Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Cold Feet resurrected

I have not written before about the resurrection of Cold Feet which returned with the same level of wit and asides on the realities of life, the interactions between couples, and their children and each other who remain good friends and supportive over decades and where from time to time reality has its destructive cutting edge and no more so than in relation to the member of the group who has grown into a much-loved actor and personality James Nesbitt.  He wanted to leave after the fourth and five series which ran from 1998 to 2003 and persuaded to stay on for the fifth season only on the basis that he was killed off at its end. In fact, the company decided on a different course and it was his series wife played by Helena Baxendale who dies.  Helena had remained a TV actress since playing roles in some series such as an unsuitable Job for a woman (4), Friends (14) Adrian Mole (6) Kidnap and Ransome (6) and Cuckoo (13) but I believe it is for those 32 with James that both will be remembered.

It was therefore brave for James and the other two couples to return reprise their roles 13 years later in a possibly one off eight-episode series, given the nature of the ending. James is a widower a son and where the fictitious story pregnancy was made real by the second pregnancy of Helena Baxendale. The now adolescent boy is at a public school which he dislikes because being of a different social stratum he does not fit in. The series begins with Adam (played by Nesbitt) returning from Singapore with his young fiancé who has a wealthy international business man as her father (played by Art Malik) who at one level she sees as Adam as her weapon against her controlling and dominating parents.  The relationship does not last as the bride fist accepts an important job opportunity and the plan of the couple to fortnight commute for weekend with each other once a month in in Singapore and once a month in England breaks down. The reason Adams dies not return with her is that his needs a different school environment and to have a base with his father. The boy is uncertain about his sexuality but a relationship with the daughter of one of the other couples appears to settle that and his father appreciate that the boy has found his feet and no longer required his full attention.

Adam takes a short rent lease in a small apartment bock where his land lady lives across the hallway and I think she is also a widow, both finding it difficult not to look for someone identical to their lost loves. The woman Tina is in fact having an affair with a married man whose suspicious wife comes looking and although Tina was aware of the marriage, contact with the wife breaks the spell although the duplicitous husband says he has left his wife for her at one point and moves in. James, in part spurred on by his friends, begins to question whether his friendship with Tina is more profound. At the end of the series there is prospect of their relationship developing, one day at a time, compare to the whirlwind affairs which commenced the series.

There is what had become the nationally known comic sketch involving Ronnie Corbett. Ronnie Barker and John Cleese about the three levels of social class, working, middle and upper and the three couples which form Cold Feet representing the middle class with Adam and Rachel (Helena Baxendale), the working class by Pete (John Thomson) and his wife Jenny (Fay Ripley). Their relationship is Rocky and Jenny begins to turn to an admirer as Pete loses sexual interest   and it is only when he is clinically diagnosed with depression that she and his friend begin rally and attempt to find ways to build up his self-esteem. This is brought about when his son forms a band which plays at a gig to great success and Adam persuades Pete to play the drums which he did when James and he had their own band as young men and Pete shows he still has talent which results in his children thinking of him as cool.  Just when things are looking up the biological father of their daughter who does not know and insists on re-entering their lives to apologise for past behaviour and then works out their daughter must be his. The girl finds out in the worst of possible ways and rejects her care father however he becomes a hero again when he becomes a local hero as a video shows his actions in persuading an armed robber at the round the clock local store where he has gone for extra booze for the 49th birthday party of Adam is put on TV. The depression is gone and family relations restored Pete and Jen also find their marital relationship also goes back to normal. Fay Ripley is also known for being Mrs Reggie Perrin and more recently for Suspects. She has published three cookbooks. John Thomson began his career as a stand-up comic and made his name in the TV show The Fast Show before Cold Feet and until the past two years his appearances have been limited including Celebrity Master Chef in 2013.

The Public school upper class is represented by David (Robert Bathurst) who has remarried (into money) and where early on his recognises there is no love between himself and his wife when she refuses to take the speeding points to prevent loss of his licence. She sets out to destroy him forcing him out of the house and to seeking refuge with his original series wife and their children Karen who has kept her married name. She becomes the interest of the international business man Eddie Zober (Art Malik) and they have a sexually satisfying affair. Karen (Hermione Noris has made her name and financial security in publishing and walks out when the first is taken over and the new people want to dumb down. She sets up her own company despite offers of a new life as the wife of Eddie and then joins forces with the young owner of company involved with digital marketing and their synergy leads to a new passion in her life.  David who is given temporary accommodation with his former wife also begins to appreciate her value more than ever and she also begins to see him as maturing. (Art Malik admits that instant fame went to his head after his role in Jewel in the Crown and he nearly became bankrupt with his marriage breaking up. He has since settled and gets good work although I suspect not as much as his talent should justify).

