NOTE ON SPOILERS: If I didn’t include some spoilers, there would be nothing to discuss, so if you haven’t already seen this on BBC Four, please be forewarned. However, I have tried to be as brief as possible and avoid any major plot spoilers. The problem, of course, with that is that it may appear to some that nothing much happens, and nothing could be further from the truth…
Loss, grief, lies, sadness, stalking, mutilation, drugs, child porn, affairs, darkness, murky pasts, kidnapping, gambling, ghosts, suicide and of course murder. The Bridge is back!
Whilst this season sees the return of Saga, Martin is a no show, mainly due to him being incarcerated at the end of series 2. Is he missed? No, probably not. At least not as big a loss to the series as it would be if Sofia Hellin left, but he is certainly mentioned quite a bit in the early episodes, presumably to set some kind of undertone of guilt at his situation. In fact, with one of the key themes being ‘the past’ in this series, Saga is shown to be just as affected as the victims and suspects, and Martin isn’t the only aspect of her past that comes to haunt her…
In keeping with the partnership between Denmark and Sweden, Martin is duly replaced by an equally as unwilling Danish successor who doesn’t last long before being catastrophically removed, and replaced in turn by Henrik, a man who seems a better match for Saga. A man who, on the face of it (and we should know the Bridge well enough by now to know that everything is not always as it seems) has a very odd relationship with his young family where he can go out at nights and meet (and sleep with) strange women.
Plot-wise, the case itself kicks off early with a murder and macabre staging of the body of a gay-rights promoter. It would appear there is a killer intent on promoting traditional family values (of the sort generally trampled upon by protagonists and antagonists alike in this programme) above all else. But with the Bridge, we know that red herrings appear as much in the plot as on the plate.
All the way through, there are gory and grisly murders that weave together the characters who so often come and go. You really have to pay attention, and it is easy to miss details that become important later on.
The setting is typical Bridge – night is dark and day is washed out. The absence of primary colours is highlighted neatly by Asa Holst’s utter objection to a green room in an otherwise completely white house. Speaking briefly of Scandinavian décor, epitomised by the Holst’s mansion, the Bridge seems to be telling us that the neater and more orderly everything seems to be on the surface, the more unhappy and flawed people seem to be.
The pacing is very fast, just like Saga’s car, which is so perfectly suited to the character. It’s fast, functional, beautiful in an unconventional way, and certainly not glamorous. The car which of course conveys our lead frequently across the eponymous Bridge.
Speaking of the Bridge (which we must, briefly), surely everyone knows by now it is half a bridge and half a tunnel – if you haven’t already, look it up on Google maps – you see a bridge disappearing into a hole in the middle of the sea. It’s fascinating, and of course looms large over this series.
At any rate, the fast pacing along with the large number of characters and subplots that seem to have nothing in common do make this an exercise in paying attention. It also seems to be dark most of the time and I cant always tell if we are in Malmo or Copenhagen unless the twisty tower or the circular forecourt (of the Copenhagen police) are shown. And with the languages sounding awfully similar to my ignorant ear, it is difficult to tell which characters are Swedish and which are Danish.
But whichever language is spoken, the performances are all top notch. Sofia Hellin as Saga is excellent, with twitchy facial movements reminscent of Claire Danes in Homeland. That aside, she seems to have become colder, more determined. While her bluntness, particuarly with Henrik, leads to some of the most cringeworthy (the singles club) and funny (My Little Pony) scenes in the series, it is when, with her new boss, she is on the receiving end of the same brand of bluntness that we see Hellin’s finest scenes.
While the subplot of Saga’s sad past is driven by the presence of her mother, this relationship also drip-feeds us more information and more insight into Henrik’s sad situation, so much so that it is these stories on which we end, once the case is wrapped up. Henrik is given a part resolution which of course only makes matters worse and the most important part of Saga’s life is about to be taken away. As a result, a common purpose sets them off on a road together, the road in question of course is the one that goes across the Oresund Bridge.
Disc extras include an hour-long documentary including earlier series, so of course Kim Bodnia is included (which is actually a lovely nod to the theme of ‘past’ in this series). There are interviews and behind-the-scenes with lots of chilly-looking people including the creators. It gives interesting insights into themes, setting and cinematography.
There is also an “audience with Sofia Hellin” – a live stagechat in English (held in London although bizarelly with an American interviewer). Again, fascinating insights particularly into Saga’s characterisation, but it is really wonderful to see Hellin’s real facial expressions which unsurprisingly include more smiles and far fewer frowns. While I sincerely hope there will be a fourth series, I feel pleased that Sofia Hellin will get some respite from the constant frowning!
The Bridge Series 3 is fantastic gripping stuff. Slow, thoughtful yet quick paced and no filler. It is one of the best crime dramas out there, from any country. Even if you have seen it on BBC Four already, I guarantee you will pick up more from a second watching on disc. I will certainly be watching it again without the distraction of writing notes and the pressure of writing a review – as I said before it is so easy to miss important details.
