January 2013 has been a pretty dismal month of tv in my opinion (hence a rather quiet blog for the last few weeks) but things are looking on the up.
Best thing on in January? The Channel 4 drama ‘Utopia’. It’s had really good reviews and they’re right – it has been original, well-made and gripping. It’s not straightforward and here’s what I understand has been happening: It’s about a graphic novel called Utopia – written by a ‘mad’ scientist which predicted things like BSE and the Bhopal disaster because he was involved with ‘Mr Rabbit’ and a group called The Network who would experiment to bring these things about. The writer of the comic, Philip Carvel/Mark Deyn, is dead but wrote a second volume of Utopia which reveals the identity of Mr Rabbit. Jessica Hyde, the daughter of Carvel, who has been on the run since she was a child, is looking for the volume, as are The Network and their sadistic killer. And meanwhile a group of ‘ordinary’ people – Becky (the young Iron Lady), Ian (Curtis from Misfits), Wilson Wilson (him from Four Lions – no not that one, the other one), and Grant a 12 year old – who are big Utopia fans have got involved and now on the run too. Stephen Rea and James Fox are from The Network and there are lots of other recognisable faces too, like Geraldine James from MI5 who is know helping out the group of ordinaries. There are lots of murders and shocks. The cinematography and colour palette is beautiful – imitating graphic novel palettes at points. It’s fairly fast-moving and it’s original.
I’m also watching My Mad Fat Diary on E4. I had no intention of watching it, especially as the ubiquitous adverts made it look like a typical teen drama that I had absolutely no interest in. But then it got some good reviews and I caught up with it. It helps that it’s set in the summer of 1996 – THE summer of Britpop – and one of my most formative summers, so I’m enjoying the nostalgic soundtrack of Pulp, Ash, Stone Roses, Garbage, Longpigs etc. And the acting and story isn’t that bad either – it’s based on the diaries of Rae Earl (Rachel Earl) who has just spent a few months in a mental hospital after a near-fatal self-harming incident and is now readjusting to old and new friends in Lincoln. Sharon Rooney who plays Rae seems quite fearless, which is always good to watch.
I’m still watching Mr Selfridge and World Without End but only because there’s a paucity of choice. And both have been watched with the fast forward button on/while reading or doing something else. I’m not watching Blandings after a really awful start despite Jennifer Saunders. And I’m not watching Derek after the awful pilot I talked about last year.
I am looking forward to Stephen Poliakoff’s Dancing on the Edge which starts this week, and Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror which starts the week after. Maybe February will restore my faith in the potential of British TV to entertain.