Hermione Norris also performed in two TV series where I watched every Episode Wire in the Blood and four series of Spooks and she continues to appears in TV productions and had a stage run in Blithe Spirit 2010-2011. Robert Bathurst was also in Blythe Spirit but like Hermione his stage roles have been limited over recent years and be has eight films to his credit in addition to ongoing TV roles.  In the 2016 series of Cold Feet his world comes crashing down at every level when an investment he and his firm promoted is proved to be a fraud and looking for scapegoat David is suspended and the focus of a police fraud investigation. Because of a mix up over the whereabouts of his passport which he is required to produce when seeking bail, he spends time on remand and this experience has a very positive effect. Karen is responsible for persuading him to take a firm stand with his second wife and with his employers and both situations work with all the charges against him being dropped and his wife becoming more amenable to a fair settlement. The number of positives at the conclusion made me question whether another series was being planned even though it attracted over 8 million viewers. I have since seen a report suggesting there will be.

Last word is with James Nesbitt whose work I will always watch when given the opportunity. He established himself as a serious actor in the film Bloody Sunday and since played a part in charitable and community becoming Chancellor of the University of Ulster for which has been awarded the O.B.E.  While he was the undoubted star of all the stars in Cold Feet I he is also known for his role in Murphy’s Law and as Bo fur in the Hobbit which meant two years in Australia which impacted on his marriage He has had a role as a UNICEF ambassador

The Fall-the impact of sexual abuse in a children's home and Damned - the present day Children's Department

Although the three series The Fall is about the capture of a brutal serial killer of young women in Northern Ireland as the series reached its conclusion it emerges that the killer had been placed in children’s home where he had been selected to be sexually abuse every day for year until another victim was selected and in a situation where the boys had to strip at assembly masturbate themselves and the staff. I became interested in the series only recently when I recognised that the lead female role was being played by Gillian Anderson who made her name in the over 200-episode TV series the X Files along with David Duchoveny and which led to one off cinema films and a short season (11) resurrection 14 years later of six episodes earlier this year.

Gillian plays an investigative senior police office heading a special task force on the track of  Paul Spector played by Jamie Dorman and from the episodes viewed there is an emotional and psychological intensity which is powerful and extraordinary in the  two lead performances and also the head of special psychiatric unit in which the killer is placed in very secure condition in order to establish if he is faking  short term amnesia allegedly caused by being shot when in police Northern Ireland custody and being transferred. The series is very disturbing and not for those likely to be triggered by scenes of great physical violence. Jamie Dorman is brilliant at communicate a man who is adored by his daughter supported by his wife, able to attract the obsessional devotion of a teenage girl who assaults a young woman claiming to be in a relationship with Spector, who is also able to gain sympathetic attentions from medical and nursing staff who save his life hospital, and sympathetic attention for a female lawyer assisting someone who revels in the opportunity to represent the killer and beat the state. For her persistence in proving he is faking his memory loss he made to inflict physical pain and damage on the senior police woman, kills someone at the secure unit who he manipulates to cause a riot so he can almost kill the psychiatrist in charge who has also penetrated his psychological defences. Spector can cheat years of imprisonment, psychological probing and having to face the reality of himself by committing suicide.

There is no single response in terms of later behaviour by those who have been sexual and physical abuse in childhood with Spector at one end of the spectrum. To be able to get around the alleged memory loss, the team are provided with information about a crime he has committee several years previously and for which someone has confessed and imprisoned. The explanation for this extraordinary behaviour is that the individual in question had been with Spector in the home and when Spector was asked to select the next victim to replace himself he had walked passed and selected another, although the boy new he was the likely target. He owed Spector in a way only victims who have been in similar situations can understand and akin to those in the Nazi concentration camps who could survive by assisting in some off the chores involved in the camp which included harvesting hair, gold teeth, spectacles. and anything of value from the prisoners before their extermination.

In complete contrast, I consider very funny in a healthy kind of way, the Comedy Series Damned set in the Children’s Services Department of the fictional Elm Health Council with Jo Brand and Alan Davies among others coping with the realities of their own lives. Jo’s mother has psychotic severe recent memory loss, there is a receptionist straight out of the Vicar of Dibley, a questionable acting senior and a team head under constant pressure from them above.

