Tag Archives: TV

The Code (2014)

My review of the conspiracy thriller Australian TV series The Code is over at Flickering Myth and appears below…

the-code

The vast expanse of the Australian outback certainly looks like a beautiful and mystical place. From the spiritual majesty of Peter Weir’s Walkabout (1971) to the raw bestial horror of Wolf Creek (2005) and countless others, the cinema screen has striven to capture the mysterious depths and contours of this physically and psychically challenging landscape.

The Code (shown on BBC4 in the UK) is a TV show hoping to bring some of this largely cinematic vision to the small screen. And it succeeds, layering believable characterisation and motivation along with a build up of tension and dread as it progresses through its ‘who’s more corrupt than who?’ storyline

This form of who and whydunnit creates the perfect atmosphere to explore a range of different subjects. Following Canberra based online journalist Ned Banks (Spielman) and his computer hacker brother Jesse (Zukerman) as they try to find out just why they’ve been sent a video of a road accident deep in the outback, the story keeps the viewer gripped with tried and tested TV methods. It’s slick, it’s exciting and each 55 minute episode ends with an artfully produced cliff-hanger…

As the two brothers delve deeper into the mystery, aided and abetted by outback school teacher Alex (Lucy Lawless – yes, that Lucy Lawless of Xena and Spartacus fame), the contrasts between the wild almost unearthly (to European eyes at least) landscape of the outback and the seats of power in the Canberra government become ever more stark.

Much of this intrigue is captured though the use of smartphones and computers, and the show’s production takes a striking graphical approach to bringing the IT element out. As a geek-pleasing construct, the use of a ‘screen within a screen’ approach, showing off exactly what the tech wizards (mostly the Asperger’s Jesse) are up to online is a critical device. This devotion to top-level tech marks out the show as a world away from the 80’s and 90’s face of Oz Tv which largely came to these shores in the shape of Ramsey Street and Summer Bay.

The attention given to Jesse’s condition and the ability to largely get it right is also a success-story for the show. Rarely have forms of autism been shown in a realistic way in the popular media, and hopefully this sensitive and intelligent portrayal marks an overall maturing of the medium. After all, if the Scandinavians can get it right, why not the Australians?

All in all then, The Code provides plenty of food for thought both in sociological and political terms. An excellent modern thriller series – hopefully more will follow.

 

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The Protectors – Complete Season One – Out Now

Award_winning_Scandinavian_drama_The_Protectors___exclusive_trailer

I wonder… do the Danes and Swedes ever tire of creating such great TV? Not sure, but hopefully not! Review below…

New from the reliably high quality Nordic Noir label is this box-set of the never before seen in the UK Danish TV crime series The Protectors (or Livvagterne, in Danish).

Following on from the international success of The Killing, Borgen, Wallander and The Bridge, this is yet another high quality addition to the Nordic away team. With so many well produced drama series making their way across the Scandanavian waters, it looks unlikely that fans will have any reason to tire of them any time soon. It also means that distributers will be unearthing less well known programmes and bringing them into a whole new light.

This was clearly the case with The Protectors, one of the acclaimed Danish dramas that have not been previously aired on BBC Four, unlike the shows mentioned above. It has however been shown in Australia with SBS, to great success.

Created by Mai Brostrøm and Peter Thorsboe, the pair who were also responsible for the compelling Unit One, the series displays a similarly gripping and tightly scripted narrative. Fixing on personalities and character strengths and flaws rather than purely just whodunits and whydunits, the programme is in line with a maturity that informs and entertains but never patronises its audience.

Concentrating on the work of the P.E.T., the Danish national police force in charge of protecting high profile figures and VIP’s, the series follows three new recruits to the operation in a series of explosive storylines. Taking in issues of gender, race and various political intrigues, the ten hour-long episode series is hard-hitting in every sense, but remains well balanced between realistic police work and electrifying emotional action displays.

The three new recruits Jasmina (Cecilie Stenspil), Jonas (André Babikian) and Rasmus (Søren Vejby) effectively hold the drama and push the show forward in some very new directions. Stenspil’s performance in particular as Jasmina, a mixed race female agent of the team, pushes the narrative forward in a series of memorable ways.

Recommended to all fans of the seemingly unstoppable Nordic Noir tidal wave, this is another show to get your hooks into…

Unit One Series 1 – out now in the UK on DVD

Unit One Series 1 – out now in the UK on DVD

Men Behaving Badly 20th Anniversary Box-Set

This review also appears at Memorable TV

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Ah, the 90′s. A strange, confusing era of change for many – not least for the followers of ‘lad culture’, typically viewed through the soft-porn coloured spectacles of Loaded and FHM magazines. It was a time of flux – culturally and politically, with many unsure of their roles and how to go about making their mark in a confusing climate.

Not that any of this would have held much sway with Gary (Martin Clunes) and Tony (Neil Morrissey), the stars of the hugely successful comedy series Men Behaving Badly, which ran from 1992 to 1998.

Bringing together all six series of the dysfunctional males sit-com plus the four specials and the Comic Relief sketches, comes this collection of the popular show.

Sharply scripted by series creator Simon Nye with pacey direction from Martin Dennis, in many ways the show captured the 90′s zeitgeist for a generation. Occasionally written off as an overly macho piece, the series had far more wit than that, with Caroline Quentin’s Dorothy easily the equal of her male counterparts. With excellent support from Leslie Ash as the upstairs neighbour – and object of Tony’s lager addled affections – Men Behaving Badly was in its time one of the best comedies on British TV.

Also featuring Harry Enfield as Gary’s original flatmate Dermot in series one, the show took until around the third series to get fully into its stride, but from then on it was curry flecked hilarity all the way…

Packed full of extras (including a quiz where the reward is a selection out-takes from the show) this is about as definitive a box as even the most hardcore fan could wish for…

The Bridge – Out Now on DVD and Blu-ray

My review of the seriously chilling Nordic Noir television series The Bridge appears below…

I advise any fan of dark detective stories to check it out!

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Joining the hallowed ranks of Nordic crime thrillers and quality dramas Wallander, The Killing, and Borgen, comes The Bridge, the latest in a seemingly endless supply of intelligent adult television from Scandinavia.

Concentrating on the investigation of various grimly imaginative murders that begins with a body being discovered on the eponymous bridge that links the Swedish Malmö and the Danish capital Copenhagen, The Bridge is a gloriously dark slice of nourish detective work. As the initial body is found laying half on Swedish and half on Danish territory, the investigation is assigned as a joint operation.

This groups the brilliant and idiosyncratic (and possible Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer) Saga Noren  (Sofia Helin) together with the more physical Dane Martin Rohde (The Killing’s Kim Bodnia) as they try to piece together the killer’s motivation and plot his next move.

The success of the series comes very much from this odd couple approach to the partnership. Both are extremely likeable in their own ways and both actors do a magnificent job in adapting to the intricacies and fine detail in the constantly shifting plot. Whereas Martin is a middle-aged family man all too susceptible to the joys and complexities of sensual pleasure, Saga lives much of her life in the cerebral world of thoughts and ideas.

With tight, fast paced direction, a sharp script and eccentric humour to brighten the worst of the horror, The Bridge is fully deserving of all the accolades that have been heaped upon it. Guaranteed to leave the viewer wanting more, there is a second series scheduled to appear in Autumn 2013 – this will no doubt seem like a long wait! Highly recommended; any fan of classy, gothic detective stories would do well to get on The Bridge.