CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: I know you disagree with me, but please give Marriage another go
Investigating Diana: Death in Paris
My verdict on Marriage (BBC1), which I hailed last week with a five-star rating, provoked more disagreement from readers than almost any review in the past ten years.
It was unwatchable, you said — death by boredom, not so much slow as motionless, pretentious, pointless and offensively sweary when it wasn’t completely inaudible.
Usually, when readers take the trouble to email and tell me I’m wrong, I send back an amiable note to say that, if we all agreed about everything, I wouldn’t have a job.
But Marriage, a four-part domestic drama starring Sean Bean and Nicola Walker as a couple stifled by the grief of a child’s death nearly 25 years earlier, is an exception.
I want everyone to admire it. If you switched off, if you couldn’t bear the slowness, please think again.
By showing us two middle-aged people doing the most mundane things — loading the dishwasher, watering the plants, brushing their teeth — writer and director Stefan Golaszewski forced us to look for the story in the tiniest details
By showing us two middle-aged people doing the most mundane things — loading the dishwasher, watering the plants, brushing their teeth — writer and director Stefan Golaszewski forced us to look for the story in the tiniest details.
Like clues in a murder mystery, the keys that unlocked the characters were well hidden . . . and thrilling to find. Take a scene in the garden at the end of the third episode, when Ian tells Emma that their daughter Jess (Chantelle Alle) has met someone new. He’s ‘sweet’, apparently. Emma chuckles with derision: ‘Sweet? That won’t last. She doesn’t fancy him.’
In that snap judgment, she reveals so much about herself. We know her own marriage is solid, that it has withstood bereavement and many other trials, just as it is now weathering Ian’s redundancy and depression.
But we also know it’s Ian’s kindness she values most, and that she’s sometimes attracted to other men — such as Jamie (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), her louche, shallow boss. Ian, driven to distraction by jealousy, knows it, too.
With careless transparency, Emma has touched upon the fracture at the core of their marriage. She fell in love with him because he was sweet . . . not because she found him sexually irresistible.
You might feel I’m reading too much into a throwaway line, just eight words. If this were a standard drama, with plot twists and a three-act structure, I’d agree.
Marriage on BBC One stars Sean Bean as Ian and Nicola Walker as Emma
But nothing about Marriage was standard drama. Its chief flaw was the constant foul language. Though BBC types won’t believe it, many people wouldn’t dream of talking that way at home.
And the mumbling, meant to convey how Ian in particular disliked talking about his feelings, was sometimes frustrating.
If you can bear that, though, try Marriage again.
When they’re faffing with the dishwasher, tune your ears to what isn’t being said.
There was no shortage of plot twists in the second part of Investigating Diana: Death In Paris (C4), as any pretence of sober reportage was abandoned.
The film-makers embraced the conspiracy theorists in a confused but entertaining tangle of contradictions.
There was no shortage of plot twists in the second part of Investigating Diana: Death In Paris (C4) , as any pretence of sober reportage was abandoned
At one point, the documentary even turned supernatural, as Egyptian TV presenter Hala Sarhan described the five-star suite maintained by Mohamed Fayed as a shrine to his son, Dodi, and the Princess. ‘I felt the place is haunted by their souls,’ she said. ‘In Egypt a soul doesn’t rest until it gets justice.’
This revelation was given the same serious consideration as claims of improvised laser beams that blinded Diana’s chauffeur in that Paris tunnel.
Much was made of Fayed’s allegations that the Royal Family would rather commit murder than welcome a Muslim into the Firm.
Piers Morgan popped up, looking about 15 years old. Was he really the Daily Mirror’s editor at the time — or just on work experience? The truth must be told!
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