Damned is shown well after the watershed at 10pm which is welcomed and deliberate because of the understanding Jo has about triggering.  Jo Brand is the daughter of a social worker and she studied for a combined social science degree with mental health nursing and practiced for ten years before becoming a stand-up comedienne, writer and starring in TV shows, a personality and a minor national institution for her acerbic put downs of those who take themselves too seriously in terms of attempting to project an only one sided presentation of themselves. Her republican views and open support for the Labour Party means she is unlikely to graduate into a major institutional figure. She visited South Shields before David Miliband decided to leave Parliament and the UK to give his annual” lecture” to Party members.

She is perfectly partnered in the series which ends this evening (November1st) by her co-writer Mokwena Banks and Alan Davies, another with stand-up comedy experience, best known for his role as Jonathan Creek and a permanent member of the QI team.  I was reminded that their strength is acting as mirrors to funny side of human frailty while watching a splendid TV biography of the Mr Stand-up himself the unique and brilliant Peter Kay, another who writes, plays and directs his work and continues to live in the lace(Bolton) where he was born with his family.

However, the short series of damned is unlikely to change the need for a radical think again about how we provide child protection on behalf of the state but is does gently draw attention to the dangers of overreaction and the limitation of the case conference with its inherent problem of bring together people with a range of abilities, understanding and training and whose everyday focus is very different and at times incompatible.  In one episode, a teenage girl admits to having made up accusations against a teacher for media cash while the police want to engage the anti-terrorist squad when girls disappeared and it is the Vicar of Dibley innocent who works out the that the text of a note found t at the home of one of the girls is that of a current song of band and where the girls are identified from CCTV waiting to get into a concert after Alan Davies uses the Internet. There is a splendid last series episode with a wonderful outburst at the impact of a hundred George Osbornes on the ability of the department to cope with all the demands being made. The boss scares a teacher at the son’s school who texts him inappropriately and the mother forgets where she puts down her child in the supermarket from tiredness is given a warning (being middle class).

Code, series two and a dark net paedophile auction for the abduction and sexual use of children

The Code is an Australian drama series taking over the Saturday evening BBC Four slot usually reserved for a drama in another language than English. We are now midway through the second series of six programmes which features a computer technocrat genius on the autism spectrum, Jesse and his journalist brother Ned. Both series cover the same basic issues of government complicity and duplicity, turning the blind eye and cover up, as officials engage in crossing the line activities to protect the interests of International corporations who are not opposed to using, often at arm’s length, killing, violence, intimidation, blackmail, corruption and cover up to protect and further their commercial interests.

I am including the Code at this point because the first three episodes of the four shown to-date of the second series involves a dark net service in which children are kidnapped and trafficked for sex. The computer code break skills of Jesse is demanded by the Australian government when two of three male Australian citizens are murdered in West Papua, New Guinea, controlled it is alleged by the Indonesian Government through the tactics of a police state, opposing demands by the indigenous people for independence and freedom from exploitation by an international mining consortium with Australian, British and USA financial interests and where the ability of outsiders, particularly journalists to visit is strictly controlled.

This aspect of the fictional drama series is accurate as in the early 1960’s the Netherlands gave up its control of New Guinea with West Papua absorbed by the Indonesian Government during a period when Indonesia conflicted with its enforced involvement in the proposed new Malaysia. The conflict resulted in the defeat of the left of centre political movement and decades of right wing military dictatorship during which time the population has more than doubled to over 200 million with nearly 60% on the largest of its 13000 islands, Java, and to becoming one of the more prosperous world economies (16th). There is no political freedom of expression allowed in West Papua with anyone opposing exterminated and the rest of the world tolerating because of its capitalist interests, including arms sales.

The Australian government coerces the involvement of brothers with the threat of agreeing to extradition to the United States because of  the hacking involved  in the first series but then gain the willing participation of Jesse when he learns that the survivor of the three men attacked by the militia is the fugitive founder (Roth) of a dark net site part of which includes the children kidnapped on demand and trafficked for sexual purposes and that a male adolescent has been kidnapped and was available for the right price. Jesse contacts the service with help of the government cybercrime chief and team and offers to provide Roth with the encryption key to the Government’s internal network which enable Roth to find out the names of the undercover intelligence people after him. There is agreement to meet in the far north of Queensland  and Jesse is accompanied by his girlfriend Hani Parende, a student computer expert who in the first series is blackmailed by the national cyber unit to befriending Jesse to protect her father (whose visa is under threat and where a return to his homeland would mean torture and death) and where he was and remains opposed to her friendship with Jesse and a proposed marriage.

