It’s got to the stage now where saying ‘there’s some great TV drama around at the moment’ is completely superfluous. It’s like saying ‘the weather’s warm for the time of year’ – it’s always warm! It’s called climate change! – and in the same way since we are obviously in a golden age of TV drama, there’s always some good stuff around. Part of the reason I guess is the multiplicity of platforms; here at home we only have terrestrial plus Netflix, but there’s Sky and other digital platforms plus whatever HBO is (I’m guessing it’s not a bank.) But I suspect there are other reasons too; for a start, drama is a better way than comedy of dealing with the horrendous problems facing us. Part-escapism, part gritty-realism, good drama leads to catharsis; by immersing ourselves in the problems of other people and seeing those problems work themselves through, we are better able to deal with our own. It’s more than a distraction and less than reality.
So, having said that, which good dramas have I been watching this week? First is the BBC’s excellent ‘Trial of Christine Keeler.’ I’m not quite old enough to remember the original story but its ramifications continued well into the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies; in fact you could say that, like the Chatterley trial it was a seminal event in the unravelling of the status quo. Chatterley unravelled the era of sexual repression; Keeler, the age of deference.
It’s brilliantly done, this; Keeler is no dumb victim (though she is a victim too) but a knowing, wisecracking, cynical yet personable young woman. Yet she is also the victim of predatory, privileged older men who pass her around for sex and of younger boyfriends who beat her up when she ends their relationship (since her boyfriends are black, they suffer too at the hands of a racist police force.) The sexual hypocrisy of the time hits home during the scene where Keeler, having induced an abortion, lies on the floor of her mother’s house crying and bleeding. Her mother enters, takes in the situation at a glance and gives her an almighty slap. Yep, that’s what it was like – I remember it well (not that my mother would have behaved in that way, but it would still have been a great scandal.)
There’s a terrific cast: Ben Miles as Profumo is almost, though not quite, the equal of Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe (another scandal which toppled a major public figure) and Sophie Cookson is pitch-perfect as Keeler. It’s not over yet, there are another two episodes to go, so make sure you catch up while you can: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000ct7b/the-trial-of-christine-keeler
This series of Dr Who has been excellent so far – though last night’s episode was a bit vanilla, harking back to the day’s of gravel pits and low budgets – but the other thing I caught up with was a film on Netflix about Lowry.
One of the encouraging things about biopics of famous people is seeing how little their work was originally valued. This was particularly true in Lowry’s case as he was completely dominated by his mother who, if Vanessa Redgrave’s ice-dagger performance is anything to go by, was a grade-A, cold-hearted, self-centred, manipulative b*tch. Lowrie reminds me of some ground-down Alan Bennett character (except that he wasn’t gay – at least as far as we know) collecting rent during the day and painting at night whilst looking after his mother. But adversity is often a spur to the dedicated artist and so it proved in this case. Nothing could stop Lowrie painting and today he is admired and loved throughout the world – and perhaps most of all by those who don’t generally ‘do’ art. There’s a centre in his native Salford dedicated to him, a recent undiscovered painting of his sold for £1m – and one of the most surreal moments of the film was seeing Timothy Spall finishing this picture and looking up from the screen to see it on our wall.
That about sums it all up I think.
So yep, there’s some good stuff around. Let’s make the most of it while it’s here – and make the most of me too. Tomorrow I’m off to Doncaster and thence to Scotland for a few days, so I shall not be posting.