Twin Peaks — Killer 50 No 28

It's all about the mystery of Laura Palmer's death – and a lot more

It’s all about the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death – and a lot more


1990-91, ABC

‘I’ll be seeing you in my dreams.’ – Bobby Briggs

‘Not if I see you first.’ – Norma Jennings

Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, Piper Laurie, Sheryl Lee, Joan Chen, Russ Tamblyn

Identikit: FBI agent Dale Cooper investigates the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in the town of Twin Peaks.

logosWE’RE MOVING slowly down the unoccupied corridor of a high school, a disembodied voice is making a solemn, momentous announcement over the PA system – it is the voice of the principal. A huddle of girls listens in dread. We cut to the face of a young man, James Hurley, frozen, staring, like a photo. The voice is announcing the death of 17-year-old pupil Laura Palmer, and this off-kilter sequence from the pilot episode immediately sets the indelible tone for Twin Peaks. The discovery of Laura’s body allows creators Mark Frost and David Lynch to lift the stones in a logging town near the Canadian border and expose all kinds of unsettling desires and actions beneath the veneer of normality. Frost, with his experience writing for Hill Street Blues, perhaps offered the narrative ballast for the artistic vision of Lynch, whose intangible, fascinating films Eraserhead and Blue Velvet had been weird but commercially successful. Theirs was a series – almost unbelievably, it was commissioned by mainstream broadcaster ABC – that upset the conventions of primetime, with its dark characters, disorientating dream sequences and at times logic-defying plot.
twinpeaks1

Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan)

Ostensibly it’s a mystery in which FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) arrives in town to investigate Laura’s killing, along with the rape of Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine), but the show was far more radical than any primetime drama. We soon realise we’re watching a stilted, soapy drama that is strangely haunting. Why does the hospital psychiatrist have a hula girl on his tie? Why has Big Ed’s wife got one eye? Who is the Log Lady? The overacting, the twists, the heavy mood music (synthesiser, finger-clicking and brushes, by Angelo Badalamenti), the visual riffs (trees, coffee, owls, cherry pie, ducks, water) all combine to create a tantalising, edgy mood. The series is indeed dream-like, and like a dream it is disconcerting, baffling, but easily recalled afterwards. Season one was a success, while season two disappeared up its own supernatural weirdness and shed viewers, leading to the show’s hasty cancellation. Which upset many fans, and led to Twin Peaks finding its way onto many lists of ‘Shows that were canned prematurely’.
But, while many TV series in the UK and US are so ordinary and flat that they are forgotten in a week, the tone of Twin Peaks, which suggested new possibilities in terms of visual storytelling with a little bit of poetry, would live on in series such as The X-Files and Lost, and particularly The Sopranos (David Chase included significant dream sequences in his series, and called it ‘Twin Peaks in the New Jersey Meadowlands’) and Breaking Bad (Albuquerque is a superbly bland and moody dreamscape, and the show had several surreal visual motifs). If Twin Peaks woke up to a hangover of ratings droop in season two after Laura’s killer was revealed, the show by then had still subverted the rules of TV drama and fired the imagination of future showrunners.

Classic episode: The feature-length pilot is a beautiful image of a lost America. Though set in 1989, it feels like a vision of the 1950s, with lonesome highways running through forests east of Seattle, leather-jacketed biker gangs, roadside diners, check shirts and jeans – the sheriff’s even called Harry Truman. Few TV series have ever had this visual panache.

Theme music: Falling, by Angelo Badalamenti

Watercooler fact: Owing to the tight budget, local girl Sheryl Lee was hired to play the corpse of Laura Palmer. However, while filming scenes of Laura in a home video, David Lynch was struck by her ability in front of camera, and Sheryl became a semi-regular cast member, playing Laura in flashbacks and recurring character Maddy Ferguson. She’s hardly been off the TV since, appearing in LA Doctors, One Tree Hill, Dirty Sexy Money and most recently Perception.

Second water cooler fact: David Lynch and Mark Frost are revisiting Twin Peaks for a third series in 2016. It’s being made by Showtime, and after contractual wrangles, has now been expanded from nine to 18 episodes. Most intriguingly, in series one Agent Cooper had a dream/premonition in which murder victim Laura Palmer told him, ‘I’ll see you in 25 years…’ Well, next year the 25 years is up. Oo-er.