The couple are taken by Roth in his boat to his base hideout in the jungle of West Papua where they meet up with Roth’s indigenous wife and daughter and whose brother in law is an activist in the freedom movement. The purpose of Jesse’s visit is to plant a programme which opens the back door which all computers have and which enables direct control of content with permission, which I had once agreed and witnessed, and which can also enable authorised government operatives to use, even when devices are turned off, to turn on and monitor content. 

The two brothers, the elder Ned, are first contacted at the funeral of their mother and where the funeral also brings contact with their estranged father who previously had abandoned his wife and children. A feature of contemporary TV and film series is the dysfunctional family as the norm of family life, and which together with the increasing worldwide mobility, as much for work as leisure, means that the several generation of care and support family networks used to provide have broken or are breaking down further at the very time public service provision is being shrunk and the availability of other forms of community support is very much a lottery of geography and who you know.

Ned whose required support role for Jesse throughout the first series has been replaced by Hani, is nevertheless concerned about the disappearance of his brother who fails to return from the North Queensland meeting and starts his own investigation with the help of an estranged former girlfriend who works within the government structure. Obtaining the names of the two murdered men he notes the connection with a photographer and activist who is in fact working undercover to expose the role of external governments, the Indonesian government and the Mining Company.  She lets Ned know that Jesse is on the island and safe. Although this may have been true at the time, Roth, the undercover journalist, Jesse and Hani go into town to view the body in the morgue of a colleague who has been killed and framed for the murder of the two Australian citizens thus officially closing that aspect of the case. As they leave they are attacked by gunmen on a motor cycle but escape unharmed.

However, Jesse is psychologically affected and it is Roth who gets him back to his encampment safely. Therefore, Jesse discloses the purpose of his mission and Roth appears to be horrified that his services are being used for the paedophile network and offers to help by returning to Queensland where an associate looks after a mirror/branch server on Roth’s family farm. As they are about to arrive the boat is intercepted by the Australian border patrol and they jump overboard to go in search of the missing kid. The second episode ends.

The third episode begins as the two survive the swim ashore, recover and make their way to meet up with Roth’s associate who has effectively kidnapped the boy through grooming using a non-existent female friendship and has taken him to a property where the buyer is arriving to rape and murder and which appears to have been the fate of other children in the past. When Roth meets up with his partner he rages about his server being used for paedophilia, demands to know the location of the boy and then brutally murders the man in front of Jesse who runs off in horror and panic but can return to Canberra, the seat of government and assist in locating the premises and rescuing the boy who is reunited with his parents, and the buyer having been identified is arrested on arrival at the airport.  At this point, everyone should be congratulating themselves over a job well done. Certainly, the Foreign Minister is reassured that a politically difficult situation has been sorted.

Then three actions by the government change everything. The visa of Hani’s father is revoked and he is taken into custody. Jesse and Ned are told that the extradition to the USA is back on the agenda. The leader of the West Papua freedom movement and his family are arrested and deported from the island and the only chink in what appears to be a cover up process by the government is that Ned with visual information provided by the undercover friend on the island (Meg Flynn) is able with the help of his former girlfriend to gate crash a meeting and make direct contact with the female Foreign Minister.
Ned Jesse and Meg flee Australia and go to West Papua by plane where they head for the Roth compound. Forces who do not want the Foreign Minister making further inquiries arrange for her daughter to be given a university scholarship when all the Minister has done was to plead with the university to be flexible when the girl misses the registration date. At a subsequent meeting between the Minister and the cyber unit head, knowledge of the scholarship is mentioned and we interpret this as one other measure to stop investigation to what is going on.  Back at the compound Roth is surprised by their arrival but accepts the reasons and after getting Jesse stoned gets Jesse to break the Code for a USA security programme which enables them to affect the digital system including cameras operating in the prison where his brother in law is being held. Roth heads off to town to rescue the brother in law whose wife is already there with Ned and his daughter protesting at the imprisonment.  A motor cyclist then arrives shooting indiscriminately at protestors and Ned witnesses the shooting of Roth’s daughter as the episode ends. I will complete the review after the conclusion and say more about the first series and more about politics and big business in land of Rupert Murdoch

Monday, 31 October 2016

Missing series 2 an abducted girl reappears after 12 years

I remember well the first series of the British American Missing with James Nesbitt seeking to recover an abducted boy so I decided to watch the second series which commenced on October 12 with the 3rd episode on October 26th. I am covering some of the work of James Nesbitt when writing about the latest series of Cold Feet after an absence of over a decade.

