Thursday, May 19, 2011

Honking Box Preview: Primeval

Much has been made on this blog of the often-loathsome tactics of drama commissioners, who see fit to pull the plug on a series at the most inopportune moments, leaving many a storyline dangling in a pen-pushing, dollar-driven world where content is bottom of the list. One such show was Primeval, whose moderate but consistent viewing figures didn’t warrant its high production budget, hence ITV’s decision to bury it.

So kudos to Watch for stepping in and giving the show a lifeline at a time when it had already felt the cold, unforgiving blow of the axeman's blade. Sadly, it seems reattaching the head of something already decapitated is quite a messy procedure.

The fourth series, which aired on ITV as per the deal hammered out with UKTV – and that’s before you consider the input of BBC America, ProSieben and Irish funders – saw Primeval lose its way massively, all gaping plotholes and irrelevant characters and iffy dialogue. Sadly, as the fifth series (which begins this weekend on Watch) was produced back-to-back with the fourth, we don’t hold out much hope for an uptake in quality.

Perhaps it's partially to do with the input of no less than five separate organisations. Fair play to them, clubbing together saved the show's life. But with the show’s editorial aspects now at the mercy of a pan-European coalition, it’s resulted in Primeval being pulled in a dozen different directions.

Primeval, in all fairness to its new incarnation, has had its shaky moments long before now. The clunky reswizzing of Claudia Brown into Jenny Lewis was previously the show’s greatest faux pas, and the dreadful Helen Cutter’s bad penny routine became quickly irksome. But Series 4 soon introduced a whole new level of shark-jumping. A lead character with zero heroism; the upgrade of Connor from speccy loser to all-action hunk to compensate for this; and the slipshod disguising of Dublin as London. Granted, it’s not exactly substituting Beverley Hills with Basra, but the Irish bus stops and road signs and number plates make for quite a clumsy affair.

And special mention must be made of an absolutely shocking performance from Ruth Kearney as Jess, who may go down as the most underdeveloped character in the history of scripted drama. One episode she’s a dead-eyed bimbo with a desk job; the next she’s a superhuman IT whizz; and, when the scripts see fit, she owns a luxury apartment large enough to house the rest of the team. The only consistent factor would be the dreadful stab at acting, though in fairness to Kearney, she’s not been given a great deal to work with.

It’s hard to be critical when the producers have evidently gone to some lengths to make this series happen. But unfortunately, what was once a hugely entertaining piece of British sci-fi has suffered heavily in a world where numbers carry significantly more weight.

We can only hope that a similar fate doesn’t befall the upcoming Torchwood: Miracle Day, which was given a lifeline in a not-too-different transatlantic co-production deal. And hopefully, this particularly brave plan will see Primeval through to another series where it can find its feet once again.

No comments:

Creative Commons Licence
The Sloppy Dog by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.