Odyssey, BBC2, Anna Friel

Tight spot – Anna Friel in Odyssey

Tight spot – Anna Friel in Odyssey


US soldier Anna Friel goes on the run when she learns explosive secrets in this sprawling, convoluted thriller

★★★ BBC2, Sunday, 28 June, 9.15pm

NEXT TO SERIAL KILLERS, perhaps the biggest scare figures in modern thrillers must be corporations. In fact, the 2003 documentary The Corporation made a good case for modern corporations having all the traits of a psycho – being cruel, ruthless and without feelings.

This new American 13-part thriller, made by NBC, has its own ominous psycho-corp called SOC, which our heroine, US Army sergeant Odelle Ballard, discovers is secretly funding terrorists.

Desert storm brewing –Sgt Ballard makes a shocking discovery

Desert storm brewing – Sgt Ballard makes a shocking discovery

Played by British actress Anna Friel – in a fresh attempt to break into US television following the demise of Pushing Daisies – Ballard is the heart of a complicated story. We first see her during a raid in Mali in which an Osama Bin Laden-type leader is killed, and she stumbles on a computer showing that the US company has been sending millions to terrorists.

Odyssey v Homeland

The plot thickens when privately contracted military group OSELA turns up and betrays Ballard and her team. She is reported dead but has escaped with her damaging evidence against SOC. She hides amid Tuareg desert nomads, hunted by OSELA.

[Read more…]

Garrow’s Law — Killer TV No 30

GARROWS-LAW-TALES-FROM-TH-006

BBC, 2009-2012

‘You cannot insult your way to an acquittal!’ John Southouse

‘…The life of Elizabeth Jarvis is at stake, in solemn and polished injustice. I must be a ruffian to get at the truth.’ – William Garrow

Andrew Buchan, Alun Armstrong, Lyndsey Marshal, Rupert Graves, Aidan McArdle, Michael Culkin

Identikit: Legal drama based on the life and pioneering legal career of 18th-century Old Bailey barrister William Garrow.


logosAN INSPIRED idea – to use the forgotten trials of a radical Old Bailey lawyer during the late 1800s (based on digitised trial transcripts at Old Bailey Online) – gave us a fascinating and at times heartrending drama. William Garrow was a genuine maverick, a neglected hero from the archives until series co-creator Tony Marchant spotted his potential for this series. Here was a man who, like Atticus Finch, Horace Rumpole or Perry Mason, stood up for the underdog, except that Garrow really existed. One of the fascinations of this series is that in Garrow’s day the system was heavily tilted against defence counsel. Garrow, played by Andrew Buchan with the quiet fortitude that was once the speciality of James Stewart, defended the poor and desperate at whom other barristers turned up their noses. Moreover, he established the right of defence lawyers to argue the case for defendants and cross-examine prosecution witnesses. Until then, whatever flimsy cross-examination was done came from the judge or jurors. The legal murder of slaves, infanticide, industrial sabotage, rape, homosexuality – Garrow challenged the barbaric contemporary attitudes to these and other issues. The BB228005-GARROW-27S-LAW-IIsubplot of Garrow’s affair with Lady Sarah Hill is heavily fictionalised, but it is the extraordinary legal brutalities of the age, and Garrow’s brilliant victories that helped to liberalise English courtrooms, that stick in the mind. Garrow’s Law ran for three series and was doing well in its primetime slot on Sunday nights – being watched by more than four million viewers when up against the likes of The X Factor and I’m a Celebrity…  – when it abruptly came to an end. Whether this was down to new-broom BBC TV boss Danny Cohen (who notoriously also axed Zen in its early days) or because Tony Marchant didn’t want to write it any more was not clear, but Garrow’s Law was a riveting drama and is sorely missed.
Classic episode: Series 2’s opener dealt with the extraordinary case of 133 slaves thrown overboard from a slave ship when drinking water ran low. Murder was not the charge because the slaves were considered cargo, but the case reached court because of a dispute with the insurance company, which did not want to pay out for the ‘cargo’. Garrow manages, nevertheless, to turn the trial into an indictment of the slave trade.
Watercooler fact: In a murder trial Garrow once questioned a witness who later became extraordinarily famous – Horatio Nelson. Garrow asked whether the accused – who served under Nelson and whom Nelson said was ‘struck with the sun’ and acknowledged that he had himself been ‘out of his senses’ with a ‘hurt brain’ on occasion – was likely to have committed murder. Nelson replied, ‘I should as soon suspect myself, because I am hasty, he is not.’ The case was not featured directly in the series, though the issue of insanity was used in the series 3 opener about John Hadfield, who was accused of attempting to assassinate King George III.

