What TV’s on at the BFI in March 2014

It’s time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in March 2014. Not much on this month, because of the full film schedule, but previews of the final two parts of the ‘Worricker Trilogy’, Turks & Caicos and Salting the Battlefield, as well as a showing of the first part, Page Eight, and a short season of TV documentaries by Mira Hamermesh, including Maids and Madams, Talking to the Enemy and Loving the Dead.

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The Weekly Play

The Wednesday Play: Land of Green Ginger (1973)

Hull’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The northern city, best known for fishing, has consistently been voted one of the worst places in Britain. Indeed, it was voted number 1 in the original ‘crap towns‘ survey. 

Not everyone thinks that, though (indeed, it’s going to be 2017’s City of Culture). Rather fabulous UK playwright Alan Plater (The Beiderbecke Affair et al) wrote a typically wry and semi-loving look at Hull in the 1973 Play for Today Land of Green Ginger. Named after a street in Hull, the play sees its heroine Sally Brown (Gwen Taylor) having to deal with the prospect of being sent abroad to work. So she returns home from London to Hull to see if she still feels the same attachment for her home town – and for her old boyfriend. Will she decide to take the job abroad or return to live with Mike in Hull?

The play shows us Hull through Sally’s eyes, giving us the good and the bad, just as she sees both the good and the bad in the city. It also gives us folk music from The Watersons. Whether that’s your cup of tea might well determine what you think of the play. Enjoy!

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

Third-episode verdict: True Detective (HBO/Sky Atlantic)

In the US: Sundays, 9pm, HBO
In the UK: Saturdays, 9pm, Sky Atlantic. Starts February 22

I’m three episodes into HBO and Sky Atlantic’s new anthology show, True Detective, and I have to say that it’s really good – with a couple of caveats.

Pretty much everything about it is excellent – the script, the casting, the acting, the direction. You name it, it’s good. However, largely, it ain’t a detective show. While ostensibly about the reopening of a 17-year-old serial killer case that detectives Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey investigated back in ’95, this is instead a two-handed musing on the nature of policework, faith, life, death, sex, love and more, with McConaughey the traumatisted, asexual, nihilist, atheist, drug addict detective who thinks life is nothing more than chemicals and we should all kill ourselves, Harrelson the regular, personable Christian, adulterous, everyman, family man who thinks McConaughey should just go kill himself. Most of each episode is the two of them, in a car or at a crime scene, discussing why human beings are such crap/fun, stupid/smart, and hating on each other.

Against this very smart, intellectual backdrop, we have the crime itself, which sees Harrelson and McConaughey exploring Louisiana and discovering just how miserable life is for the poor, the dispossessed, the female, the mentally challenged and others. There’s been some police work, but for the first two episodes at least, it was a mere backdrop to the foreground of philosophy and characterisation.

Thing is, this had made the show very good and very clever, but very hard and slow to watch. With unpleasantness and darkness all around, it’s been a show you have to make yourself tune in for, rather than one you actively want to watch.

Episode three, though, has seen the first real stirrings of the main plot and was much the better for it, adding some flesh to the mere skeleton the first two episodes provided. And it looks like there’s more to come in later episodes, too.

So, if you can deal with the dark and nasty and like your TV drama talky and philosophical, then True Detective is very definitely the show for you. If not, good though it may be, you might want to keep your distance.

Barrometer rating: 2
Rob’s prediction: Likely to get renewed for another season, but given it’s an anthology show, with a different cast and story each season, who knows after that?