Dan's Media Digest (blogueur, 21 mars 2008).
ASHES TO ASHES 1.7 – "Charity Begins At Home"
Friday, March 21, 2008 | Ashes To Ashes, TV Reviews | 0 comments »
Writer: Matthew Graham
Director: Johnny Campbell
Cast: Philip Glenister (DCI Gene Hunt), Keeley Hawes (DI Alex Drake), Dean Andrews (DS Ray Carling), Marshall Lancaster (DC Chris Skelton), Montserrat Lombard (Shaz Granger), Amelia Bullmore (Caroline Price), Stephen Campbell Moore (Evan White), Matthew Macfadyen (Gil Hollis), Geff Francis (Viv James), Joseph Long (Luigi), Andrew Clover (The Clown), Shaw Taylor (Himself), Jeremy Clyde (Chief Superintendent), Troy Glasgow (Ska Boy), Grace Vance (Molly Drake), Lucy Cole (Young Alex), David Schaal (Gene Look-alike) & Roger De Courcey (Himself)
A charitable man is robbed of the cash he raised to help starving African children, with Alex and Gene clashing over how best to handle the situation...
The penultimate episode of this first season (there'll surely be another; based on ratings), co-creator Matthew Graham returns for an episode that throws its weight behind the comedic aspect of Ashes To Ashes, featuring the real-life husband of Keeley Hawes as a track-suited charity fiend...
Charity Begins At Home opens with a beautifully-recreated 80s TV show, recreating the robbery of Gil Hollis (Matthew Macfadyen), a Birmingham-born do-gooder who spent 8 months sitting in bath to raise cash for starving Africans. As part of this Police 5 reconstruction, appropriately silly look-alikes of Gene, Ray and Chris are seen – lampooning characters that are already vague pastiches themselves.
In an interesting change of tack, Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) doesn't think her life hangs in the balance this week; rather one of her make-believes colleagues are threatened to be snuffed out by The Clown (Andrew Clover) – who taunts and threatens her via her television. So, who's going to end up on the slab: Gene, Chris, Ray or Shaz? With a question marked drawn in blood over October 7 on Alex's calendar, she doesn't have long to save her colleagues' life – and "take control" of her own fantasy.
The central plot is played mostly for laughs, with Gil given a daft hair-cut, moustache, comedy-value Brummie accent, awkward blue tracksuit and Monk-style OCD. Gene (Philip Glenister) is exasperated by Gil's inability to provide a consistent story regarding the people who robbed him, by cutting his car off and stealing his funds at gunpoint, before shooting him in the arm. Alex, as usual, is more understanding of Gil – particularly once she realizes he's an obsessive-compulsive, but thinks it would help if Gene made a personal appeal on television.
These days, television is a considered a very effective tool to catch criminals and prod peoples' memories, but it was interesting to be reminded that 1981 policing wasn't so enamoured with the process. Gene in particular would rather be out there catching criminals than sat in front of a camera making a plea for witnesses. However, he's talked into it by Alex, and subsequently makes a hash of the job by appearing "ineffectual" to the 3 million people watching. Alex has to agree, and Gene is annoyed he's been made to look a fool in front of the nation.
Alex tries to get more detailed information from Gil, by using her psychology training to refresh his memory with special techniques. Nothing really seems to work, so Gil is allowed to go home to his son Adam and distant-looking wife. However, Gene begins to notice discrepancies with Gil's take on events and is suspicious of Gil when he obsesses over a billboard near the crime scene – although Alex thinks the OCD is to blame for his erratic behaviour at times.
Acting on a retrieved memory that Gil has of a female robber's eyes, he's brought back into CID to pick out suspects in a line-up – finally choosing one woman who is revealed to be WPC Shaz Granger (Montserrat Lombard). Gene has had enough of Gil's uselessness, and has him beaten up in a police interview room for proper answers. Alex is appalled at the harsh treatment and unprofessional behaviour (good job she didn't jump back in time to 1973, eh?) and seeks advice from Evan (Stephen Campbell Moore).
Lawyer Evan ensures Alex that the only responsible course of action is to have Gene reprimanded. The next day, Evan and Caroline Price (Amelia Bullmore, back again), take great delight in bringing down the "Manc Lion" in front of his staff – forcing Gene's Chief Superintendent (Jeremy Clyde) to put him on mandatory "leave". Awhile later, while returning to CID to collect a bottle of booze from his office, Gene notices a TV report about the robbery – and spots dried blood on the suction cups to a Garfield toy attached to Gil's car window. How could blood get onto the underneath of the suction cup like that?
After some further forensic investigation by Alex, she's forced to agree that Gil must have staged the robbery himself – having stopped in his car to stash the raised money somewhere and shoot himself in the arm to deflect suspicion. Alex, Chris (Marshall Lancaster), Shaz and Ray (Dean Andrews) tell Gene the good news at Luigi's, and are forced to take cover when Gil arrives to shoot-up the place when they go to leave.
