Monday, 16 April 2012
It seems that all the good series these days are loosely based on other series (trace that back and someone somewhere had an original idea). I've been enthralled by the US series Homeland which is loosely based on an Israeli series Hatufim - Abducted. Clare Danes was never better than she is here, playing CIA officer Carrie Mathison, caught in the homecoming ballyhoo and headlights of US Marine, Nick Brody (Damian Lewis) freed from his Al Qaeda captors and back with his family after eight years. But is he an agent of dark terrorist forces or...
It's that 'or' that everything here hangs on and it's going to take the whole series to discover just where his allegiance now lies.The writing here is excellent, this is not just black and white, multiple shades of grey abound, we never feel we're ahead of the story, never feel 'Oh, I knew that was going to happen'. And that is so hard to achieve.
We're all too smart these days, even people who don't realise they're story smart are because we've all been brought up on so much television, so many films. The series that really make a mark are those that think twenty, thirty steps ahead, outwitting the audience, turning assumptions on their heads and making the whole experience that much more satisfying.
But not for everyone.
There are staple British series that seem to INSIST on hackneyed storylines, hackneyed characters and leak plot points to the press so their viewers can KNOW what will happen.
I don't get that.
Pick up any number of mags from the supermarket and there they are, future plots of soaps and continuing series. You hear people talking about what's going to happen in their favourite soaps. That's like writing a book and at the end of each chapter have a page where the author precises what's coming up in the next and the next.
It's one thing to tease, it's another to put so much information out there ahead of an episode that we come to it knowing where the story is going.
I don't watch soaps - though I did have a period when I wouldn't miss an episode of Corrie, back before issues took over, when the whole thing turned more on character than events. I would have hated to know what was coming up. As I hate those NEXT TIME sequences at the end of some programmes today. Hit the off button before I can discover that the person who seemingly just died is in fact alive and well and in the next episode. Why do they do that?
I'm not reading anything about Homeland, nothing, nada, ziltch. I am enjoying the experience of watching a tightly written, thrilling story that plays out a chapter a week - it's such an old fashioned idea, wait for next week to find out - but it's something that works in favour of the building tension. The moment I get hit by a spoiler is the moment I dread and Homeland is far too good, too absorbing to spoil.