Friday, 7 August 2015

2 Episodes of British TV That Prove It’s Currently Amazing!

There's plenty of successful British TV shows out there at the moment; you only have to take a look at the boundless spread round the globe of Sherlock, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife for evidence of this.

But as entertaining and engaging as these shows are they're yet to truly move us in the way that art (and TV's the most modern and accessible of all arts) is capable of.

Sometimes you need reminding of what it is to be human and the fragility of our emotions and capability for making sense of this crazy world we footle about in.

And, sadly, this impact on the sensory receptors associated with our heart and soul has been missing for a long time.

But then 2015 happened and everything changed with two episodes of British TV so packed full of emotion and delivered like a sledgehammer to our spirit that we could barely move for days afterwards.

Let's take a look at what these were and just why they were so devastatingly sublime and able to transcend the usual telly watching experience.

1. Inside No. 9 - The 12 Days of Christine

That Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are a right couple of sorts, ain't they? From The League of Gentlemen to Psychoville they've always managed to conjure up a mercurial combination of laughs and human suffering.

But with Inside No.9 they took this alliance of emotions to a whole new level. And one episode in particular - The 12 Days of Christine - burst through our beloved Smart TVs, through the roof and up into the stratosphere where even St Peter had to say "Look here, lads, this is my jurisdiction, so hop it!"

The 12 Days of Christine, you see, was a gut-wrenching, bewildering and disturbing view of life through the beautiful (see her dressed up as a naughty nun for evidence) eyes of Sheridan Smith as Christine. At first, of course, she appeared to be living nothing more than the quintessential twentysomething lifestyle with romance and family invading her habitat.

However, it soon became apparent that something in this narrative weren't quite what it should be. Eggs were mysteriously smashing on the wall (never a good sign), whilst a hooded, evil figure appeared to be trying to kidnap her beloved son, Jack. Christine, obviously, felt as though she was having some type of brainal meltdown and desperately tried to snatch her life back.

"What in the name of Methuselah is going on?!" we screamed at our TV as the drama unfolded, but obviously we was more hooked than a salmon on that John Wilson's rod.

The crushing emotional turmoil unfolding in Christine's psyche and her struggle to make sense of all this mental turbulence tapped deep into some primal fear within us. A fear where losing our mind and being unable to cope with the normality around us left us overwhelmed and all anguished up.

And then Pemberton and Shearsmith delivered their killer blow which left us winded and gasping for breath.

Because old Christine wasn't suffering some type of mental illness. It was much more tragic and we discovered that all these little plot beats scattered throughout the episode - the broken eggs, the hooded figure, the changing timelines - were hallucinations brought on by Christine's life flashing before her eyes as she slips away to meet St Peter at the pearly gates.

Death, man's ultimate foe and something we desperately try to block out with, ironically, things such as TV was laid bare in front of us. We could go at anytime and what a tragic reality that is for anyone who's ever experienced the highs of life.

2. Cucumber - Episode 6

Russell T Davies' Cucumber had a lot going for it with its detailed analysis of a fractured relationship between Henry (Vincent Franklin) and Lance (Cyril Nri) in amongst the thriving gay scene of Manchester.

The relationship between Henry and Lance was going down the swanny from the very first episode, but we (and countless others) presumed that there would be some reconciliation when they both realised that the grass wasn't always greener on the other side.

Davies, though, with one of his fiendishly tricky twists decided to completely shatter this illusion in episode 6 and, not only yank the carpet from under our plates, but utterly disturb us in the process.

Opening with a caption of "Lance Edward Sullivan 1966-2015" we immediately knew that poor old Lance wasn't going to come up smelling of roses, but what the Sam Hill was gonna happen?!

The episode contained flashbacks to the formative experiences Lance had traversed on his way to becoming a gay man. From early disgust at the reproductive process through to the concealment of issues of Playgirl and on to being rejected by his father, we saw it warts and all as Davies cranked up the sympathy for Lance's struggle through life.

But in between all those flashbacks came the real darkness as Lance's complex relationship with the handsome, but disconcertingly confused Daniel (James Murray) came to a head. Now, Daniel, of course, was a seemingly laddish, right proper heterosexual geezer, but still found time in his busy manly diary to rib Lance about his obvious infatuation with him.

Lance, however, frustrated by years of an unsatisfying sex life with Henry took these mixed signals from Daniel as a sign of intent or, at the very least, a challenge. And, dare we say it, but the great ladies man Daniel even seemed to be reconsidering his erstwhile pledge to pursuing the female flesh.

So, Lance and Daniel ended up heading out to Manchester's gay quarter for a night on the tiles, but Lance slowly began to realise that Daniel wasn't quite the saviour he suspected. At turns cruel and controlling, he also demonstrated hints of narcissism with his own ego seeking victory at all costs. Lance's doubts left him threatening to call a taxi and leave, but Daniel manipulated Lance's lust, yet again, and stopped him leaving.

There was one final chance for Lance to be saved with the eerie appearance of Hazel (Denise Black) who warned Lance to go home whilst he still had the chance. But Lance's mind was made up and he weren't stepping back from the precipice of a night with that hunky Daniel fellow.

Lance and Daniel retired to Daniel's flat where an awkward sexual encounter took place, but it wasn't the embarrasing "oh lets laugh about it years later" type. It was a sinister and disturbing one which led to Daniel being consumed by self loathing as the masculine constructs he prided himself on collapsed around him. And he soon turned this anger on to Lance who just wanted to get the hell out of there.

But thanks to a fatal blow with a golf club, Lance never got out of there.

And it's then we realised that the flashbacks were, in fact, Lance's life flashing before his eyes and confirmed that he spent his life desperately struggling to achieve, just for one second, the security of acceptance.

For the next few days we felt terribly numbed by the whole thing. The whole process of dying had been played out in front of us; we'd been taken to a dark corner of humanity where sexuality and mental anguish wrestled to the death.

Most of all we found it so terribly unfair on Lance. All he wanted was to be happy, but like Icarus he flew too close to the sun and came crashing down.

What Does it All Mean?!

Now, we're not suggesting that every TV show should focus on having an episode where the main character dies and their life flashes before their eyes. That would become terribly repetitive and if they employed it on EastEnders then God help us when it came to Dot Cotton's opus magnum.

What we want from our TV is scripts that are permeated with the pain and joy that the characters are feeling. And neither should that emotional strength just be conveyed by verbal or physical confirmation, it should be hanging in the air at all times to truly move us and convince us that it's a world worth investing our precious (and often guarded) feelings in.

And that's exactly what Inside No. 9 and Cucumber delivered this year. So, more please!

1 comment:

  1. yes!!! that ep of Cucumber!!! i was not impressed with the series up til then, was popping in and out, but THAT..!!!! that was what drama is all a-bloody-bout!!!!! just amazing. i'd buy that on Blu-ray on its own!!!!