“New Town” BBC 4, 9pm, February 14th
There is a story, more than likely apocryphal I’ll admit, about the radical UCLA graduate who washes up on the
Cue long embarrassed silence…
I was reminded of just how wide the Atlantic can be and how long people can take to dry off, as it were, after watching Annie Griffin’s latest offering on BBC4. Annie, an American, has been resident here in God’s Country for some time. As a writer she gave us TV’s “The Book Group” which was brilliant, she gave us cinema’s “Festival” which wasn’t. The Book Group worked because, despite being set in
Festival, set in
With New Town, a murder mystery set amongst property wheeling and dealing types, Annie returns to TV and Edinburgh but the script lacks the intimacy of Book Group without fully convincing the viewer that Annie has a confident grasp of the warp and weft of the broader Scottish culture. Leave aside the uncertainty of tone, (Realist? Fantastical? Black comedy? Modern Gothic?) and there are still questions to be asked about how sure Annie’s grasp is.
Irritating little errors abound in the show which I’ll leave to others but there are two absolute humdingers that I can’t leave alone.
First, casting. For some reason, Annie has put a blonde wig on the Anglo-Iranian comic Omid Djalili and asked him to play a Scottish-accented property developer. Er, why?
No offence to Omid Djalili‘s abilities but I’m sure there are a lot of Scottish actors who could’ve handled what’s not an especially demanding role and by default, made a better job of the accent. When Djalili concentrates he carries it off but too many times his accent slopes off to somewhere east of
And then, second. there’s the character “Rhian from Vatersay”.
Remember the movie Brigadoon? Well, imagine that the producers cryogenically froze one of the supporting players, accent, other-wordly feyness, weird dress and all. And then imagine that Annie thawed the actress out, gave her a cup of tea and invited her to just carry on pretending she was in Brigadoon. The character, Rhian, come to
I can see what Annie’s possibly going for here, some idiot-savant shtick, whose innocence contrasts with the avarice and stupidity of contemporary
This is maybe risking digging up the bones of Monarch Of The Glen again but who is this character meant to be kidding? I don’t know of anyone in modern
I’ve no idea the status of New Town, whether it’s a one-off or a pilot, but if it's designed to get a series, there’s a lot to sort out. A show that has the ex-Episcopalian bishop Richard Holloway guesting as a blind minister is a bit up itself if you ask me.
Needs work, a lot of work.
PS: I’m sure BBC 4 will repeat this show, so let me know what you think. I’d especially like to hear from the solicitors who read The JT what they make of the show’s (ahem) casual ”explanations” of how Scots Law works.