PROPOSAL for 2021: more lenses to wear. When I heard there was a new drama called Bridgeton, you might imagine my delight. This high society tale of the early 19th century offered plenty of banter, frocks and wisecracks. The East End of Glasgow hasn’t changed much, I thought. Good grief.
Then I reread it and realized that Bridgerton (Netflix, Christmas Day) was the title and it was really set in boring old London in Grosvenor Square.
It was largely a cookie-cutter costume drama that a computer program might have spat out when typed “sex, Austen, luxurious fabrics.” aside from the diverse cast and frequent bouts of bone-cracking.
However, it had one unique selling point: Julie Andrews as the narrator, Lady Whistledown, the scandalous sheet editor. Oh! Lady W. He had a dim opinion of her journalistic career, opining, “Of all the bitches dead or alive, a woman writer is the doggiest.” Meow. Passably enjoyable, it is not the latest Crown or Downton for an episode.
Aside from Bridgerton, this holiday season’s dearth of new content was such that I found myself looking for the old catch-up service catalogs. I had forgotten that the early episodes of a certain Scottish sitcom were prickly. It turned out to be good psychological practice for this year’s Two Doors Down Down holiday special (BBC2, Monday).
In the Highlands, Cathy and Colin had rented a great house to get away from it all. But the last thing they ever wanted was to be together on their own, so the neighbors were welcomed. Beth, Eric, Christine and the boys came in hopes of a lovely getaway with refreshing walks and a steak pie or ten. “The Shining” with double doors was what they got.
After it was found out that Gordon had a talent for impersonations, the trouble began. It was the standard “blow the bloody doors off” nonsense, but he tried his hand at an imitation of Cathy, emboldened by the reaction of the captive and half-drunk audience (Doon MacKichan).
Only in horror may one watch as Cathy struggled to see the funny side. In retaliation, at Abigail’s party, she completely went off on her guests, lashing out like a cross between Bette Davis and Godzilla. She was so bad that even Beth (Arabella Weir), a human doormat, objected.
Poorly dealt with, the half-hour may have gone shockingly easily sour. But the writers of the series, Simon Carlyle and Gregor Sharp, backed by an excellent cast, can get away with almost anything by now, so we know these characters well. In the end, the audience hopes that all will be well. On to the 5th season.
A jumble of place names and time frames was The Serpent (BBC1, New Year’s Day), just the kind of guy you need on January 1.
This was the story of Charles Sobhraj, a regular on the hippie trail of the 1970s, “inspired by real events” As a pair of cool guys who were always there with practical guidance for backpackers, Sobhraj and his girlfriend Marie (Jenna Coleman) found themselves. But what was their real interest in the naïve kind that wafted in their direction?
Many will have watched “The Serpent” when they saw that the lead actor was Tahir Rahim, who was so memorable in Jacques Audiard’s crime drama “A Prophet.” He was the best thing about the series, as were the groovy clothes of the time. The remainder flew by. There are seven more episodes to go, so at some point, maybe it will make sense.
Ever since the drama about the rise of the Olympic and world champions, I’ve been intrigued by Torvill and Dean. I felt like I learned as little about the ice dancing pair at the end as I did at the beginning, even though the 2018 show was two hours long and very well done.
With Dancing with Torvill and Dean on Thin Ice (STV, New Year’s Day), it was the same. With Stephen Fry as narrator, the cameras followed T&D to Alaska, a location where they could fulfill their dream of “wild skating” instead of doing their rounds on an indoor rink. Yet there was more than that to it. There was more, of course. The Green Corner was right there. Looking for a place to dance their famous bolero routine, T&D saw with their own eyes that due to global warming, the world’s ice was dwindling.
The idea was simple enough, so simple that it needed a lot of padding. So the duo tried their hand at ice hockey, had huskies pull them in a sled, visited an ice museum and so on. It was as if they were trying to do everything they could to avoid revealing too much about themselves. Occasionally