Monday, September 15, 2008

These are their stories...

Watched Casualty for the first time in about fifteen years yesterday. Holby City has crept into my weekly schedule so it's only natural that the mother show would get a look in. Wow, it's changed a bit.

I listened to an extraordinary Mark Catley Radio Four play last year, called Flutterby, and was interested to see what sort of influence he was having on the BBC's favourite hospital drama now he's lead writer. Flutterby was about a council estate that was riddled with crime and drugs, the weekends Casualty opening salvo featured antisocial behaviour
and a riot on a council estate, in addition to the customary gruesome accidents. Looks like social realism is high on Catley's agenda, as well as drama and explosive set pieces.

It was exciting, well paced and gritty. Not just a little gritty, very gritty. Nasty even. Like the twisted twin of Casualty murdered the original in it's bed and took it's place. By the second episode it felt like all bets were off on who might live or die, or just what might happen next. Sterling stuff.

It wasn't all good, the rivalry between Doctor Trueman and the cheeky paramedic Jeff was a little overdone; and the hospital did seem pretty quiet for a casualty ward down the road from a riot. Filmmakers following medical staff has been done more effectively before but despite this I'll certainly be taking a look at next weeks, so surely it's done it's job.

Read an interview with Mark Catley here.

Catch the weekends Casualty dosage here on iPlayer for the next six days or so.


I have become addicted to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Every night I have to record it on the Hallmark channel. I've watched about fifteen episodes in two weeks - this from someone who was only recently complaining about not having time to watch television.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was the first spin off from the (incredibly) successful and long running US show Law & Order but where the parent show follows any crime from the investigation through to the courtroom SVU's unique selling point is that the department deal exclusively with crimes of a sexual nature. Rape, kidnap and paedophilia are their daily grind.

To stop me gibberring mindlessly about it being great I'll present the case for in the form of bullet points, consider these the reasons why you should be watching it - if you don't already.

  • The story telling is fast. SVU will tell a complex tale leaving you stunned, exhausted or both in 41 minutes. This is lean programme making.
  • The cast. Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni manage to get under the skins of their characters, you'll understand why what they do is so important to them and the lengths they'll go to for the victims they encounter.
  • SVU is not into happy endings or neat conclusions. These stories are bleak and disturbing and the conclusion will often leave you more contemplative than satisfied. As one of the characters says; 'Even when we win, we don't.'
  • There's no gloss. If you're a bit queasy from all those high-in-style CSI variants you've been watching then SVU is for you. The opening credits look like something from 1982 and they don't make much use of swishy camera work. It's all about the story.
Catch SVU on Channel 5 on Tuesdays (around 2300hrs), or every week night on Hallmark at 2200hrs.

Keep an eye out for the new L&O spin off,
Law & Order: UK being made by Kudos at the moment. Chris Chibnall and James Moran are among the writers working on it and it's assembling a pretty impressive cast. If it has half of the pace and credibility of the franchise it will blow the freaking socks off of most other British crime series.

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