Tv drama – as long as it’s not British

We feel bereft. Our favourite mini series are about to end. The Killing, The Bridge, Borgon, The Good Wife and tonight Mad Men. (We don’t watch much tv!) What will we do in the evenings? The art of conversation needs a revival. But we spend a lot of time discussing these programmes. No nation does black drama like the Scandinavians. Nothing as thrilling as The Killing! All those grey skies, morose people and dark lurkings. (On the strength of it we’ve booked a break in Copenhagan. Must get one of those jumpers!) Borgon brings us a Danish female prime minister, as far removed from Thatcher as you can imagine. We’ve seen her progress in her role from unconfident, can’t-make-a-decision-without-consulting-a-man to ruthless politician. With a messy private life to boot. She’s clever and credible. Watch out for the second series in the autumn. Mad Men took a few episodes to get hooked. It helps that we grew up in the same era – 50s, now 60s – and remember some of the freedoms (smoking anywhere) and restrictions (women as secretaries regarded as achievement). The leading character, Don Draper, is an enigma. Completely amoral but, as Bill Clinton, clever and charming, you can’t help but like him. Each character is well drawn. Sometimes they disappear. Like Lane Pryce. Not a very British name but a British character who’s just killed himself. Great characterisation by Jared Harris, son of Richard. Peggy gone too. She’s got to return. Everything is scripted, right down to the length of the draw on the cigarette, so I have learned. There is no extraneous conversation. Every word and gesture matter.

The Good Wife should have all feminists shouting at the screen. But most women will understand (and would like to have) Alicia’s dilemmas. The court room dramas are peripheral to the private worlds of the main characters. You never really care who wins or loses their cases. And hese minor characters are shadowy and dull compared with the regulars. It’s full of simmering passions and great one liners. Minor characters include Michael J Fox, Matthew Perry, as we have never seen them before. The judges are idiosyncratic and funny. They would never get away with those comments in the UK. The characters make you want to know more. What’s going on with Calinda? (She’s British but you’d never know!) Who is her mysterious not yet seen husband and why does he want to kill her? Why does she always wear thigh high boots? Oh ok, everyone fancies her, men and women. In her words she is ‘flexible’. What does Eli actually do for Lockhart Gardner? (And why did he attend a Scottish National Party conference, in real life?) Sex-in-the-City ‘Mr Big’ has morphed from a sleazy politician to a caring husband. Even his elderly mother gets her share of great lines, particularly with Eli. Everyone wears fabulous clothes and lives in great apartments. Most of all, in all these dramas the acting is calculated and spare. As far away from a soap as you can get.

And what do we have? Vera. Lewis. Midsummer Nights Murders. The one with old men in dirty raincoats and Amanda Redfern. The one about autopsies that’s completely unbelievable. Since when did pathologists solve crimes? Too many dull characters, too much dialogue. Not since Prime Suspect have we produced great drama. I prefer foreign drama. You normally clock watch when you’re bored. I do it because I don’t want them to end.

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