9/10 – Fantastic gripping stuff!
Humans Season 1 arrived on DVD this week, so I thought it might be a good opportunity to take a look at the series and give our opinion of it. Coming from the makers of Utopia & Broadchurch, and written by the folk behind Spooks, you really couldn’t ask for a higher calibre team behind a show. The story is set in a sort of parallel present, where robot servants (aka ‘synths’) are common place. From doing household chores, to dangerous industrial jobs, to the rather more dubious sex working models. Whatever your ‘needs’, there is a synth to help.
Father of 3, Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill; The Imitation Game), is struggling to cope at home whilst his workaholic wife Laura (Katherine Parkison; The IT Crowd) is away all the time. So he takes it upon himself to order a synth to help around the house. Picking up the synth they name Anita (Gemma Chan; Dates), she appears to be a great help, however Laura is not so keen on this other ‘woman’ invading her home. Although Anita is supposed to be a brand new model, there appears to be some sort of glitch in her system, that occasionally makes her do things that seem somewhat human…
Whilst Laura may feel uncomfortable about having a synth in the house, other families have embraced them with open arms. Retired synth engineer George (William Hurt; Damages) treats his synth Odi (Will Tudor;Game of Thrones) rather more like a son than the medical support bot he was supposed to be. Now way past his warranty, Odi is malfunctioning, but George is struggling to let go. Meanwhile DS Pete Drummond (Neil Maskell; Utopia), who is tasked with investigating synth related incidents, along with his partner DI Karen Voss (Ruth Bradley; Primeval), is struggling to cope at home as his wife Jill (Jill Halfpenny; EastEnders, Waterloo Road)seems to prefer her synth to him.
There is also Leo (Colin Morgan; Merlin, The Fall) is a human on the run with his synth, Max. The pair are searching for someone. But who and why? And why does Max seem far more human than any synth should be?
The casting of the show is particularly good, but stand out performances for me come from Gemma Chan, who’s disturbingly eerie portrayal as the synth Antia is mesmerising to watch, and also Colin Morgan playing a character far from the light-hearted Merlin for which a lot of us know him.
Humans is an interesting cross section of what life might be like if (and possibly when) we have the technology to create robot servants. How would we react to them. Would we anthropomorphise them, or treat them as the machines that they were designed to be? If we create a machine with the ability to learn, could it then become sentient? After all, what is the brain if not a biological computer. Just because something is created by man as a mechanical construct, if it can feel and think, does it have rights? This of course is not the first time this question has been asked, but Humans is a great example of the genre. It’s a thought-provoking, gripping drama that asks you to look into the soul of ‘what is human’.
9/10 – Thought-provoking, gripping drama
Over the year’s there have been plenty of attempts at TV series’ looking into the life of the homosexual, many of which have followed a group of stereotypical camp, sex-crazed friends as they battle to find themselves through drink, drugs and debauchery.
At long last though a series has risen from the ashes offering a refreshing look at a group of friends who just happen to be gay.
HBO’s ‘Looking’ has had audiences hooked in the US and it’s about to do the same in the UK as it’s released on DVD and Blu Ray.
‘Looking’ focuses on an unlikely group of friends; Patrick the gaming geek (Jonathan Groff), Agustin the failed artist (Frankie Alvarez) and Dom the older, more mature friend (Murray Bartlett). Throw in Doris the token SBF (straight best friend), Richie, the love interest (Raul Castillo) and of course Kevin the boss (Russell Tovey) and you have something rather special.
Patrick takes on the role of lead protagonist as that friend that we all have that hasn’t had a serious relationship. After meeting Richie on the train (because where else do you get chatted up?) Patrick finds himself falling for Richie but making mistake after mistake in that adorable way that your friend-who-is-more-like-a-brother does. Having finally found something special in, enter Kevin, the equally as geeky boss who, as if by fate, turns out to be gay too. I won’t spoil what happens next but you can probably guess.
From the word go you immediately fall in love with the characters. Despite all being at different phases in the lives and having completely different personalities, it’s this unlikely friendship that keeps you coming back for more.
As the series develops there are no massive cliff-hangers or big shocks (well not ones that you didn’t see coming) and it’s quite often a little predictable.
Despite this, the show keeps you hooked and you find yourself switching your favourite character from episode to episode.
The setting of San Francisco offers something a little less grimy and less Sex In The City. Of course the show features sex and drugs, but what show doesn’t now? Theses vices are linked to the stories but don’t make it awkward to watch, but in fact offer a few laughs.
With plenty of heart, Looking is a real feel-good show, making you wish that your friends were like that (no offence guys).
To celebrate the release of LOOKING: SEASON ONE, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on 12th January 2015 courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment, and Season 2 due on Sky Atlantic soon, we take a look at the career of Russell Tovey, the lone Brit in season one who has excelled in theatre, film and TV roles over the years.