[http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017gcq9#supporting-content

http://www.garrowsociety.org/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w5c2w

True Detective 2, Sky Atlantic, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams

They’re mean, have unhealthy addictions and they’re scary – and that’s just the cops in the all-new True Detective

True Detective, Series 2, Sky Atlantic Key Art

True Detective, Series 2, Sky Atlantic

★★Sky Atlantic, starts Monday, 22 June, 9pm

SO, AS EXPECTED, it’s all change in True Detective. No more Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey or director Cary Joji Fukunaga framing his unsettling bayou backwaters.

Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto is back, however, and the big question for anyone who was transfixed and disturbed by series one is, how will the wholly made-over crime drama match-up?

The first episode is complex, introducing many new faces in a rush. We have Colin Farrell as cop-on-edge Ray Velcoro, who is in debt to criminal Frank Semyon, played by Vince Vaughn.

Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch

Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a dedicated detective with screwed-up personal life. And the cop triumvirate is completed by Taylor Kitsch as highway patrolman Paul Woodrugh, whose problems range from erectile dysfunction to a suicidal motorcycling habit.

Oh, and Brit actress Kelly Reilly turns up as Frank Semyon’s wife, Jordan, no doubt relieved to have escaped ITV’s rather dull Above Suspicion.

The clever shifting time frames of series one are also gone, no doubt because so many characters need an overall linear storyline. This time it hangs on the construction of a new rail line and the incumbent corruption that goes with it.

A town called Vinci

IMAGES CLEARED FOR PRESS, PRINT AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Colin Farrell as Velcoro

The gothic mood of series one is replaced by Californian sprawl centred on an ugly place called Vinci, an industrial hell of cement mixers and factories, the biggest polluter in the state. As one character says, ‘What the fuck is Vinci?’ To which Ray Velcoro replies, ‘City, supposedly.’

You could probably devote the whole series to Velcoro, Bezzerides or Woodrugh, such is the airport-carousel of baggage each one is carrying. We first encounter Velcoro, who, naturally, is separated from his wife, as he tries to cheer his chubby son outside the school gates. When he later learns that the boy has been bullied, the fallout for the bully and his father at the hands of the flaky cop is chilling to behold.

As Velcoro sees it, ‘Sometimes a beating promotes personal growth.’

[Read more…]

Black Work, ITV, Sheridan Smith

MAMMOTH SCREEN LTD PRESENTS BLACK WORK for ITV. Episode 1 Pictured:   MATTHEW MCNULTY as Jack Clark, SHERIDAN SMITH as Jo Gillespie, DOUGLAS HENSHALL as DS William Hepburn. Photographer: STUART WOOD AND DES WILLIE. This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to BLACK WORK, any further charge could incur a fee.

Engaged in Black Work –Matthew McNulty, Sheridan Smith and Douglas Henshall

Engrossing drama about a wife whose undercover cop husband is murdered, with a knockout performance from Sheridan Smith

★★★★½ ITV, day, date, time

THE TROUBLE with police procedurals is all the procedure.

Too many questions, too much note-taking, too much ‘Where were you on the night of the 14th?’

Black Work doesn’t bore us with all that. When our heroine, Jo, thinks some rowers might have seen the murderers of her undercover cop husband, the next scene cuts to her handing over a video to the police that she’s obtained from the rowers and viewed herself. We’re not put through the tedium of watching her go to the rowing club, asking questions, watching it, putting two and two together etc etc.

MAMMOTH SCREEN LTD PRESENTS BLACK WORK for ITV. Episode 1 Pictured:  SHERIDAN SMITH as Jo Gillespie. OLIVER WOOLFORD as Hal and LISA DILLON as carla. Photographer: STUART WOOD AND DES WILLIE. This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to BLACK WORK, any further charge could incur a fee.

Tension – Jo with stepson Hal and her husband’s ex, Carla

All of which allows writer/creator Matt Charman the time to concentrate on the human drama, in the process conjuring a riveting and emotional story.

Sheridan Smith as Jo Gillespie

Sheridan Smith gives another compelling performance as Jo Gillespie following her other recent star turns for ITV as Cilla and Mrs Biggs. Jo, also a police officer, feels cut off from her distant husband, Ryan. When Ryan is murdered in a derelict warehouse on what is supposed to be his day off, Jo is besieged by questions.

She is told Ryan was working undercover, which is news to Jo. She is told she shouldn’t mention his death to their daughter and Ryan’s son by a previous partner, because secrecy is paramount as a series of arrests are about to be made.

