a stretch later on (I think they’ll start back in March or April). They’re doing the same with Glee and the same with other programmes on SkyLiving. But having got UK audiences to follow the US schedules in the autumn, it seems strange and unfair to make them wait now in the spring. They’ll start going to other means to watch them. And more crucially, as in my case, they’ll find it really hard to avoid spoilers.. /end rant.