This pitch-perfect HBO series about three friends in San Francisco stars Russell Tovey as Kevin Matheson alongside Jonathan Groff (Patrick), Frankie J Alvarez (Agustín) and Murray Bartlett (Dom) as the central characters attempting to navigate the various pitfalls of dating, careers and everything in-between. Tovey plays Patrick’s boss and the pair develop an inappropriate, flirtatious relationship that leads to a mix of gratification and regret. Tovey has been promoted to series regular for the second season, due to air in 2015.
The History Boys (2004-2006)
In 2004, Tovey scored the role of Rudge in Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys at the Royal National Theatre after a number of promising theatre appearances straight out of high school. Tovey also went to Broadway with The History Boys and although he originally auditioned for the role of Crowther, he agreed to act the part of Rudge after Bennett promised to beef up the role. Rudge, the dopey and intellectually challenged member of the highly intelligent history boys, attains his place at an Oxbridge university on the basis of his prowess on the sports field.
My Family and Other Animals (2005)
In 2005, Tovey played Leslie Durrell in My Family and Other Animals, an autobiographical film by naturalist Gerald Durrell which tells the tale of his childhood on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. The autobiography is a comic exaggeration of the foibles and anecdotes of the Durrell family in the four years before WWII. Also starring Eugene Simon, Imelda Staunton and Chris Langham, Tovey shines as Leslie, who develops a distinct passion for sailing and ballistics.
Gavin & Stacey (2007-2009)
James Corden and Ruth Jones’ award winning romantic sitcom Gavin & Stacey came to television screens in 2007 to widespread acclaim. The show captured the attention of the British public, who immediately fell for Jones’ macho catch-line machine Nessa and Corden’s hilarious, energetic and emotionally childish character Smithy, whilst also enchanted by the long-distance relationship between Gavin (Matthew Horne) and Stacey (Joanne Page). In the series Tovey plays the loveable nit-wit Budgie; one of Gavin and Smithy’s Billericay friends who develops an unlikely friendship with Brynn, played by Rob Brydon.
Tovey returned to television screens in January 2012 in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’; the most iconic episode of Sherlock Holmes which also stars Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. He plays Henry Knight who, aged seven, saw his father torn to pieces by a monstrous creature at Dewer’s Hollow near their Dartmoor home. Twenty years later Henry happens upon the footprints of a huge beast and suspects that the nearby Baskerville government research station is breeding mutant animals.
When an island off the coast of Ireland is invaded by bloodsucking and sea-dwelling aliens, the heroes discover that getting drunk is the only way to survive. Tovey stars in this ridiculous yet entertainingly inebriated film as marine ecologist Dr Adam Smith. In Grabbers, Dr Adam Smith taints his blood with booze so that he is poisonous for the aliens to eat, alongside a hoard of fellow inebriated Irish villagers.
Being Human (2008-2012)
Being Human first aired in 2008 as a unique British supernatural drama television series in which a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost attempt as best as they can to live a “normal” life together and blend in with the ordinary humans around them. The show’s five series star Lenora Crichlow as Annie Sawyer (a ghost), Aidan Turner as John Mitchell (a vampire) and Tovey as George Sands (a werewolf). The show blends elements of horror drama and flatshare comedy as the three attempt to live together harmoniously whilst avoiding detection by the humans around them.
Effie Gray (2014)
Effie Gray is the biographical drama that takes a look at the mysterious relationship between Victorian art critic John Ruskin and his teenage bride Effie Gray, played by Dakota Fanning. The screenplay, written by Emma Thompson, was cleared of two copyright lawsuits that had claimed the script had been plagiarised from earlier dramatisations. The lawsuits led to repeated delays of the completed film before it was finally released in October 2014. In the film, Tovey plays Ruskin’s butler George alongside an impressive supporting cast including Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters.
LOOKING: SEASON ONE, is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 12th January 2015, courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. The complete season is also available to own and watch instantly on Amazon Instant Video, Blinkbox, Google Play and iTunes.
Modern Family kicked off season 6 on Sky 1 last night, and while it wasn’t a classic it was still a solid start. The previous seasons had got better as they went on with some of the most love-able characters and funny interactions. Out of the 3 story lines last night, the Dunphy storyline was probably the most funny especially the dynamic between Luke and Hayley! While a solid start, the season should get better especially with Modern Family having some quality comedy guest stars such as Adam DeVine, Rob Riggle and Jordan Peele!
Season 6 continues Monday at 8.00pm.
The Big Bang Theory Season 8 kicked off last night in good fashion. After last season’s mediocrity of episodes and it being quite frankly repetitive, this new season seems refreshingly better. Every character last night had at least a few lines which caused some great laughs, being the Big Bang at its best! In true Sheldon style he had managed to have all his possession’s stolen which was utterly brilliant to see and witnessing him in his underpants in the Police Station was hilarious!
The 2 stand out character’s last night were Sheldon and Stuart. Sheldon as always, had his sarcastic and condescending killer lines and Stuart was brilliant in his new “rivalry” with Howard which brings us another great story-line for the season. A great start to a hopefully fresh new season!