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“What Happened To Shame?” TELEVISION! Sometimes I Just Veg Out In front Of The Tube!

John Kane

So I was going to write about some comics but I just wasn’t feeling it. Being a big Elvis fan I am all too aware that you should never force it, so I wrote about some television instead. I hear people like television.

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Anyway, this…

TURKS & CAICOS
Written & Directed by David Hare
Starring: Christopher (“The ICE! is gownna BRICK!”) Walken, Bill Nighy, Winona Ryder, Hansel Piper, Dylan Baker, James Naughton, Zach Grenier, Julie Hewlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Rupert Graves, Sally Greenwood, Ewen Bremner, Malik Yoba, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Meredith Eaton and special sexy guest appearance by Ralph Fiennes
(BBC2, 2014)

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I don’t know if you’ve seen Turks and Caicos because I don’t know who you are or where you live. But if you were watching BBC2 at 21:00 hours on Thursday 20th March 2014 you were probably watching this programme. Turks and Caicos is a prestige high production value TV series clearly intended to be attractive to overseas purchasers. It’s from the BBC which as a pedigree still carries some classy clout so it is not just a posh thriller but the second in a trilogy of political dramas. It’s by David (Plenty, Damage, The Hours) Hare who is a highly regarded screenwriter, but I watched it because Christopher (The Dead Zone, Seven Psycopaths) Walken was in it. I am downright incorrigibly plebeian, ain’t I just? Bill (Still Crazy, Shaun of the Dead) Nighy’s also in it doing that weird acting thing he does that makes you suspect he hasn’t fully recovered from a long illness or something. Bill Nighy’s okay but he isn’t The Walken. The Walken plays a CIA (or is he? Yes. Yes he is.) Agent who blends into the sedate and monied surroundings of the titular island setting about as unobtrusively as a man on fire at a children’s party. He’s great, obviously. The Walken’s acting has now evolved to the point where it is all concentrated in his head and his body has become surplus to his thespian requirements. He maybe moved one hand and walked all of two yards throughout but still conveyed so much menacing energy I considered contacting the local constabulary.

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Anyway, I didn’t watch the first in this trilogy of political dramas (Page Eight (2011)) because it didn’t have The Walken in it, but it’s easy enough to pick up the gist of this stuff. What we have here is at root a revenge fantasy for elderly liberals. It’s an Oxbridge One Tough Bastard, basically. So, instead of a man with bad hair and the acting chops of a foot solving all his problems by shooting them in the face here Bill Nighy uses manners, decency, decorum and a belief in Trust to, over three episodes (there’s a concluding one later), bring down a Prime Minister. A Prime Minister who is in no way, shape or form to be taken as a fictional version of Tony Blair; wherever you got that idea from you should put it back sharpish. So it’s complete wish fulfilment of course; a nice fantasy, but we all know that if some decent old dude started kicking up a fuss about the dirt under the government’s fingernails it would all end tragically very quickly indeed, not that that’s ever happened. In a casting masterstroke Not-Tony Blair is played by Ralph (In Bruges, The Grand Budapest Hotel) Fiennes who is so rewarding a screen presence I don’t mind his real-life inability to pronounce his own name correctly. The Fiennes looms magnificently in the background like a sexy but sour cloud of condensed lies and sleazy self-interest for a whole thirty seconds, but he works each one of those seconds like it’s a school leaver on a Zero Hours contract.

So, you know, it could just basically have been ninety or so minutes of The Walken shelling peas with The Fiennes ambling past in the background and I’d have been fine. Even better though, as I said, Turks and Caicos was also a liberal humanist version of all those violent movies I used to watch from the video shop but now with manners instead of magnums and instead of a Colombian drug dealer as the End of Level Boss it’s The Prime Minister of Great Britain. There’s a veneer of complexity with a follow-the-dirty-money-plot generously larded with shout outs for “The War On Terror”, the recession and all that business those pesky liberals get all worked up about over a cheeky little red in their converted barns. It’s intelligently done stuff although the juxtaposition between the humble decency of the poor and the sociopathy of the rich errs on the simplistic, but this being a polemic in dramatic drag that’s fair enough. It’s all sold as right smart stuff and presented with a high brow disdain for the vulgarity of action theatrics but it’s still genre thrills. For all its deadpan airs and graces it’s all quite silly and everything’s resolved terribly , terribly conveniently; largely through bad people just deciding to suddenly start telling the truth because Bill Nighy is a nice man who is kind to children and people who aren’t as edjumacated as what he is. Compassion is contagious, on Television at least. And why not; even Guardian readers need to believe everything’s okay every now and again. Much like the second outing in the children’s entertainment trilogy Star Wars this episode ends on a low note, with Bill Nighy and Helena Bonham Carter going on the run and living from day to day and from hand to mouth. The trailer for the concluding episode (Salting the Battlefield; Thursday 27th March 2014) shows our dispossessed pair somewhere like Scotland drinking lattes. I guess for Helena Bonham Carter that is actually probably akin to living like a hunted animal. Only a dizzy don would mistake Turks and Caicos for high art or anything but it is intelligently written, its heart is in the right place and the acting by all (by both known and unknown) is a pleasure in and of itself. As TV goes it was GOOD! Turns out we elderly liberals like a good revenge fantasy as much as the next person; go for his lying eyes Bill Nighy!

This post has been restored following its deletion by persons unnamed and so may not reflect your memory of it exactly.

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