As with Ivy in Thirteen, a daughter Alice, aged 11 years who disappeared while her father, an army officer was stationed in Germany in 2002, dramatically reappears when she walks out of a forest 12 years later and where it emerges she has held with another girl Sophie Giraux, a crime investigated by a French Police detective Julien Baptiste. He had promised to do everything to find the child but without success, he had failed to prevent Mrs Giraux committing suicide from a building in the presence of her husband who understandably has never forgiven Baptise for his failure, something which Bapriste has also failed to do.

Alice is disorientated and in bare feet when she is discovered and from the outset there are questions about her and her story. The father is played by the established actor David Morrissey who has had a long and outstanding stage, TV and film career and plays an officer no longer on active duty because of incident which has left him disfigured from burns. While he is immediately convinced the girl is Alice, his partner is not convinced.  As with Ivy the father and the victim want to return to their home but her behaviour is intended to alert us that something is not right. She persuades her brother to lock her in the garden shed at night she cannot cope with the normality of heated room, soft bed and family sleeping times. I briefly had a similar experience after months of hard bed in a cell with a light always on so a check could have been at intervals throughout the night. It also brings back the hours I spent as child kept in room and told to be silent while visitors from the homeland of my birth and care mothers were in their home and were not to know of existence.

With help in which the Amy can join forces with the German police the place in which for a time the two girls are believed to have been held together in a WWII bunker. There is a private meeting at one point between Alice and the commanding senior officer and from their conversation it is possible to say that he was somehow involved with the disappearance. A receipt discovered at the bunker leads them to a local butcher whose wife had served in the army with history yet to be revealed but where the commanding officer appears to have some hold over her. Alice identifies the butcher from a series of photos. The man is arrested and subsequently convicted and imprisoned.

The French Detective retired and suffering from terminal cancer abandons his wife determined to fulfil his promise to Mrs Giroux and her husband and persuades the parents to allow him to talk to Alice and given the similarity between the two girls when they were abducted he begins to question which girl has reappeared, doubts which the mother has already tried to voice. He speaks to the girl in French but she appears not to understand. He suggests to the mother a DNA test which Alice overhears. Baptiste contacts Mr Giroux to persuade him to go with him to Germany. Understandably he refuses.  Alive kills herself by setting fire to the garden shed with herself inside.

The series switches between 2002, 2014 and the present when the son appears to have become embittered and right wing carries out a request from Alice to visit the man she accused in prison and say sorry on her behalf. Baptiste is in Iraq in search of an army officer who he had met at the time of the original disappearance and who has joined one of the warring groups.  He persuades a journalist with connections to take up into an area of conflict and on their way from a deserted   village where there was evidence the army officer had been present they are taken by the Peshmerga soldiers and brought to their frontline where they meet up with the army officer who although appears to know something refuses to help. Back in Germany the mother comes across a video which appears to show her daughter, alive. The first series had eight episodes.

Thirteen the abduction and imprisonment of a girl for the purpose of sex

Thirteen. I missed the original BBC showing of the five-episode showing of Thirteen, the fictional account of a young women who at the age of 26 escapes after 13 years of captivity for sex. The episodes are available on the BBC I Player. She is found  by the police and DNA confirms  she is the missing daughter of a couple  who have separated, the husband living with his personal assistant at work and a young daughter who  is about to marry and lives with her fiancé at the family home, Despite warnings that adjustment  back will be difficult daughter and her mother and mother insist on an immediate return  home and mother also insists on the husband moving back into the household in order to re-establish a normality as things were 13 years before. Ivy, the victim, appears as determined as her mother to recreate the situation before the adduction.

The police have questions, not the least to identify and apprehend the perpetrator and are concerned what appears to them to be a reluctance rather than an inability help find the location. When they do they find evidence of inconsistency in the story presented that Ivy was never allowed out of the basement where she was held and which has been cleared along with the rest of house to provide no evidence or clues of what has happened and where the captor could now be. Then the discovery of female clothing in any upstairs bedroom suggests that she was allowed out of the basement and then the discovery of torn passport size photo indicates she was out of the house. Ivy claims that although this happened there was never an opportunity to get help or escape.  CCTV footage from a shopping mall demonstrates this also was not true.

