Death Comes to Pemberley

December 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

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Right, the Christmas Season is upon us.

You don’t need to be told this as you are in the midst of it. In fact you’re probably over the Festive Season before it has even begun. With the endless ads seeming to starting earlier each year (fffs this year they definitely started in October), Christmas movies and tinselly, baubley crap adorning the office and shop windows.

So, as I say, you may not need to be told the obvious, but me? For some reason I’m in fucking China and with less than a week to go, it’s only just dawned on me that it’s Christmas.

Just as I was thinking this I got a call from the Editor. Like some kind of TV Santa Claus (TV as in Television not transvestite, though who’s to judge? I am writing this in a nappy, listening to the Ozric Tentacles, sucking on a petrol can) he sensed my unease.

So there I was, be-diapered and high skyping my surprisingly attractive man as woman boss (think Bugs Bunny, in a dress but drunk and more slutty) complaining about missing Christmas and being home sick, when like the go-getting young lady man I have come to respect he immediately knew what to do.

“Why don’t you review a bunch of Christmas Specials? “ he slurred through lipstick stained teeth and last night’s mascara running down his cheeks, martini in one hand, cigar in the other.
“Put a few decorations up, get some sherry in, you can get sherry can’t you?” He asked, lazy hands weaving silver tinsel into his hair.
“I always have sherry, Sir” I replied.
“Atta boy” He smiled kindly at me through my laptop. A smile etched with hardship, delirium and too many cigarettes.
“If you have Christmas Specials and sherry sugar tits, then you can have Christmas. His smile grew weary as he emailed me the list of Christmas shows on offer.
“Merry Christmas you young scamp” he signed off blowing me a kiss.

So two days ago, I sat down with a bottle of cream sherry, a fresh can of Esso’s finest and a makeshift Christmas dinner, consisting of duck neck, owl soup and pickled veg and begun my Christmas Television marathon.

First up was ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’, an adaptation of crime author PD James’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice.

P&P is exactly the kind of high end soap opera masquerading as literature that bores me to tears but I am a sucker for a sequel and this one also being murder mystery, meant it might break the tedium of traditional costume drama. I have also just finished the ‘Anno Dracula’ series by Kim Newman, (sequel to Bram Stokers ‘Dracula’) so I was well up for a much delayed literary follow up.

It opens with Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennet) heroine of P&P, on morning duties. This comprises of swanning round the village, visiting the smorgasbord of classically handsome young men who populate the area. Seriously, if a dashing chap is your cup of sex tea, then you’re in for a treat with this show. However, if it’s the female of the species that gets you hot and bothered then…well…not so much.

Once the morning perambulations are complete, the show drops into cruise control and not much happens. Tens of minutes pass where we are treated to heaving, breathy shots of Pemberley House, its gardens and surrounding countryside. All coupled with long dramatic pauses from the cast and not much else.

It’s all very nice but there is only so much high definition, soft focus and made for 3D composition that I can stand. After a while it becomes less drama and more advert for National Heritage.

Anyway, at some point in the first episode some bloke is murdered. Not much else happens before that; Darcy walks around looking serious and saying little whereas Elizabeth goes on her sex tour of the village.

Once the death happens, the two classic lovers instead of working together, take their own separate journeys into discovering the killer. Elizabeth pretty much by being inquisitive and asking questions and Darcy by being a pompous dick.

This schism in their relationship represents an underlying theme to ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ and P&P i.e. should we marry for love or for duty, this is rammed home at all possible moments.

The second episode is more of the same but without even the revelation of a murder…so it plods along for an hour sighing, looking forlornly out of windows and being wet. Looking gorgeous though, always gorgeous.

At some point Penelope Keith pops in for a rather pointless cameo, and though she does liven proceedings for 3 or 4 minutes, it is not enough to distract from the shows numerous failings in script, direction, casting and Trevor Eve’s ponytail.

The third episodes starts off much like the others, but about half way through the editors realise they don’t have to continue padding this out and finally start telling the story.

This story is quite entertaining if a little predictable and would have made for good TV if they had cut it down to 2 or even 1 episode. But, it’s a Christmas extravaganza and no doubt the BBC’s big thing for Christmas, which makes it rather disappointing. On the other hand its unchallenging nature and themes of love and honour, duty and family, against picturesque English countryside and architecture make it a perfect food coma tele. Not for me though, for my Gran. My dead Gran.

Well that’s the first special done, next up it’s the ‘Bletchley Circle’ or ‘Catchphrase’ Seriously he wants me to watch ‘Catchphrase’. I need more petrol and maybe some duck tongue.

2/5

Death Comes to Pemberley is on BBC1, at 8pm on the 26th December