Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

TV show a nasty, tedious piece of derivative rubbish

Fall guy: Jamie Dornan
Fall guy: Jamie Dornan

This week I want to talk about The Fall. Not the Mancunian post-punk legends, whose latest album, Re-Mit, is every bit as good as the rest of their 35-year blistering output.

I'd rather, but I feel the need to write about the other Fall, the BBC serial killer series filmed in Belfast, with real local accents and only the merest whiff of the Troubles.

Yes, it's a sign of normalisation when a story of a knicker-sniffing lunatic strangling good-looking professional women is filmed here and he's the only one wearing a balaclava.

I think we in Northern Ireland have been beguiled by the first two episodes, because we're so grateful to have some prime-time, grown-up TV about us.

But we've missed something. And that is that The Fall is a nasty, tedious piece of derivative rubbish, forcing us to watch semi-naked women being brutalised under a thin veneer of all that is awful about current TV drama.

The mumblecore acting, the dodgy sex, the cliched loner cop with unconventional methods, all filmed as if at the bottom of Lough Neagh.

Modern mainstream TV is a desperate grab for ratings under the commissioning gaze of thirtysomethings with irony bypasses. It squeezes the life out of success, leaving repetition and boredom in its wake.

The Fall is the arid husk that is left, the hard bit of toothpaste in the tube, after a genre, which started with something quite interesting in Scandinavia, has been reproduced so many times you can barely make out the outline of the original, and more nuanced, concept.

We're asked to marvel that the series has revealed the identity of Jamie Dornan's killer from the start, as if this is mind-blowing innovation, rather than a method that forces us to identify with him as he stalks his prey.

And we are invited to suspend disbelief that his wife would not suspect something's up with a husband incapable of muttering more than two words in a row to her and the kids and who gives beer to 15-year-old babysitters. You don't have to be Poirot, Mrs Killer.

As for maverick cop Gillian Anderson's desperate bouncing around on top of hunky cops in her hotel room, purleeze. There's more eroticism on the Match of the Day sofa.

It's the post-modern coolness with which TV treats foul murder that truly offends. The Fall is an absolute stinker that should have women's groups picketing the BBC.

But we should not be surprised. Outside of the excellent BBC4 and the odd bit on Channel 4, prime-time innovation is extinct. Formats are beaten into the ground before a stupefied audience.

A stocky, middle-aged baker is a star, karaoke singers rule and there's not even a Mike Leigh, or even a Boys from the Blackstuff, to leaven the drivel.

There's no joy of discovering format-busting innovation, in fact there's no joy full stop. It almost makes you want to sit through a box-set of the Darling Buds of May as therapy.

When was the last time the central character's laugh, rather than serial killer stare, was the memory you took away from a post-watershed drama?

Look, we should be grateful that we are getting a little slice of the drama pie here and Belfast, or at least the Botanic Gardens, does look pretty good.

Perhaps The Fall could serve some useful purpose. Perhaps it will be the death-knell for smart-arse, cynically grim snuff dramas masquerading as sophisticated works of art.

Then we'd have something to thank Northern Ireland for.

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