The next development is the identification and location of the captor’s mother to a residential home where it established she died sometime previously but had another son. The finding that there was a younger half-brother adds to concern about the story Ivy has given.  The female police detective has been the most sceptical about the story presented and works out there is more space in the cellar area that what appears and discover a false wall behind which is the skeleton of the half-brother. The evidence of his age confirms that he was present in the property during the time Ivy was captive and it is her DNA on the covering of the remains. She admits she was present when the captor killed his half-brother and is charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Through social media Ivy had contacted a boy with whom she had been close when she disappeared. It is evident she had hoped he had remained faithful in his commitment at the time to her. He hides the fact that he has married and is guilty about establishing a life for himself and where he fails to share his developing contact with his wife and which causes Ivy and his wife to distrust him when the truth emerges. Ivy was on her way to meet up with two school’s friends on the morning she disappeared and one of the friends returns, guilty at the decision not to attend the meeting and at first is forgiven by Ivy because of all the other if only events had not happened that day. What is not forgiven is failing to disclose she had stayed with the former boyfriend and his wife on returning and knew he was married.

It has emerged that the captor had worked at the school but does this fact alone account for the panic by the Headmaster at the news that Ivy has returned and over the series we discover that the cause of his guilt is that on the morning on her disappearance he was having a secret assignation with the girl’s mother.  The younger sister at first convinced the returning young woman was not her sister changes and the two become conspiratorial and this undermines the relationship with the fiancé. The programme highlights the anger victims feel with their families over having found ways to move on.

Concern by police mounts when another young girl is kidnapped and by the same captor and because of having killed his half-brother the welfare of the kidnapped girl becomes urgent and paramount. The captor contacts the police asking for a meeting with Ivy. Everyone is reassured that Ivy will be protected at the meeting in a shopping centre with 50 plain clothes officer monitoring. Despite this the captor has contact undetected and makes his escape with Ivy on the basis the new kidnapped girl is released which she is unharmed and reunited with her parents[CS1] .

Worse is to follow because the captor can escape further to an unknown destination by causing the chasing vehicle with the two detectives to crash, seriously injuring one. We switch to house where Ivy is being half again and we learn that she had been pregnant at one point and the man appears determined to reinstate their previous relationship. She manages to escape from the house which explodes in a burst of flames in a planned suicide attempt by the captor as the police who with the help of the recovered girl have located the property. What is also clear is that the substance of Ivy’s story is proven. The outline of the story fails to convey the insight into the complex impact of being taken, raped and held for years has had on Ivy and need to block out and go back to the girl and situation as before. While there are some credibility issues in the storyline there are several excellent other performances. I am still left with the question Entertainment no so what has been the point?

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Department Q

On returning to my room and a change of clothing and time to view the last part of Strictly Come Dancing with some very good performances with one meriting 39 from 40 points, and the first hour of the X Factor before one off Danish Film Department Q. The Keeper of Lost Causes based on a book and which been followed by two other films although these are not to be shown. Watching the Saturday evening series in a language other than English has become an  important regular event in my life with Inspector Montalbano my favourite because of the intertwining of the love of Mediterranean food with his detective skill and the Young Montalbano series has also  been exceptional, similarly to the recreation of Moorse following the death of leading and irreplaceable action John Thaw, followed by the series from the books of Henning Mankell, the Detective Wallander, where Kenneth Branagh has also made brilliant English versions of the Detective and the Danish political series Borgen on Coalition government which ranks alongside the West Wing for the White House reality and the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister series here in the UK. Romanzo Criminale and Corleone focussed on the Mafia and separate Roman criminal gangsterism with the Tunnel also being notable and meriting some writing to remind me of their experience

On Saturday evening 15th October 2016 hoping to be engaged and taking away the disappointment of not being able to go and see a play at the National Theatre where I had bought an expensive ticket and the theatre was unable to give me a credit towards a future production. I watched Department Q in anticipation but conclude that there was something nasty about this work, perhaps because it came too close to the reality of the terror of what being imprisoned is like. Over the past year there has been a series of films about the taking of young women and keeping them for the sexual pleasure of one man with currently on BBC TV Missing and 13.

The one off of three films begins with interest when one of a team of three detectives is murdered, a second finds himself paralysed, the third who was also shot but survives to physically recover is relegated to permanently close the accumulation of cold cases and is appointed an enthusiastically Muslim with a taste for loud contemporary music. The sense of guilt and failure of the one who survives and the despair and frustration of second is immediately real, with the urge to get back to work understandable and the anger and frustration at being given a desk job and having to work with someone new and cannot possibly understand how one is feeling

The assistant selects the first batch of cases with a parade of photographs and which includes one, Carl, the reluctant boss knows something about the case of a young woman politician who is believed to have committed suicide disappearing from a ferry leaving her brother with what first appears to be severe learning difficulties from head injuries in a car accident which killed their parents.

