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Crime watch

Oh. My. God. Can it really be, like, 16 years since it was 1993?

21 October 2009

12:00 AM

21 October 2009

12:00 AM

Oh. My. God. Can it really be, like, 16 years since it was 1993? I very much fear it can and the reason the thought is so bothersome is that I remember thinking, even back then, ‘Blimey, I really am getting on a bit. Can’t do pills nearly as often as I used to. The yawning grave beckons. Etc.’

This all came back to me while watching Murderland (ITV1, Monday) in which Robbie Coltrane plays someone a bit like Fitz from Cracker — only with most of the vices (drinking, chain-smoking, gambling) removed. Coltrane has denied there’s any connection, pointing out that this new character is a detective, not a criminal psychologist, and that the new series is more multiple-viewpoint psycho-drama than police procedural. ‘Yeah, right,’ we viewers all thought, the second Coltrane slunk on looking troubled and rumpled and said something rumbly and Scottish. ‘If this isn’t Cracker Mk II then I’m Hagrid’s jockstrap.’

And none the worse for that. Cracker was probably the most influential British crime TV drama of the Nineties, launching everyone involved into the small-screen stratosphere: scriptwriters Jimmy McGovern and Paul Abbott; actors Christopher Eccleston, Geraldine (phwoar — in a weird and interesting way) Somerville, Lorcan Cranitch, Robert Carlyle, John Simm, Samantha (also phwoar — in a weird and interesting way) Morton, and of course Robbie Coltrane. Indeed, I’m quite prepared to believe that, if it hadn’t been for Cracker, the Noughties would never have happened.

One effect Cracker had which wasn’t so beneficial, I think, was its love of warped, sadistic ultraviolence. At the time it felt quite refreshing and different for British TV but now, such is our appetite for the decomposing corpses of pretty little murdered girls who’ve had butterfly wings stitched on to their eyelids and their skin crocheted with the pages of the King James Bible (or whatever new pervy serial-killer signature the scriptwriter has dreamed up), you simply can’t sit through a crime drama without a stiff drink and a ready sick bag.

Anyway, Murderland: I enjoyed part one very much, especially Lucy Cohu’s brilliant — if slightly mannered — perf as the murder victim’s daughter, and the very redolent party scene where the two 16-year-old-ish girls in the denim hotpants and black tights that girls wore in those days ran upstairs to find a naked woman with some lines of coke chopped by her bed and Leftfield’s ‘Open Up’ playing in the background. Gosh, wot larks we apparently had back then.

Defying Gravity (BBC2, Wednesday) is a US/Canadian/UK/German co-production set in space which was cancelled after the first series owing to general lack of interest. Having seen episode one, I can see why. There are two basic types of space drama: the type where nothing happens endlessly and very, very slowly (Solaris; 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the type where you think nothing is going to happen then suddenly it does, boo! (the Alien series; Ghosts of Mars). I much prefer the second, but I suspect this is going to be more like the first.

Certainly, it didn’t augur well in the first episode when the Hindu astronaut flips slightly and decides to take an unscheduled space-walk. ‘Fantastic,’ you think. ‘He’s going to tear off his spacesuit and we’ll watch him explode. Or some kind of alien will bite his head off. This will set the tone for future episodes where the multi-ethnic crew will die at the rate of roughly one a week and the fun will be guessing who and how.’

Instead we were treated to some dreary cod-spiritual guff about how soulful and caring humanity is (or some such: I wasn’t really listening), while the Hindu guy was pulled lovingly back to safety and heartwarming music played in the background. For some reason its saccharine ickiness reminded me of my least favourite global-entertainment franchise, the Cirque du Soleil. Then I remembered that Canadians had been involved in this co-production too. Not pointing any fingers, but…

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