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Sidmouth Manor Pavilion Theatre - An Inspector Calls (with James Pellow)

Folks who know me very well often say, kindly I think, that I should get out more. I’m a grumpy old sod at the best of times and in the ...

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Bridge and The Killing (BBC4)

I have never been a great subscriber to populism. Prefer to do my own thing rather than follow the latest trend. If I had been born a greyhound I would have been so slow out of the traps I reckon the hare would have lapped me before I got going. Take your time I says, assess the situation, gather the facts. Form your own opinion. Stunningly astute or plain bloody lazy? Take your pick. I have no idea but it has saved me wasting a lot of precious time on things that, when you sweep away the hype, are patently abysmal. Following this sensible maxim has saved me from the worst excesses of Fifty Shades of Grey, The Da Vinci Code, Britain’s Got Talent, Downtown Abbey, The Daily Mail, November Moustaches, and Nick Clegg. To name but a few. Equally I have no desire to bungee jump for charity, wear a badge proclaiming my beliefs, or do anything on television. If it’s the fashion, the perceived wisdom, or the popular view I tend to veer the other way. Sheer bloody mindedness and a strong desire not to be controlled. Probably explains why I loathe practically all government initiatives. Especially the ones telling us what to do or think.

Does have its downside, of course. Except for Nick Clegg. Being so stubborn in my refusal to join in with fashionable hype or hysteria I have missed out on a few things. Took me years to discover the joys of an iPod, Calvin Klein underpants, and Robert Goddard’s cerebral mysteries. But I soon catch up. Eventually. Bt Infinity, Stieg Larsson, and Quantitative Easing are a cinch at my dinner table discussions. I particularly like Stieg Larsson. The success of his Millennium Trilogy obliquely launched numerous Scandinavian dramas and, belatedly, the TV executive suits woke up to a blindingly obvious fact. A lot of us can actually cope with subtitles. Suddenly BBC4 was awash with cerebral crime dramas which a few years ago would have not got a look in. Took me a while to find them but Arne Dahl and The Bridge on Saturday nights soon became a must see in our house. Belatedly I have been splashing out on sundry Nordic Noir DVD’s and it will surprise few who lap up this genre that I am completely hooked.

The Bridge (Series One and Two) still ranks as my favourite in spite of over stretched plots. The chemistry between the autistic Swedish detective (Sofia Helin) and her philandering Danish counterpart (Kim Bodnia) is quality acting of the highest order. In narrative that grips throughout, detailed police procedure interspersed with pleasingly complex storylines, attention is permanently held in a way that British TV crime drama rarely does. The Killing (Series One and Two) matches, and probably exceeds, The Bridge for in depth relationship and convinces me that my first taste of this latest fashion was no happy accident. These Scandinavians know how to craft and develop gripping stories that require a heavy dollop of attention span and trust they have an audience capable of applying it. Sofie Grabol as Sarah Lund, famed now for her unprepossessing jumpers, gives a performance that deserves every award thrown at her. Her dysfunctional detective is surrounded by quality actors, Morten Surballe is superb as her boss Lennart Brix, and in series one Ann Eleonora Jorgensen gives a riveting performance as the murder victim’s mother. If you see no other modern Scandinavian crime drama you could do worse than try series one of The Killing as a taster. It is long, twenty episodes covering twenty days, but its mix of police procedure, political intrigue, and domestic grief and recriminations gains a hold on your attention that never lets go. Or it did for me.

So I am now following a fashionable trend, even if a bit late in the day. Have just bought The Killing (Series Three) and Those Who Kill from the same director. So I have a lot to look forward to in the evenings when dreary British TV schedules offer up the same load of rubbish that they have been churning out for years. There are exceptions (37 Days on BBC2 was riveting World War One factual political drama) but they are like hen’s teeth. I generally prefer the radio. But I like, no love, these Nordic crime dramas. They tick all my appreciation boxes.  And, actually, I quite like Nick Clegg. Just being provocative. It’s Paddy Ashdown I can’t stand. Roy Hall

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