Owing to some unusual circumstances, I have recently watched a couple of crime thrillers on TV. One was a two-part adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories; the other was a five part original series by Anthony Horowitz called Injustice.
I rarely watch contemporary TV, preferring to be highly selective and wait a few years after a programme has aired to give it a chance to mature into something that many people think is good (eg The Wire), or see it consigned to oblivion so I don’t need to bother watching it. These two recent series, and another one I watched a few weeks ago called Exile, all had several features in common which makes me wonder whether all TV series have to obey a set of laws?
Well, that’s about it for my rant. These three series were all “OK” but Case Histories should have either been longer or dropped at least one of the “histories” because what one ended up with was a confused mish-mash, if you hadn’t read the book, or an unsatisfactorily superficial precis of some really rather moving stories if you had. Injustice and Exile were both far too drawn-out for their slender material (Exile was almost entirely dependent for its impact on good acting) – they should have been half the length, each.
All of these series could have been a lot more: Exile had a powerful theme about a man with Alzheimer’s disease and his relationship with his two adult children, all three played by superb actors. But it degenerated into a risibly and lazily “plotted” thriller. Injustice picked at some interesting themes about the prison system and the book publishing industry (with one or two nice little allusions for readers), and had some inventively repellant characters (including one who would easily win Worst Mother of the Year award) – but ended up with a plot twist that was so clunky and predictable as to be embarrassing, and a “punchline” that was not so much signalled but endlessly shown to the viewer beforehand to be sure there was absolutely no suspense whatsoever. Case Histories went for a mish-mash of styles and clichés over the individuality and substance provided in the source material that could have been imaginatively reworked into something a bit different for the visual medium.
Oh well, I don’t suppose I shall be watching more contemporary TV for a while, but will stick to old series that have stood the test of a few or more years; or films that have similarly been well-received. Most of the time, of course, I shall be reading a book instead.
[Images are, from the top, from Case Histories, Injustice and Exile]