TV review: The Little Drummer Girl, BBC One
- Brian Donaldson
- 25 October 2018
Mindcrushingly ordinary Sunday night John le Carré adaptation starring Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Shannon
After the barnstorming global success of The Night Manager, the Beeb took around five minutes to commission their next six-part John le Carré adaptation. This time, we're transported back to the late 1970s, a time of brown furniture and orange telephones while a series of bomb attacks across Europe are being aimed at prominent Jewish targets. Into this blood-soaked breach ambles senior Israeli intelligence agent Martin Kurtz (Michael Shannon) whose methodical strategy to get inside the minds of terrorists doesn't go down too well with his more gung-ho colleagues who'd rather see their enemies' heads being torn off with questions left at the door.
Meanwhile, in London an aspiring young actress Charlie (Florence Pugh) heads to Greece with her theatre gang on a rehearsal trip paid for by a donor whose anonymity doesn't seem to bother anyone. In between lounging around the beaches playing guitar and thumbing As You Like It, Charlie is perplexed by the presence of a mysterious chap whom she calls Joseph (Alexander Skarsgard) whose ultra-cool demeanour and sexy scars make him a curiosity to the group. While Charlie seems to see through Joseph's façade one minute, in the next she's agreed to abandon her pals and head to Athens with him for a massive game of shadow puppets on the night-time walls of the Acropolis before his true motives are revealed.
With lines such as 'a night without rest is a day without perspective' and 'the good news is that I've lied to you as little as possible' stuck into actors' mouths, you have to commend them for not giggling even on the last take. An impossibly attractive cast has been assembled for a drama that looks great but feels unsubtle and lumbering.
Certainly, Shannon is enjoyably Columbo-like, but even his Kurtz is prey to unlikely circumstances such as loudly discussing crucial intelligence reports over espresso in a hotel lobby. The best that can be said for Little Drummer Girl's opening episode is that it's textbook Sunday night BBC fare: easy on the eye and even easier on the brain.
Episodes watched: One of six.
Little Drummer Girl starts on BBC One, Sun 28 Oct, 9pm