Written by TV

Television Bits and Pieces

Starting tonight, ITV1 is stripping its latest drama, Injustice, over five nights at 9pm. I still believe that this is a pretty stupid way of scheduling a drama, unless it’s so far superior to everything we usually see that it really is a special event. But that’s never the case, and although I’ve yet to see an episode, I find it hard to believe that it warrants this treatment.
The really daft thing is that it comes up against the second episode of Case Histories that BBC1 is broadcasting on Monday. This in itself is daft. I realise that the six part series is made up of three two-part episodes. But it means that the series will be burnt through in three weeks, leaving much less opportunity for viewers to discover it.
ITV1’s viewers will even have less chance to watch Injustice as it comes and goes from our screens in a single week rather than over five. As well as being up against Case Histories, it also competes with Game of Thrones and All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace on Monday. That means I have no chance to see it. And since ITV Player has yet to do a deal to appear on Sony TVs and BluRay players, I’m unlikely to see it via catch-up either (I can’t watch hour long dramas on a laptop screen).
Running it for five weeks on Tuesdays would have been more sensible. It avoids the watercooler TV that is The Apprentice on Wednesdays, the superb Shadow Line on Thursdays, and the various Friday comedies. Indeed Friday is a terrible day to present the denouement to a drama anyway. Light entertainment is the way to go on Fridays.
So a potentially decent drama series is pointlessly burnt off.
I’ve just been catching up with The Shadow Line, and it really is good. I was left a bit uncertain after the first episode, and just let my PVR capture the next episodes. But I’ve now sat down to get up to speed and it gets better and better. I can’t believe how good a cast they’ve got. Rafe Spall really does come across as a psychopath (I’ve been reading Jon Ronson’s new book), and Christopher Eccleston’s calm mannerisms are very believable. We’ve now come to a lovely turn from Antony Sher, while Stephen Rea’s be-hatted character is as sinister as they come. He’ll be the baddie in a big Hollywood film as a result of this, anyday now. But it’s Chiwetel Ejifor who’s the star, and deservedly so. There are two episodes left, and the questions are mounting up as the carefully constructed story unfolds.
If I have a criticism, it’s that there aren’t enough well developed females characters in the story. Kierston Wareing is terrific as Ejiofor’s tough number two, well able to take care of herself, and Lesley Sharp’s portrayal of Eccleston’s Alzheimer’s suffering wife is very moving. But neither are as central to the story as the male characters. It was great fun seeing Eve Best show up though, since her character, Dr O’Hara, in Nurse Jackie is wonderful.
Doctor Who left us with a mid-series break, and it was a non-stop affair this week as the Doctor and Rory attempted to rescue Amy and her baby. The big reveal was about who River (Alex Kingston) Song was. While I liked the episode, there was just too much packed into 45 minutes. Either the story needed to be pared down, or it needed a longer running time. As it was, we didn’t learn nearly enough about the eye-patch wearing Francis Barber (being a sort of Servalan for the 21st century), and we’ve yet to know what happened in the Utah desert at the start of this series. We now have to wait until September to get some answers. The headless monks will certainly have given a kids a few nightmares. Overall it wasn’t a vintage episode, an accolade that must fall on Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” a couple of episodes ago. Suranne Jones’ performance in that was enough to make me tune into ITV1’s new Sunday night police drama Scott & Bailey in which she also stars, but it was a crushing disappointment.
I’m still not quite sure how it was that I caught it, but The Convenience Store on NHK World was a lovely little documentary charting four years in the life of a small village grocery store in rural Japan.
That may not sound like the most appealing programme description, but in fact it was a wonderful piece.
There’s a major issue in the Japanese countryside that sees ever more young folk head off to live in the big cities. As a result, the padi fields are overgrowing, and there are more and more dormant households. The rural villages are left with largely a pensioner population, and that means problems if you’re unable to get around and have no family living nearby to help you.
Miwako who ownes the Yabukoshi store is a miracle. She seems to be the de facto social services, as she runs her elderly customers to and from the shop, as well as dropping them off at clinics. Her shop becomes something of a social meeting place, with a number of chairs laid out for visitors for whom she (or another customer) make drinks. She knows that as the population falls, there’s a question mark over how long she can remain, but in the meantime, she’s the heart of the community. A fascinating piece that – with perhaps the replacement of treacly English language voiceover – could happily find a place in something like Storyville.