The unravelling of what actually happened is thorough and clever and early on we learn that the young woman was in fact kidnapped and is being kept in a decompression chamber which limits the confined area and also enables the perpetrator to changing levels of physical unpleasantness. There is a credible method for of food and water dealing with sanitation and the provision of food and water but it stretches credulity that the woman is able to survive this limited environment for year upon year. The juxtaposition of being a witness to the horror and the brutality the young women experience and the difficulties the detectives face adds to the tension which the film creates and where it is clear that the motive for the imprisonment is not sexual but with the perpetrator insisting on having voyeuristic pleasures in her increasing discomfort making it plain he is seeking a prolonged painful death as the outcome but not why.

We learn that the perpetrator as boy was in a car travelling in the same direction as his prisoner who exchange looks as one of the cars overtakes the other, and he girl for some reason places her hand of the face of the person in front thus it is suggested causing the accident which kills parents, his sister and leads to physical and emotional condition of the girl’s brother who she now cares for. The boy is placed in a children’s home and portrayed as disruptive and violent, befriending another, who as an adult appears to have been a conference with the girl who has become a politician attends. At least this is the impression first gained as the detectives identify the friend as the likely suspect as he is identified as being on the ferry from which the woman disappeared, believed committed to suicide.

That the detectives commenced to find out what happened by going out of the basement into the field was never intended and opposed, particularly by the detective originally in charge of the investigation into the death. When it is established that the perpetrator has committed suicide over the side of a small boat, a fishing enthusiast, on a lake, the two are ordered to close the case and return to the others which the disobey and are suspended. Fortunately, they quickly discover that the dead man is not the perpetrator. Because they learn that the brother is more traumatised than physically damaged, the assistant who is a practicing Muslim, to provide the obligatory representative diversity now required has the temperament to sit with the young man until he is able to obtain responses to a collection of photographs taken at the political event and which include photos of the perpetrator. The breakthrough occurs when a witness does not identify the perpetrator as the man at the conference which the brother has identified from the photographs taken at the political event. It is at this point we understand that the perpetrator has killed his friend in order to switch identities to get to the conference after seeing a TV report of the girl as a budding politician.

It is at this point we are asked to accept another coincidence which challenges rationality, although nothing like the challenges posed by the film Inferno which I was to see the Sunday lunchtime. The perpetrator now lives in an isolated ramshackle farm assortment of buildings with his disabled mother who survived the crash but was unable to care for him as a child and where his father had work involving diving and a decompression chamber within the home. The detectives arrive do not accept the story that he is away from the mother and leave when Carl realises that the pile of petrol cans means that there is a generator which has been petrol power in order that the increase in energy use cannot be recorded but why would the authorities take an interest anyway for which there could be a number of legitimate reasons.

They return meet up with the perpetrator who at first denies and then puts up a desperate fight to complete the murder of his victim, wounding the assistant with a gunshot and almost killing Carl with a ligature. It is the assistant using extreme violence who stops and kills the assailant.  The woman survives maintained in a pressure container in an attempt to undo the adjustments to her body caused by the years of captivity in which despite the limitations of her confinement she has concentrated on remaining physically fit and sane. The two detectives are rewarded with medals and Carl told he can re-join his former team. He declines wanting to continue Department Q with the assistant and an assistant to administrative and secretarial help and no doubt to provide the female interest. For whatever unknown reason this did not become the ongoing TV series similar to Cold Case here in the UK, but there have been two other ones off films in successive years.  I can only assume this is because of the gratuitous violence used and the protracted voyeuristic scene making it more a film for the cinema than the TV.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Perspectives on Queen Victoria

A number of significant Television series programmes have or are coming to an end over the first part of October 2016 and it is difficult to decide on an order of importance so I will begin with Victoria, an ITV production of eight episodes aimed at the Downton Abbey Sunday night audience over the past eight weeks and where a second series and a Christmas special have been commissioned. The aim of the production was to compete with the BBC’s success of Poldark and its central male character, selecting Jenna Coleman who made her name in over150 episodes of the soap Emmerdale and since 2012 was the companion of Dr Who Matt Smith, with whom she worked previously and where it is said she can talk faster than him.  The series was therefore set up as mass entertainment and not a documentary on our knowledge of the Empress of India, head of the Empire, long reigning, great grandmother with many children, refusing to recognise her public role following the death of her husband and overseeing as head of state the most dramatic and significant period in the economic and social history of Britain.

