Sunday, 13 November 2016
Paranoid, The Moonstone, and Dark Angel - crime on TV
Paranoid came to the end of its eight-week run on ITV last week, and I've just caught up with its final episode of. Bill Gallagher's conspiracy thriller. It felt like a guilty pleasure. Yes, there were massive plot holes, and the behaviour of the three lead detectives made it seem wildly unlikely that they'd ever hold the bad guys to account. But the rural Cheshire locations delighted me (quite a lot of the action took place in Dusseldorf, but never mind) and the pace of the story compensated, by and large, for the wackiness of some of the twists.
The idea was that a bunch of cops based in "the back of beyond" stumble across a terrible secret while investigating the bizarre shooting of a local doctor (filmed in Tatton Park). There was a dramatic cliffhanger scene set at night on Anderton Boat Lift, a fantastic choice of location, and even a scene set five minutes' walk away from my house, in the centre of Lymm. I loved all of this, even if Indira Varma, Robert Glenister and their German colleague, the mesmeric Christiane Paul, were all such mavericks as to make Morse look like Dixon of Dock Green. There was a great in-joke in the first episode, when the cops are promised back-up from the forces of Cuddington and Waverton - two tiny Cheshire villages. Will there be a second series? I rather doubt it. Another global conspiracy centred around places like Knutsford, Northwich, Lymm, and Frandley would be testing credibility even more than this story did. But we live in interesting times, so you never know....
The Moonstone, a five-part daytime BBC drama, also had counter-intuitive elements. I liked the idea of the black butler, Gabriel, a brave concept that worked well, though I felt his chumminess with his employers was less than realistic. Terenia Edwards (no relation) was a convincing Rachel Verinder, and though I felt that the story was rather stretched out to fit the five episodes, it was all in all a decent version of one of the great Victorian novels of sensation.
Dark Angel (not to be confused with various other stories with the same title) was a two-part ITV show about Victorian serial killer Mary Ann Cotton. Joanne Froggatt played her very well, and Alun Armstrong was good, as usual, as her step-father. Mary Ann had a penchant for putting arsenic in people's tea, and she did this so often that the attempt to stay true to her criminal career verged, unintentionally, on the comic. Again, though, I stayed with this to the end. Like the other two shows I've mentioned, for me it had quite an appeal, despite occasional flaws in the scripts.