[Read more…]

Stonemouth, BBC2, Peter Mullan, Christian Cooke, Charlotte Spencer

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 21/04/2015 - Programme Name: Stonemouth - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: BBC Two Launch 2015 Don (PETER MULLAN), Ellie (CHARLOTTE SPENCER), Stewart (CHRISTIAN COOKE) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Mark Mainz

Three’s a crowd – Peter Mullan, Charlotte Spencer and Christian Cooke 

Beautifully filmed and acted romantic mystery based on Iain Banks’s best-selling novel.

★★★ BBC2, starts Thursday, 11 June, 9pm

THIS BBC SCOTLAND production is a cheering reminder of Iain Banks’s fine talent for conjuring dark tales with edge and wit. As if that wasn’t enough, it also has a great setting and cast.

Stewart Gilmour returns to sea town Stonemouth following the apparent suicide of his once best mate, Callum. He was run out of town two years previously by the gangster father of his ex-fiancé, the beautiful Ellie Murston, who is also Callum’s sister.

Programme Name: Stonemouth - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Stewart (CHRISTIAN COOKE) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Mark Mainz

Suspicious – Stewart

Stewart obtains the permission of Don Murston – an extremely gruff and menacing Peter Mullan – to return for Callum’s funeral, after which he has to skedaddle. It’s obvious that all sorts of skeletons are about to charge out of cupboards during Stewart’s return.

Charlotte Spencer and Christian Cooke

Programme Name: Stonemouth - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Ellie (CHARLOTTE SPENCER) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Mark Mainz

The love of Stewart’s life – Ellie

Ellie is the love of his life and Stewart, who received a message from Callum the day before he died saying he was in trouble, has his doubts that his friend’s fatal plunge was self-inflicted. It’s not long before he also stumbles on an explosive secret concerning Don – or more specifically his wife. And with every thug in town – including one played by Brian Gleeson – eyeing him with suspicion, it’s clear Stewart’s visit is going to be memorable.

The story’s background unfolds in flashbacks so that we see Stewart and his circle as children and teens, bonding and falling in love. Charlotte Spencer, so good last year in C4’s Glue, is alluring as Ellie, and well complemented by another English actor convincingly playing a Scot, Christian Cooke as Stewart.

[Read more…]

The Interceptor, BBC1, with O-T Fagbenle

The Interceptor - Ash (OT FAGBENLE) - (C) BBC

Flat-out action – O-T Fagbenle as Ash in The Inceptor

Thrills and spills in Beeb’s new cop show, an all-action hour with the subtlety of a Riot Squad.

★★★ BBC1, starts Wednesday, 10 June, 9pm

IF YOU want a taste of The Interceptor – BBC1’s ‘gripping drama’ about state-of-the-art law enforcement – just think of Sky1’s Strike Back, the smash-bang-wallop military series based on former SAS man Chris Ryan’s novels.

Tony Saint, a writer on Strike Back, is the creator/writer of The Interceptor. It’s about a surveillance team called the UNIT, which tries to outsmart some of the country’s biggest criminals.

You may think undercover surveillance requires stealth and a low-profile, but in the hands of these guys it’s all car chases, punch-ups and guns going off. They’re about as clandestine as the Glastonbury Festival.

In a nutshell, The Interceptor is all-action, but little heart.

Cast shot for BBC1's The Interceptor

The gang’s all here – The UNIT

O-T Fagbenle is Ash

Leading the cast is O-T Fagbenle as Ash, who – as he tells us several times in the opening episode – wants to bring down the big fish. When we meet him he’s working for HM Customs with his partner Tommy. They’re larking about at Waterloo, to all appearances about to have a beer or travel to a football match.

But no, they’re actually surveilling a guy who is couriering drugs through the station. It’s no surprise when the larky boys cock-up the arrest and end up larkily chasing him round the station, falling over pushchairs and tumbling down stairs.

[Read more…]

Vera series 5 on DVD

image004RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12 Discs: 2
Running time: 356 mins approx

★★★½

THE RECENT FIFTH series of ITV’s Vera is now out on DVD. Inspired by the best-selling novels of Ann Cleeves, Vera has since 2011 established itself as one of the channel’s most popular mainstream crime dramas. Key to its success has, of course, been the casting of Brenda Blethyn as the indomitable DCI Vera Stanhope, who in this new series was joined by Kenny Doughty as her sidekick, DS Aiden Healy.

Apart from Doughty, there were few surprises in season five, but the usual well-produced mysteries in the beautifully filmed Northumberland setting were enough to win audiences of around six million viewers. The stories included here are Changing Tides, Old Wounds, Muddy Waters and Shadows in the Sky. It’s only a shame that they seemed to have scrimped on the DVD extras.