Because of this I commenced to study social and economic as well as political history during the first year at Ruskin College 19611962 having previously obtained my only Advanced Level General certificate of education in the British Constitution and one of the ordinary level certificates in History and although I changed to public and social administration and child social work I have maintained an interest in the period over subsequent decades building up a mini library of non fiction.

The overview of the period centering on the role of Government are Edward Woodward’s Age of Reform 1815 to 1870 and The Ensor England 1870-1914 in the Oxford History  series, together with  Court’s Economic History, Arthur Bryant’s English Saga, and with a focus on Queen Victoria, Kings and Queens England edited by Antonia Fraser together with her editing of the  Dorothy Marshalls Victoria which includes contemporary visual records and the authoritative biography by Elizabeth Longford who was gained access to the Royal records and a wide range of other documentation including the diaries. The relationship between Queen Victoria and Lord Melbourne, a period in which she was referred to as Mrs Melbourne because of the amount of time spent with him, is covered in David Cecil’s biography called Melbourne. G.M Young’s Portrait of an Age together with the Victoria Age 1815-1914 by R J Evans provides also broad sweeps of the period. Cole and Postgate’s, The Common People and Cole’s History of the British working class movement cover the traumatic transition from an agricultural to industrial economy. Social concerns are covered in the biography of Shaftesbury by Georgina Battiscombe with the underclass covered in Peter Quennell’s London Underworld and Kellow Chesney’s The Victorian Underworld, together with Dickens of London by Wolf Mankowitz and contrasting with Young’s Victorian Essays and Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians. The last word on the era of the British Empire is covered by Colin Cross in The Fall of the British Empire.

With this knowledge immediate available together with films and TV series about the era going back over several decades I commenced to view the new television series with some apprehension asking the question how will it measure up as dramatic and information entertainment as well as historical accuracy? The most recent films have been Emily Blunt’s Young Victoria and Judy Dench as the widow Queen, provocatively titled, Mrs Brown but I can go back to the Anna Neagle films made in 1937 and 1938 Victoria the Great and Sixty Glorious Years, the BBC TV series Happy and Glorious 1952, the 1964 Granada TV series Victoria Regina and their I997 series Victoria and Albert. Give my recent writing on the Kinks they created a song in 1969 called Victoria.

The mistake I believe ITV has made is to attempt a ratings and attention competition with the BBC over Poldark and the need to attract the Down Abbey and Upstairs and Downstairs audience and the younger generation to stay watching after the X Factor by some spicing up and creating events about without there is no historical basis or twisting past events to meet fashionable contemporary attitudes. The audience has fallen from eight and a half to just under seven and a half million before the last series one episode this past Sunday 9th October 2016. The choice of the former Dr Who assistant as the Queen and the approach of the production led to a massive outburst of spleen in the Spectator by James Delingpole who called the work silly, facile and irresponsible and went on as a sub head to say “I blame the feminisation of culture.” His outburst provoked a massive response of outrage. The Guardian was more appreciative but also opened by suggesting that ITV “didn’t need to embellish” the life of the Queen, claiming it was wild enough already. Matthew Dennison went onto suggest that its silliness was due to exaggeration that grossly distorting of facts arguing that a good fist was made of the relationship between the young Queen and Lord Melbourne. She did loathe her mother’s “adviser” and thought her mother weak and over protective. She resisted the attempts at forced marriage and came to adore him. There was open hostility to Albert because he was German and resistance to his being given a formal role and by Victoria to his participation in helping out in her official role. She was the subject of what appeared at the time to be an assassination attempt but the idea that Albert took an immediate interest in the plight of the working classes or the Queen expressed views in support of the Chartist movement appear to have no foundation. It would be surprising if any young mother did not have great fears about her first child birth and the loss of some children was commonplace as well as breeding many children in part to compensate for their loss, but mainly because begetting children was regarded as a male right and confirmation of his masculinity and respective roles of men and women in their place. In this respect the notion of any woman, including a reigning head of state having opinions or taking decisions unguided by men was unthinkable. I also suspect that there is no evidence for the stories concerning the Royal Household.

My response after watching the first episode live has been to record and watch when I can later sometimes fast forwarding sequences lacking any interest. I have never watched Poldark. I looked forward to watching Downton Abbey which had characters of substance which I was able to believe in and where a commitment to portraying the period was scrupulously researched and implemented throughout. I came to care about most of the characters but this was lacking throughout the first series of Victoria. It will be interesting to see the width of the time period and the  international and nation event upon which the second series is to be based.