Thursday, 12 July 2012

Television Reviews: 13 July

Michael Moran finds you’ve just got to roll with new drama Blackout or switch off

Written by Michael Moran
Blackout, a new three-part drama (Monday on BBC One at 9pm) starring Christopher Eccleston, is one of those shows founded on a premise so giddy that you have to either roll with the daftness of it or switch off altogether and go out for a walk. Given the terrible rain we've had lately, you may as well give it a chance.

Last week's opener introduced Eccleston as Daniel Demoys, a frankly terrible chap, whose prayers for redemption are improbably answered in the form of a surprise elevation to Mayor of Manchester. Or at least, a terribly rainy city that looks an awful lot like Manchester.

But Demoys is haunted by a terrible secret. And if you want someone to look haunted, Eccleston is your man. Few actors have mastered the haunted expression to the extent that Eccleston has.

The fact that Demoys is haunted bespeaks a certain innate decency. It's not as if he's happy about his awful misdeeds. And in episode two he justifies that miraculous second chance at life by implementing some of the kind of policies that we all wish our local councils would.

Luckily, he's the sort of fantastical mayor you get in American shows. The kind of mayor who can actually get things done rather than just open fetes while wearing Mr T-style jewellery.

Actually, Daniel Demoys has had two sensational strokes of luck. He's not only the mayor, he's married to Dervla Kirwan too. Here is the kind of woman who can bring 90 per cent of the men in Britain to a gentle simmer just by reading out a description of potatoes dauphinoise. In Blackout she's the kind of woman who isn't given quite enough to do, but she's indicative of an immense strength in depth across the cast.

Andrew Scott turns up as Detective Dalien Bevan, the policeman whom you feel will – sooner or later – unravel Christopher Eccleston's secrets. The only problem there, is that he was so thoroughly convincing as the ophidian Moriarty in Sherlock that I have trouble seeing him as anyone else.

MyAnna Buring is Bevan's wife Sylvie, who has the look of a femme fatale straight out of fi lm noir. Coincidentally, she also has the demeanour of a femme fatale straight out of film noir.

Branka Katic pops up from time to time as a nurse called Donna, who appears to be effectively the physical manifestation of Demoys's unhealthy relationship with alcohol. The entire programme has a sort of magical realist quality, placing the mood somewhere between Gabriel García Márquez and Neil Gaiman.

Always, at the core of the show, is Demoys's alcoholic blackout. Well, that and the persistent rain. It's a terribly stylish programme. Indeed at times, the style threatens to overwhelm the substance, but there are worse ways to while away an hour. If only it were not raining all the time.

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