Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Cinema Verite (Sky Atlantic): the birth of reality TV

Here's another quick review for Orange.

Way back in 1971, before "fascinating social experiments" like Big Brother were even a glint in a producer's eye, American film-maker Craig Gilbert put us on the road to TOWIE with An American Family – the fly-on-the-wall documentary that largely invented "reality TV". 

Cinema Verite, produced by HBO Films, dramatised the filming and aftermath of the series, starring James Gandolfini (Jim Royle on steroids) as Gilbert, and Tim Robbins and Diane Lane as Bill and Pat Loud, the heads of the wealthy Californian family that went under the microscope.

As the family struggled to get used to the constant surveillance, the caustic script by veteran screenwriter David Seltzer made it clear that the relationship between the philandering Bill and the flinty, abrasive Pat was already close to breaking point.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Fades (written by Jack Thorne), BBC Three

A bit late, but here's a review of BBC Three's new fantasy/horror series, The Fades, that I wrote a couple of days ago for Orange.

I didn't get chance to mention it in the review, but one brave choice that I really appreciated as a writer was having Paul wet his bed.

It was just a small character detail, but one that you'd never expect to see in a teen hero and something that highlights the compassion and insight that runs through Jack Thorne's writing.

Award-winning writer Jack Thorne might not be a household name, but having come up through Shameless, Skins, Cast Offs and This is England '86 in recent years, he's a man whose time has very much come. His new show, The Fades, is a fantasy horror series that proves you don't need a big glossy production to come up with some very effective chills.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Body Farm (BBC)

Here's a quick review of last night's The Body Farm I wrote for Orange.

Waking the Dead had enjoyed a pretty good innings when the BBC laid it to rest earlier this year. However, it didn't take long for Auntie to exhume its mouldering remains for this spin-off series. So, did it leave a good-looking corpse? 
The Body Farm sees Tara Fitzgerald reprise her role as forensic scientist Dr Eve Lockhart, who runs a remote research facility where she studies the way corpses decompose.

However, the real world came a-knocking again in the form of grisly copper DI Hale (Keith Allen), who'd made a gruesome and puzzling discovery in a tower block – something only the body farm's boffins could decipher.

Friday, 9 September 2011

My friend Janet

Last month my beautiful friend Janet Ellis died of cancer, aged 45.

She wasn't just my friend: she was also my sometime writing partner. She was a very experienced child-protection social worker, and she wanted to use her experiences as the basis for a drama series.

We talked about it extensively a few years ago, but then I got sidetracked by my MA. When I graduated in 2008 we got stuck into it properly, and eventually came up with the pilot for a series called Care and Control.

As a characteristically garrulous Yorkshire woman, Janet had a fantastic ear for language and dialogue and a keen observational eye; the raw material she came up with just sang off the page.