When the gunfire subsides, Gene and Alex confront Gil outside and try to talk him into giving himself up. Gil claims he only wanted the money so he could provide for his own family -- as he came to realize, after spending 8 months in a bath, that his own loved ones are more important to him than starving Africans. A sentiment shared by his wife, who never did understand his charitable activities.
Eventually, Alex manages to persuade Gil to be reasonable by appealing to his desire to be with his son (and not stuck in prison for murder). Her plan works, but Gil makes a run for it, with everyone in hot pursuit. He makes it to the billboard near where he said he was "robbed" and retrieves the raised cash from inside the structure's metal pipes. Shaz is first to arrive, but is accidentally stabbed in the stomach by Gil's pen-knife in her attempt to apprehend him.
As Gil is arrested, Shaz collapses in front of Alex. An ambulance is called, but Shaz doesn't seem able to hold onto life, despite encouragement from Alex and Chris to keep alert. The Clown that has stalked Alex these past weeks becomes visible to Shaz seconds before she passes away.
Chris is distraught and a fuming Gene has "cop killer" Gil kneel on the floor to face a lawless brand of justice – giving the nod for Ray and others to beat Gil up to atone for his crime. Alex's grief for the loss of her friend (even if she was make-believe) focuses her energies into willing Shaz back to life. She performs CPR, screaming for her to "fight", before eventually managing to resurrect Shaz and effectively "take control" of her fantasy. Everyone is astounded by Shaz's return from the dead, but Alex is sickened by Gene's brutality toward Gil.
In the denouement, Alex is at home with Evan, overjoyed that today's events proved she can take control of this 1981 world she's trapped in – even having power of life and death over the "characters" within it... which bodes well for her plan to prevent her parents' death by car-bomb, in just a few days' times...
Ashes To Ashes certainly flaps around tonally, with every week bringing a different take on the same basic idea. As co-creator, we should perhaps pay closer attention to Matthew Graham's scripts than anyone else's, and Charity Begins At Home certainly paints the show as a comedy-drama, tinged with fantasy. The episode touches on a few serious topics, but it's mainly an exercise in fun – with a cameo for popular 80s ventriloquist Roger De Courcey (whose presence turns Ray to jelly) and a name-check for Syd Little.
The opening reconstruction populated by look-alikes of the cast was there purely for comic value, and the character of Gil himself (an unrecognisable Matthew Macfadyen from Spooks) almost resembled a Harry Enfield character at times! Graham also has a flair for amusing dialogue (I particularly liked Chris' insistence to Shaz that Friday 13th: Part 2 is a romantic film to watch: "it's set by a lake."), although he sometimes took it too far (several popular boybands are unwittingly mentioned by Chris and Ray in the space of a few seconds).
So while the drama of the story itself was more light-weight than usual, it was still enjoyable and a pleasant change of pace. Shifting the focus of The Clown away from Alex's own personal demon, and more a "harbinger of doom" for the other characters, was also a great twist. Even Evan and Caroline were more believably woven into the plot, and we got a few developments to the story in almost throwaway moments – when it's revealed that Evan was first on the scene to comfort Young Alex after her parents were killed in the real 1981, and Gene actually asks Alex out on a date early on...
With the episode so focused on light comedy and winks at the differences between '81 and '08 ("hoodies" being considered a reference to Watch With Mother by Gene), it actually comes as a big surprise and shock when Shaz's death scene appears. Montserrat Lombard has been tragically wasted on the show, but her performance during Shaz's death was quite heart-wrenching. It was a mild cop-out to have Alex magically bring Shaz back to life (shades of Matrix Reloaded), but it did make sense within the framework of Ashes To Ashes' universe – where Alex is effectively the writer of her own fictional Narnia. We even see Alex's real father reading one of C.S Lewis' books to her as a child.
Overall, if the drama had been more serious, this would have been the first episode of Ashes To Ashes to get a 4/5 from me – but it can't quite justify that. It was a bit too silly most of the time (though enjoyable), and the script's use of comedy was heavy-handed at times. But, it's clear that Matthew Graham is the only writer on the show who knows how Ashes To Ashes can work best. There are some very welcome twists to the standard formula here, witty dialogue, and better use of characters and the "pretend 1981" premise. It's just a shame half the episode was taken up with a broad caricature like Gil Hollis and his easily-solved mystery.
20 March 2008
BBC1, 9.00 pm
Critictoo.com (21 mars 2008).
Extrait du commentaire sur l'épisode 7 :
Extrait du commentaire sur l'épisode 7 :
L’humour est aussi bien présent, et nous offre du référentiel. Moins évident pour le public français, un lien est fait avec Children In Need, qui a débuté en 1980, et qui est donc une émission sur la BBC pour réunir des fonds (et dont l’ours est le symbole). C’est surtout le dialogue où l’on trouve New Kids on the Block, Take That, et the Backstreet Boys qui fera son effet, et qui est très bien écrit.
L’épisode est donc d’un calibre assez bon, bien qu’il aurait pu se révéler supérieur. L’enquête policière doit beaucoup à Matthew MacFadyen, qui endosse un rôle à l’opposé de ce qu’il a pu faire pour le moment, et qui se révèle surprenant, que ce soit par sa performance ou par son accent.
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