Plus: the BBC’s adaptation of War of the Worlds is deeply sad. Will we ever again see a faithful, honest, politics-free adaptation on the BBC?
George (Rafe Spall), Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) in War of the Worlds
Edwardian England deserved everything it got from those killer Martian invaders. Or so I learned from the BBC’s latest adaptation of The War of the Worlds (Sundays). Everything about that era, apparently, was hateful, backward and ripe for destruction: regressive attitudes to women and homosexuality; exultant white supremacy (cue, a speech from a government minister on the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race); a general prevailing bone-headedness and stuck-upness; stiff, stuffy, relentlessly brown clothing with superfluous belts; and as for those ridiculous bristling moustaches…
Still, I don’t think H.G. Wells would have been totally appalled by this travesty of his 1898 potboiler. Wells was, after all, a man of the left who would later write of Stalin: ‘I have never met a man more fair, candid and honest’, and who flirted with most of the politically correct causes of his day, from Fabianism to anti-imperalism. Early in the book, he rails against the ‘extermination’ of Tasmanian Aborigines by ‘European immigrants’, asking: ‘Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?’
Some of the killings are so heartbreaking you half-wonder how decency could possibly allow such horror as TV entertainment.
My favourite epithet about my favourite TV series was the headline in a review by the Irish Times: ‘Gomorrah. Where characters die before they become characters.’
The review appeared to suggest that this was a bad thing. But I disagree. What made Game of Thrones so original and compelling, especially in the early seasons, was its refreshing willingness to break convention by murdering key players at the drop of a hat.
The latest from David E. Kelley, who also wrote Ally McBeal, shows he has a rare knack for getting inside women’s heads
Six hundred and thirty years ago, Chaucer revealed in ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’ that what women really want is to be totally in charge of everything. With Girl now back home permanently having done her A levels, I can confirm that this is true: no longer am I in control of what we watch on TV, not even when I plead that it’s my job and how else am I going to be able to afford the extensive tour of Magaluf and Bali etc. that she’s got planned this summer?
But I don’t mind really because it means I’m forced to watch stuff there’s no way I would have seen otherwise. And in doing so I become a better and wiser person because of all the fascinating things it teaches me about the female psychopathology.
Plus: why a cultish New Zealand horror-comedy fly-on-the-wall mockumentary about vampire housemates is worth your time.
After its new costume drama You Go, Girl! (Sundays) about how amazing, empowered and better-than-men women are, especially if they are lesbians, the BBC ran its first ever Nike ad. At least that’s what I thought initially: rap music, moody shots of athletes, very high production values. Then I saw they were all grim-faced women and the word ‘RISE’ in flames and I thought: ‘Big new drama series? About girls who’ve been sucked into this very strict Christian cult, a bit like the Handmaid’s Tale, maybe?’ Then I noticed they were all wearing football kit and kicking balls around, and went back to my original Nike idea. Finally came the big reveal. It said: ‘#CHANGE THE GAME. FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2019.’
‘Unfunny, boring and utterly unrelenting,’ says the Guardian’s one-star review of Chris Lilley’s new sketch series Lunatics (Netflix). And if that’s not incentive enough, our woke critical chum goes on to declare the series ‘problematic’. That’s a weaselly way of saying ‘this triggered all my snowflake sensitivities’ but in such a way as to make it sound like a loftily objective judgment.
In truth, Lunatics is only problematic if a) you have no sense of humour and b) you’d prefer all comedy to be politically correct, inoffensive and utterly devoid of satirical edge.
Plus: was Fleabag really profound and true? Or sententious, hormonal, millennial drivel?
If you liked Triumph of the Will, you’ll love this latest masterpiece of the genre: Our Planet. The Netflix nature series exploits the prestige, popularity and swansinging poignancy of Sir David Attenborough to promote an environmental message so relentlessly dishonest and alarmist it might have been scripted by the WWF.
‘Walruses committing suicide because of global warming.’ That was the nonsense from episode two repeated uncritically by all the newspapers, none of which seems to have been much interested in questioning the veracity of the claim. You’ll never guess what it was that really drove those walruses over the edge of the cliff… Ironically, the likely culprits were polar bears — that supposedly threatened species whose population has grown exponentially in the past 50 years to the point where they are now beginning to become something of a pest.
Plus: congratulations to Peter Jackson for one of the most superb pieces of trolling I’ve ever witnessed on TV in They Shall Not Grow Old.
Narcos is back on Netflix, set in Mexico this time, with a cool, world-weary, manly voiceover swearily lecturing us at the beginning that if we smoked sensemilla in the 1970s, then we were partly responsible for the bloody, endless drug wars that went on to kill more than half a million people.
Oh really? Sensemilla (derived from the Spanish for ‘without seeds’) is the kind of product of human ingenuity and free markets we should be celebrating, not decrying. It’s more compact than bog-standard weed, making it easier for entrepreneurs to ship, thereby increasing their profit margins. It affords a sweeter-tasting hit and a more euphoric high, thereby giving greater pleasure to the consumer.
Of course I empathise with the victims of the drug wars, such as the 43 students kidnapped and massacred in Iguala, Mexico, in 2014.
How long do the state authorities think they can get away with it?
I wonder if Wisconsin has any idea what an international embarrassment it has become? By rights it ought to be an unexceptionable place, little more than the quirky answer to the occasional trivia question: ‘Where is the Badger State?’; ‘Whose state governor shares a name with the singer of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)?”’; ‘Which US state makes more Swiss cheese than Switzerland?’
Sadly for this unassuming Great Lakes state — pop. six million — it has instead become an exemplar of the kind of official corruption, mendacity, hypocrisy, bovine incompetence and rampant injustice less often associated with the leader of the free world and the beacon of democracy than with Islamofascist republics, equatorial African kleptocracies and other third-world hellholes.
This is all thanks to the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, which holds the state’s apparatus responsible for one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in recent history.
You don’t get quite the same production values in things like C5’s How the Victorians Built Britain but you don’t get the PC bollocks of Bodyguard and King Arthur’s Britain
What a load of utter tripe Bodyguard (BBC1, Sundays) was. Admittedly, I came to it late having missed all the sex scenes with Keeley Hawes and Robb Stark, which may have dazzled me in the way they seem to have dazzled many impressionable viewers.Sex scenes in TV drama are a bit like the chaff used by fighters to distract radar-guided missiles. You’re so busy feeling simultaneously awkward and embarrassed and half-titillated, covering your eyes with your fingers, wishing your other half wasn’t watching with you because then it would be proper porn and you could enjoy it, that you sometimes forget to notice what convoluted, implausible tosh the surrounding drama is.
For too long the leftie-dominated entertainment industry has been ignoring the truth about our world
This week’s guilty pleasure is Tom Clancy’sJack Ryan (Amazon Prime). It’s trash, of course, but very well done, high-octane, watchable trash. And if you want to feel better about your lowbrow tastes, make sure you read the finger-wagging critique by one Sonia Saraiya in Vanity Fair first.
‘Jack Ryan feels like a machine designed to turn us all into the sort of viewers who disappear smiling down jingoistic Fox News rabbit holes,’ she says, enticingly. And: ‘Both its protagonist and its plot are based on the foundational, unquestioned notion that American-military might — the best-funded killing infrastructure in human history — is helping to save the world.’ And: ‘Its other primary story objective is proving that Jack Ryan deserves his white male entitlement…’
Not so much a guilty pleasure after that little lecture, then; more a bounden and sacred duty.