Sunday evening seems to be a magnet to TV planners looking for a slot to place a cross-family drama series and last weekend we had four new programmes scheduled within the old mainstream TV channels.
Our viewing kicked off at 7pm with ITV’s Beowulf – Return to Shieldlands, previous viewing in this slot was Mr Hyde and Doctor Jekyll; good-looking young man fights with monsters both internal and external. Beowulf’s opening credits were supported by both music and graphics which bore more than a passing resemblance to Sky’s Game of Thrones. Based on a Viking/Saxon legend it featured monsters, a good-looking young man and … to be honest I can’t remember. I thought the gold screen in the Great Hall was beautiful but I wondered if it was in keeping with the period. However, except for a girl blacksmith (as in A Knight’s Tale but not many history books) and her mother sleeping with, then marrying, a young man who I think was a friend of the title character I can’t remember what all the shouting was about. Chris seemed interested so will probably be tuning in again.
Viewing continued on ITV with a two-hour episode of Endeavour. Set in the 60s it features the popular Morse character created by Colin Dexter and brought to our screens by the late John Thaw. Morse has been released from prison and is living in a cabin on land owned by a wealthy university friend. A young girl is killed by a car on the land, the next-door neighbour is a wealthy man who supposedly went to Harvard and tends to call people ‘Old Man’, he is in love with his neighbour’s wife (who he has past history with), the wife tries to fix up Morse with her girl-friend, who is a professional tennis player, not golf. By now bells should be ringing that plot-line has been adapted from The Great Gatsby, however we are ignoring the sub-plot of the circus with its side shows. In 70s I went to a circus in Gloucester and it still had side-shows, this one had a magic act which the murdered girl had been enticed to take part in, her boyfriend also ‘won’ a teddy-bear despite not hitting the targets. The teddy contains drugs and links to Bixby (the Gatsby character) who is involved with a man who deals drugs (I think it was liquor in original story). Then Bixby is found dead in a lake, no swimming pool being available. Here the plot looks to another source for inspiration which The Prestige provides. Entertaining enough, but hopefully follow-ups will be more original and develop series main characters.
The two-hour slot meant a clash with both BBC1 War and Peace and Channel 4’s Deutschland 83. Luckily a combination of Sky Box and Channel 4 +1 meant I could record both programmes.
Andrew Davies has adapted Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel hence it is screened passed the 9pm watershed. Costumes, scenery, dialogue and cast all glitter in the white/right places whilst darkness prevails over the scenes of death, duplicity and corruption. A first episode is really the introduction of the characters and an insight into their ambitions, whereas Beowulf failed to engage War and Peace did so with ease and its hour passed too quickly.
Deutschland 83 is actually a German production so that the ‘what have I seen them in before?’ question, which arose in all three of the above, was redundant. It is set in a divided Germany in 1983, the last years of the Cold War. It is subtitled, which I prefer to dubbed. An East Germany agent persuades her bosses to use her soldier nephew in an undercover operation, even though the boy himself is not keen to be involved and abandon his sick, single, mother. He is abducted and wakes up in West Germany where he escapes to stand paralysed by culture-shock in a supermarket full of fresh fruit, veg and tins of food. He is trained and takes on the identity of an aide to an American officer. The real American boy is killed on route and his Eastern-Germany doppelganger arrives at the American base in his stead. So far its non-predictable plot engages the viewer fully, it is difficult to do other things when you have to read the subtitles! And, unlike other recent European offerings, it moves at a reasonable pace.