All right, I surrender. There’s just no way on earth I can deal in 600 words with all the great, or potentially great, TV that has been on lately. Emma; Alex: A Passion for Life (the sequel to that moving documentary about the brilliant Etonian musician with cystic fibrosis); Generation Kill. Truly, it has been what we classical scholars call a Weekus Mirabilis. I’m going to deal with just three offerings.
First, Criminal Justice (BBC1, all week for a whole hour each night, which is a serious commitment, n’est-ce pas?). I’ve only seen episode one and I’m torn. I sympathise totally with screenwriter Peter Moffat’s predicament: every possible permutation in psychological courtroom-drama murder-mystery has already been done on TV a billion times, so the only way you have left to maintain viewer interest is through trickery.
You withhold key information: who is this strange, cold, fragile woman (Maxine Peake)? Why does she not answer the phone in that incredibly irritating way when her smug barrister husband (Matthew Macfadyen) calls? What’s with the shower and the pills? How does any family get to keep their home quite so chic and minimal? Why does this series feature virtually the entire cast of Little Dorrit?
At the end of part one, smug barrister lay dying (or possibly not) of a stab wound inflicted (or possibly not) by his wife. But do we care enough to invest another four hours of valuable life waiting for the outcome? If the secret is that the pretty teenaged daughter did it, well I’m not happy because she looks nice and pretty. If it turns out the wife did it, well she’s frazzled and weird and what did you expect? All very languorous and finely drawn and lots of acting going on, though, I’ll give it that.
True Blood (Channel 4, Wednesday) is HBO’s biggest hit since The Sopranos and was created by Alan Ball. I hope it doesn’t go badly off, like his previous ex-masterpiece Six Feet Under did. Mind you, name me one US series that doesn’t go off. (Apart from The Sopranos, the exception that proves the rule.) The only question is will it be three or four episodes in, like Lost, a series in, like Heroes, or several series in, like Frasier?
What True Blood has in its favour is that it’s about vampires, which are my all-time-favourite horror creature. Many of my happiest moments of abject terror have been spent watching vampire films, be they Salem’s Lot, 30 Days of Night, or the underrated Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. It’s the fangs, I suppose. And the clammy un-deadness. And, perhaps the connection with mosquitoes, which I loathe and fear more than any other animal in the world. Just so long as they’re not wussy vampires, that’s the key. I really can’t be doing with this Twilight nonsense where vampires have been reinvented for pubescent girls and they go round being all pathetic and gay.
Ah. That digression leaves me just a paragraph for FlashForward (Channel 5, Monday), whose awesome, tremendously pacy start has left me longing to see the other 20-odd episodes. Get this: on a given day, the entire human race loses consciousness for exactly two minutes and 17 seconds (imagine the mayhem and carnage! Actually, no need: the first 20 minutes took care of that for you), and wakes up to find that everyone has had vivid premonitions of what’s going to happen at a particular hour six months in the future. But will we have given up by then in boredom and disappointment? Or will we be hanging on in there on the edge of our seats? My precognitive powers say…Oops, I’m out of space.