In the US: Sundays, Showtime, 10pm ET/PT
In the UK: Coming soon to Channel 4
Now here’s curious. We have a co-production between UK network Channel 4 and US cable network Showtime. It’s made by British production company Ecosse Films. It’s filmed in Britain. It’s set in Britain. It’s cast is almost entirely British.
But it’s airing in the US first.
How’s that work then?
More to the point, it’s also very British – very Channel 4, in fact – which makes me wonder what Showtime sees in it. We have a family, headed by David Morrissey, who have to enter the witness protection programme. They wind up in Kent in a strange little town called Meadowlands populated by strange little people. And it’s all very, very bleak – and very very strange.
I’m going to have to spoil you slightly on this. However, it won’t be anything you won’t guess within the first fifteen minutes and might actually keep you going through the somewhat insipid start.
The hook is that the family Morrissey have ended up in a town entirely populated by people in the witness protection programme. Yes, a bunch of crimos and shady characters do everything in Meadowlands, including act as doctors, run the shops and even police it. In fact, there’s so much to do, you need never leave and leaving is strongly discouraged. You certainly don’t want to be crossing the police – they’ll make you play football at midnight if you do, or maybe perform a bit of home dentistry on you instead.
Things are not going well for the Morrisseys though. The wife resents being stuck, thanks to her husband’s shady dealings, in a town with no decent shops; she’s looking for a way out of the marriage. The daughter (who’s not a patch on the neighbour’s daughter, Jezebel, who’s a classic beauty – at least, her mum, Brenda, thinks so) is kind of okay about the change in scene, but quite fancies dodgy Eastern European plumbers with very bad attitudes to women (and who may have done all sorts of bad things to end up in Meadowlands). Meanwhile, the son, who burnt his hands in the arson job that destroyed the family home and that forced them into hiding, is now selectively mute and a bit of a peeping tom. Top all that off with the fact they all have new names and can’t tell everyone about their former lives and it’s clearly a bit stressful for them all.
It’s all very bizarre. It’s The Prisoner without a hint of sci-fi, Desperate Housewives without a hint of cheesy humour, and every grim crime drama about informers you’ve ever seen without a hint of reality, all crossed with an episode of Twin Peaks. The Meadowlands inhabitants even have a little dance for new arrivals. How sweet.
Still, I had to force myself to sit through the first half of it, before it started to pick up a bit, and it’s clearly not going to be to everyone’s tastes. Morrissey is good, as are the supporting cast – particularly Ralph Brown, whom you might remember as DCI Frank Morgan from Life on Mars, as the town’s only and very malevolent policeman – although Morrissey’s family are largely forgettable. It’s slowly paced and there aren’t any really likeable characters, but the concept is interesting and its darkness is something to be praised. I’m hoping it’ll grow stranger, quirkier and nastier as the series goes on. You could well think otherwise and I wouldn’t blame you.
For your delectation, there’s a YouTube video about it or you could go to Showtime’s video player if you prefer.
Somebody tell me it hasn’t been on Channel 4 already and I’ve just missed it. Please.
David Morrissey (Danny Brogan)
Lucy Cohu (Evelyn Brogan)
Felicity Jones (Zoe Brogan)
Harry Treadaway (Mark Brogan)
Ralph Brown (Bernard Wintersgill)
Nina Sosanya (Samantha)
Melanie Hill (Brenda Ogilvie)
Ella Smith (Jezebel Ogilvie)
Tristan Gemmill (Dr David York)
Tom Hardy (Jack Donnelly)
Don Gilet (Freddie Marcuse)
Sian Brooke (Lori Marcuse)
Scot Williams (Tom Tyrell)