Lets assume that each medium offers its own best format. If that’s true, then on TV it is the limited series programme that is the least respected and most underrated. Take The Shadow Line, a BBC 2 television series, created written and directed by Hugo Blick and starring Chewitel Ejifor. The UK paper reviewers seem to want to compare it to The Wire or the Danish series The Killing. But that’s wrong. The Shadow Line isn’t much like either. Really it is just good old fashioned thriller, something the BBC TV has done before. It’s more in the vein of House Of Cards or Edge Of Darkness. But this time it comes primarily from a single creator’s vision. This give it an extended metaphor, the “shadow line” of the title, a thread that pops up in new ways in each episode. It is both a point of dialogue and a mass of ideas. Here’s the show’s premise:
A homicide detective, with partial amnesia, returns to the job to investigate the murder of a recently pardoned heroin importer.
The Shadow Line was aimed high, and it achieved many of its goals. Where it works, it works stunningly well. Where it fails, it fails in small ways, and then moves on. In the end it is an utterly noir thriller, a highly stylized television poem and meditation on life, death and society. The methodically slow paced, cryptic, surprisingly ruthless plot delivers its message in a persuasive form, as a limited series. Most refreshing of all, it does not play, as seems does most TV, to the stupidest person in the room. One commenter put it succinctly:
“This series reminds me why it is worth paying a licence fee. Only the BBC makes drama as good as this. Drama that doesn’t treat the audience like morons.”
Another said this:
“Superb series, and the first time for an awfully long time that I’ve seen a drama on TV that’s made my brain work.”
A third, this:
A sheer joy from start to finish, even with the odd line of clunky dialogue. It was crisp and weird, and the odd, crystal-clear delivery and stylised speech of the characters, from the police to the gangsters, made it stand out from a host of dirge that has been on the screens lately. Yes it had flaws, but the complexity, the suspense, the tension, the labyrinthine plotting and the odd-ball cast of characters made it the best British drama for years.
I agree completely.
Posted by Jesse Willis