Brian Donaldson finds that drama serials might be on the verge of receiving the last rites
Reports from the US are suggesting that the demise of the sitcom is virtually complete. I suppose we should have guessed something was going badly wrong when NBC remade Coupling for an American audience and word is that the networks will soon stop making the damn things, preferring to import the cheap ideas of British reality shows. But what about the state of their dramas? Since the death of Six Feet Under, the coup which shut the doors on The West Wing and the shoot-out which left Deadwood living up to its name, the only things to get excited about are the cable cult of The Wire and the imminent swansong of The Sopranos. The other high profile shows simply seem to wear thin very quickly (Lost, Prison Break), repeat their own formula to the point of tedium (24) or go into spin-off meltdown (how many CSIs or Law and Orders are there now?).
If you’ve never seen a single episode of 24, Prison Break or Kidnapped, then Vanished (Five, Sun 24 Jun, 10pm, 2 Stars) is probably the best programme ever made. If you’ve seen a five-second compilation of those shows, then this political conspiracy thriller about a senator’s second wife leaving a charity soirée in her name without a trace (oops, there’s another show which Vanished is a pale imitation of) will seem to be a cruel waste of air time. Which is exactly what it is. Even its minimalist opening swirly credit sequence is ‘borrowed’ from Lost.
The main problem with Brothers and Sisters (Channel 4, Wed 27 Jun, 10pm, 2 Stars) is that a sickbag may be required by your side at all times. If the Waltons were ever to pay a visit to Jeremy Kyle, they’d look a lot like the Walkers, a clan who take the fun right out of dysfunction and who appear to be on the verge of talking themselves to death. There’s a decent enough performance by Sally ‘You Like Me, You Really Like Me’ Field as the broken matriarch but every single annoying sibling wouldn’t look amiss at the end of a rope. Shallow as it might seem, I’m afraid it’s impossible to discuss Brothers and Sisters without a mention of Calista Flockhart’s somewhat slight frame. Have a quick glance back to her Ally McBeal days and she could actually be a dead ringer for Beth Ditto. OK, maybe not, but her body is a structural wonder to behold, appearing to have been blown up and sucked out in all the wrong places. A bit like the script, which has the Walker lot nitpicking their way through a largely meaningless existence.
Of course, where American drama is flailing, the UK has long since given up the ghost. True Dare Kiss (BBC1, Thu 28 Jun, 9pm, 3 Stars) is yet another half-decent stab at the form, but you just know that in three months time the hours spent watching this will no longer register in your memory. Which might be a blessing considering the gaping holes in this story of yet another warring family, this time a Mancunian crew whose father’s death brings them all together again. There’s some dark secret lurking in an unacknowledged past, but getting to the bottom of it could prove to be an irritating venture. It’s probably the finest thing that Debbie Horsfield has written, but considering her TV oeuvre contains Sex, Chips & Rock’n’Roll and Cutting It, this revelation is not worth getting the posh plates out for.
As for Cold Blood (STV, Wed 27 Jun, 9pm, 1 Star), someone somewhere must believe that it’s a good idea to stretch out this supposedly disturbing crime story. For the uninitiated, it’s got John Hannah in it (that might be enough for some folk), a Redgrave pops up and Matthew Kelly plays ‘the most sick serial killer ever’ (no he’s not). Best of all, Russell Brand combs his hair all the way down on his head to play an obsessive stalker who at one point batters the Redgrave with a hammer before fleeing like a girl from the scene. We’re all doomed.