Thursday, 17 May 2012

Television Reviews: 18 May

Michael Moran on two shows that add thoughtfulness to entertainment

Written by Michael Moran
Michael-Moran1We're in the middle of an adult television renaissance. Broadcasters, and significantly advertisers, have seen a whole generation giving up on broadcast TV and starting to buy quality series on DVD instead.

Hence the welcome appearance of shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Homeland on our schedules to woo us back. Sky Atlantic has specialised in buying up those big US drama series that British viewers have traditionally consumed by the box.

This week, though, it is launching its first home-grown drama series. Hit & Miss (Tuesday, Sky Atlantic at 10pm) retains the US connection in the form of star Chloë Sevigny, but it's a homegrown affair beyond that. It's created by Paul Abbott, who has been behind the long-running and very rowdy comedy-drama Shameless and the thoughtful conspiracy thriller State Of Play. Hit & Miss has a little of both.

Sevigny plays Mia who, depending on one's point of view, is the hero/anti-hero or heroine/ anti-heroine of the piece. She's an assassin for hire who happens to be in the middle of a sex change. That's not especially shocking nowadays. It's probably more outrageous that she smokes. We've had a transsexual character in Coronation Street for over a decade. It's nevertheless an intriguing source of dramatic tension. It's also educational for those of us who have never even dared to use our wife's razor.

Mia's 21st-century urban life is derailed when she finds herself as the de facto mother of a group of young children living on a ramshackle pig farm.

Hit & Miss is decidedly adult television. Not just because people swear, take their clothes off, talk about sex and commit murders. It's adult TV because it unfolds at a thoughtful, novelistic pace and doesn't pander to its audience. It's by no means going to be everyone's cup of tea. I was entirely gripped. I was hoping to watch episode two 'live' but the lure of the preview DVD may just prove too powerful.

Now classical music isn't everyone's cup of tea either. It isn't mine, for example. So when I say there's a diverting feature-length documentary about the life of Frederick (Fritz to his family) Delius on BBC Four this week, you might think 'that's all very well, but he's hardly Elvis'. And you'd be right. But only just. The story of Frederick Delius is an extraordinary one, superbly brought to life in Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma (Friday, BBC Four at 7.30pm).

Born in Yorkshire of German extraction, he was a voluptuary even by the standards of the Naughty Nineties. Without the advantage of contemporary video, the programme effectively combines vintage stills, evocative montages and some passionate 'talking head' interviews. Even if you're not familiar with his gospeltinged pieces that anticipate Aaron Copeland, or his great shimmering glaciers of sound that anticipate Brian Eno, I'm sure you'll be absorbed by this brilliantly crafted 90 minutes. I certainly was.

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