So Blackout, the BBC’s latest mini-series ended this week. Brought to us by the same production team as last year’s infinitely cheerier Single Father, starring a veritable dream team of David Tennant and Suranne Jones, Blackout starred fellow ex Doctor Christopher Eccleston. Although he’d doubtless despise that link.
Christopher ‘oh so very serious’ Eccleston , as we like to call him here at the Buffery, plays alcoholic council worker Daniel Demoys, a gruff sort of chap prone to bouts of violent behaviour when under the influence, none of which he can remember the morning after. Set in a rainy undisclosed city clearly modelled on Manchester, episode one charts Demoys’ slow realisation that he has killed a fellow council worker. Having coming to his senses after saving the life of a young witness in a drug trafficking trial, he must atone for that, whilst simultaneously comforting the deceased’s distraught daughter, played with appropriate distress by Rebecca Callard, as well as saving his collapsing marriage with wife Alex (Dervla Kirwan). Oh and he also had an affair with a rather over idealistic blonde woman by the name of Sylvie, (MyAnna Buring) although that didn’t seem to consist of much more than the odd bit of action in a club stairwell.
Got all that?
In Episode 2, we see Daniel’s decision to become mayor, which allows him to set the world to rights whilst enjoying the professional success that goes along with it, earning him brownie points with wife Alex. It will come as no surprise however, that darker forces are at work here, protecting Daniel’s secret and burying any traces of the past for their own evil ends. These not so subtly sinister undertones bubble precariously close to the surface as the episode progresses, helped in no small way by Andrew Scott’s scene stealing Detective Bevan, and all set to the show’s murky film noir style backdrop.
This paved the way for the third and final episode, details of which I will not reveal here in case any of you haven’t quite caught it on 'the Iplayer' yet.
There's a lot to like, here. Eccleston gives his usual dependably intense performance, with atmospheric lighting and make-up allowing him to look extra stare-y. Dervla Kirwan is an equally reliable actress, although I’d have liked to have seen more of her.The dialogue is true to the unnamed gritty metropolis (Manchester) it is written to represent, the production values are excellent, and the storyline skilfully instils a sense of growing unease and anxiety. Which obviously again ties in with all the shots of chlaustrophobic skyscrapers, endless drizzle and murky grey-green street lighting of the city (Manchester).
It is very stylish.
If I have a problem with it though, it’s that it’s too stylish. Call it personal taste but I think it could have used just a touch more realism in places and a little less glossing over the details. This is particularly apparent in any scenes which even remotely consider alcoholism as a concept, as sufferers are labelled simply ‘drunks’, with that being the end of it. ‘I’m a drunk’, they say. ‘But why, how?’ we shout, unheeded at our screens. For a programme centred on the idea of alcoholic blackouts, the alcoholic side of it is barely touched upon. We see Demoys’ attempts to avoid the booze, but we have no idea how we developed the relationship with ‘the sauce’ that he did.
The same can be said of the ending. Again, I won’t give away too much, but it just doesn't come across as having been well thought out. It’s hurried over and unsatisfying- which is a shame when so much of the production is entirely the opposite.
Worth a watch, but possibly another sad case of style over substance.
Blackout is available on BBC Iplayer until this Monday 23rd July.
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