Monday, 6 June 2011
Thursday night thrills on BBC2
TV scheduling is a beautiful thing - with just the simplest of decision as to what shows appear next to each-other one night, an evening's entertainment can become so much more than just a handful of good TV shows; it can reach heights of true greatness.
The Shadow Line/Psychoville billing on Thursdays on BBC2 at the moment is one such moment of inspired greatness. Who would have thought a heavy hitting crime drama and a hyper-surreal comedy would go together so well? But they do.
In both cases, it's all proper edge of the seat stuff - the kind of wonderful, delicious tension that only the very best of television can create. In the case of The Shadow Line, we're treated to an incredibly slick thriller full of twists and turns as well as characters that are as fractured and mysterious as they are utterly charming.
And the same could be said for Psychoville - for a show that manages to kill a character off every episode, it never feels cheap and we genuinely mourn for each and every kill. With their wonderfully individual quirks, each persona stamps themselves on our consciousness. What I love best about these two shows standing side by side though is that as unlikely as it might at first seem, we could just as easily imagine someone like The Shadow Line's Gatehouse cropping up in Psychoville.
Because for all The Shadow Line's serious tone, what elevates it above other crime dramas is its notion of character - these are not just cookie-cutter cops and criminals, these are people. Admittedly, not people you'd ever want to meet on a dark night down an alley, but people all the same - each one with their own secrets.
This week's episode of The Shadow Line saw the character of Glickman finally introduced - everything off on a complete tangent, half the episode dedicated to a new location and new character. But by the end, we were hanging off every line of dialogue, every slight of hand and movement, up to the literally explosive finale. And it was in this that we saw Glickman and Gatehouse for who they truly are - these almost quasi-immortal characters - equals in deviousness and treachery, battling each-other in their own little world.
When Glickman talked of getting the balance of the explosive right to ensure it killed Gatehouse yet would spare his life, you realised the self-destructive nature of their relationship. And even this, a blast that gutted the shop, resulted in merely a few scratches on both men. And as they backed off from each-other, Gatehouse holding a garotte, Glickman a blow-torch, you could only shudder at their raw power.
And as for Psychoville, what I love most about it is that it functions equally well as both a drama and a comedy. So often shows of its ilk feel more like a hastily cobbled together selection of individual sketches, but this has real substance, a sense of continuing story and all the dramatical weight that comes with that.
There's a beautiful sense of English suburbia to it all. Every part of it is just so quaint, right down to the wonderfully camp owner of the Hoity Toity toy shop. All the more shocking then when he was revealed to be a Nazi in disguise.
I'm going to miss these nights and these shows when they're finished. And that is what truly great telly is about - the memories that stay with you, the moments you remember... those magical, spell-binding moments.