Dancing on the Edge & Other TV I’ve Been Watching

So I’ve seen three episodes of Stephen Poliakoff’s BBC 2 drama, Dancing on the Edge, and it has two more to air. Set in 1930s London, it follows a black Jazz band led by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is called Louis Lester. Except, and this is the problem, apart from Louis, their lead singer Jessie, back up singer Carla, and their now deported manager, Wesley, we don’t know the other band members. There’s Joe, the trumpter, but even on IMDB, the rest of the band aren’t given names and just known as The Band. When you have a programme trying to deal with racism towards black people, don’t make 2/3 of your principal cast be anonymous and have no identity. Even the characters that we are meant to be invested in, such as Jessie, have no back story or identity. All we know is that she’s a singer and friends with Carla. That is it.

The reason we don’t know anything about the black characters is because there is a whole host of white characters we’re meant to be invested in. It’s all a very strange plot but Matthew Goode plays Stanley, deputy editor and journalist for upcoming magazine Musical Express, and for some reason champions Louis Lester’s band. He gets them a standing gig at a hotel run by Mel Smith (yes that Mel Smith of Smith & Jones, looking remarkably slimmer than in his heyday). He gets Anthony Head to champion the band, as well as Jacqueline Bisset. And then there are some pretty young things as well – Sarah, Julian and Pamela. Sarah was last seen in that David Tennant in the War drama, Julian was in Cemetery Junction, and Pamela was the heroine in the Paradise. Pamela has an affair with Stanley. Julian, her brother, works for John Goodman, a mysterious American businessman, and is a Freemason. They’re all friends with the Prince of Wales, and Prince George and all they do is hang out with each other and the band. The band’s playing at a hotel? They’re all there. The band’s playing at the German Embassy? Again, they’re all coincidentally there too. One of them killed Jessie. It’s all very convoluted. Jenna-Louise Coleman is also in it as Rosie, as a colleague to Stanley on the Musical Express, but is woefully underused, unless there’s going to be a point to her character in the final two episodes.

It’s a bizarre drama but now I’ve seen three episodes I want to at least find out what the hell is going on and who the murderer is and what the point of the drama was. I feel I need some reward after 3 and a half hours of it all, and just hope there’s a reason why Giles, Oswin Oswald and Adrian Veidt and Ejiofor all agreed to be in this.

Meanwhile this week, I caught up with the ‘film’ shown on Channel 4 last week called ‘Dreams of a Life’ with Zawe Ashton (from Fresh Meat) in it. It was about Joyce Carol Vincent, the woman who was found in her bedsit in North London after having been dead for nearly three years. The only reason she was found was because the council decided to send round bailiffs because of outstanding rent arrears, but you have to wonder why it took three years for anyone to realise there was a dead body in there. Neighbours didn’t report that no-one was going in or out. Utilities companies either must have been taking direct debits or cut her off. The postmen must have ignored the fact that letters were piling up on the mat when they posted them through.

The film-maker wanted to make a film about who Joyce Vincent was, rather than concentrate on the macabre details of her death and it was a lovely sentiment. The film consisted of various talking heads with people who had known Vincent, and Ashton recreating a few bits. Joyce Vincent had met Nelson Mandela and spoken to Isaac Hayes. She had three older sisters, nephews and nieces, and used to have lots of friends. It’s an extremely distressing programme (and because it is so distressing it’s not something I would ‘recommend’) about an individual who never really let anyone into her life and was able to cut off ties so that no-one went looking for when she disappeared.

Frivolous Monsters kindly recommended I watch Bob Servant Independent the other week and I’m so glad I have. It’s brilliant! Brian Cox (the actor, not the scientist from D:Ream) is Bob Servant a local man standing as an independent candidate in a bye-election in Broughty Ferry, in the outskirts of Dundee. I don’t think I’ve seen Brian Cox do comedy before, I’ve normally seen him in ‘dramas’ but he’s great as a deluded man who wants to be Annie Lennox!

Meanwhile Charlie Brooker can be followed on BBC2 and Channel 4. His Weekly Wipe on Thursdays on BBC2 is as scathing and witty as you would expect. He’s changed it up a bit by including two ‘celebrities’ for a discussion on a topical question in part of the programme but otherwise it’s the usual Brooker we all know and love. I take it that his return to the Wipes means that the Channel 4 10 o’clock show has popped its clogs, which can only be a good thing. But Brooker remains on C4 with the second series of Black Mirror. The first episode, last Monday, had Hayley Atwell starring as a women grieving over the death of her partner and then finding out she is pregnant. She is introduced to a computer programme that uses the digital life of her former partner to email/i-chat back to her as if he were still alive – using words and turns of phrases that he has used in the past. This then escalates into a voice on the other end of the phone and then to a artificial body that looks and talks like him. It was nice to see Hayley Atwell play someone in the present day for once- I’ve only ever seen her in ‘period’ – and it was a good succinct thought-provoking programme with a dilemma in the end that you just have to think about…..

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3 Responses to Dancing on the Edge & Other TV I’ve Been Watching

  1. Frivolous Monsters says:

    I too have been watching Dancing on the Edge. It’s interesting that you say that you want to find out “what the point of the drama was” as I still have no clue what it’s supposed to be about. Yesterday I saw the film ‘Serenity’ for the first time and was surprised to find Chiwetel Ejiofor was in it. He did stand shoulders above all the other actors.

    I’m glad you enjoyed Bob. I laughed out loud at the “sausage time” clip on the news. Two episodes left, although if you’re in the UK you can catch up on the i-Player.

    I thought Black Mirror was a bit too dark, mixed up in the grief, and thus not enjoyable as the Pig/X-Factor episodes. I’ve not seen Hayley Atwell before, I don’t think, but she was very good.

  2. Dee Cee Jai says:

    Watching Dancing on the Edge has been very interesting; I find it hard to believe that as a black jazz band they were actually treated this well amongst their peers. The 1930’s was not a good time for black people yet alone a black jazz band so I struggle to come to terms with the accuracy and portrayal of the era. I too am interested in who killed Jessie – I don’t trust any of them. For a reporter Stanley seems very gullible to Louis comments regarding Julian. In all it is an entertaining programme which I am enjoying!

  3. I found the last episode of Dancing on the Edge really disappointing. By then, it had been assumed that Julian had killed Jessie, but it took an hour and a half to get to a confession and there was never an explanation for some stuff like the homeless/starving people or the Freemasons.

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