Brian Donaldson finds some new dramas verging on the absurd, the daft and the downright unlikely.
It’s never been an easy task to translate the work of Harold Pinter onto the small screen. Some wags might suggest it’s difficult enough trying to make sense of it on stage. As part of More4’s mini-Pinter extravaganza, Celebration (More4, Sat 3 Mar, 9pm - 2 Stars) delivers many of the guy’s tropes that we’ve come to love/be thoroughly irritated by. ‘Extravaganza’ and ‘celebration’ are probably not the words to describe this absurdist drama, filled with verbose non-sequiters and exaggerated emotions as two sets of diners (including Michael Gambon, Colin Firth and Penelope Wilton) offload bitterness and madness while being attended to by the strange waiters and waitresses of ‘The Restaurant’. It could be a metaphor for today’s Britain or an analysis of the impossibility of language or a modern take on sexual politics, but whatever the hell this is, you won’t be popping any corks during this tough old 45 minutes.
Equally as confusing but far more satisfying is The Reichenbach Falls (BBC4, Thu 1 Mar, 9pm - 4 stars) a wholly postmodern romp from the pen of Ian Rankin which serves as part of Beeb4’s fifth anniversary party. DI Buchan (a troubled Rebus-alike played by Alec Newman) is being traumatised by bad dreams and visited by the ghost of Arthur Conan Doyle (Richard Wilson) who warns him of impending doom. Could it be that he is in fact just a character from the imagination of Jack Harvey (Alastair Mackenzie) and is about to be killed off à la Doyle getting shot of Sherlock Holmes? Jack Harvey is the non de plume of Rankin, who appears fleetingly at a book launch. Confused? You should be, for that’s half the fun.
There’s much confused fun to be had in Heroes (Sci Fi Channel, Mon 5 Mar, 10pm - 3 stars), dubbed all too easily as ‘this year’s Lost’. A bunch of individuals are connected by the fact that they may have some weird superpowers. There’s the indestructible cheerleader, the tortured artist who paints the future, the Japanese geek who teleports himself into New York and the troubled single mum who has a guardian angel taking care of the monsters in her life. The cheerleader’s foster dad may be the sinister link to them all but, unlike Lost, time will hopefully tell.
There are many light entertainment entertainers who have gone on to achieve dramatic prowess and there’s no reason to believe that Matthew Kelly isn’t blessed with the tools of a fine actor. But he is less than convincing in Cold Blood (Scottish, Mon 5 Mar, 9pm - 2 stars) as the serial killer with a literal taste for the thick red stuff and spends the show taunting Jemma Redgrave in a less than subtle reference to the Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling head to head.
The Tight Spot (BBC4, Wed 14 Mar, 10.30pm - 3 stars) season continues with Mark Watson’s Lift and has solid acting talent oozing from its fingertips as a quartet of very different people are trapped together. Siobhan Redmond is an eccentric with a string of marriages behind her, Rasmus Hardiker has a collection of phobias to cope with, Nina Wadia has many experiences of being trapped in a lift and Douglas Hodge is an insomniac cad running late for a conference.
And, folks, it’s that time again, when we get a chance to bash on about The Sopranos (Channel 4, Mon 5 Mar, 11.05pm - 5 stars) now that series six (part one) is making the leap onto terrestrial. This opening episode just so happens to be one of the show’s finest and most dramatic hours. Bada bing! And so forth.