Yesterday I had returned home from a demanding weekend in the country, made myself a late lunch and then retired to my pit. As a result I slept for two and a half hours straight, partly because I felt exhausted and partly because it was going to be my only route to staying up long enough to see the 9.00pm debut of Series 5 of Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty, one of my all-time favourite police-procedural drama series ever since it first hit the airwaves.
It’s funny how things pan out.
Beside my other ruses to fill time up to 9.00pm – pouring myself a stiff gin and tonic laced with a slice of lime and a shot or two of Angostura bitters, making myself an evening meal, checking my weekend emails and filling in the recent days of my dietary diary – I first watched my recording of a BBC Four documentary on the early years of the Beatles that had been broadcast three or four days previously.
In all honesty, being the age and therefore Beatle fan I am, I already knew the basic story. There have been that many magazine articles, previous documentaries, histories and biographies (both authorised and not) over the past six decades that it would have been hard not to.
Thus I came to it partly in the mode that I wished to assess it for (1) its quality as a documentary piece; (2) any new revelations it contained that I had not previously known; and (3) its ability to stand as something to keep and make my kids watch one day so that they’d hopefully gain a proper appreciation of significance of the greatest band that has walked the Earth so far and its impact upon the history of the world and human culture.
On all fronts I am afraid it was a disappointment.
Apart from a shedload of ‘contemporary’ both black & white and colour film footage – thankfully very little of it endlessly repeated – and that new technical ‘device’ that filmmakers now deploy whereby the main subjects of old photographs somehow ‘appear’ to be in 3-D in front of the background (which, of course, even I can accept makes the image more ‘interesting’ to modern eyes), it was a case of endless featured ‘talking heads’.
Among them were Brian Epstein’s former business partner, the Fab Four’s regular tour manager Tony Bramwell, journalist Ray Connolly, ditched drummer Pete Best, two members of the Searchers and sundry either olden times night club managers, publicists and other ‘hangers on’.
All spoke with affection for the band, collectively and individually, and the good old times when ‘the boys’ played their first gigs for £3 a night (“Good money in those days!” testified Pete Best) and the heaving sold-out Cavern club, which had a distinctive whiff all of its own, compromising the habitual expected musty stench of a dingy basement, cabbages and the sweat (”At least I hope it was sweat …” quipped one ex-member of the Quarrymen) that was forever running down the walls.
However, detracting from the project as broadcast was the element to which everyone –drenched in the benefits of hindsight – spoke apparently knowledgeably about the Liverpool scene and the Beatles’ ascent to fame as if they were now university professors steeped in the subject and (1) it was all inevitable, pre-ordained and occurred just as night followed day; and (2) their own connection with the Beatles was more personal, more close and more intimate than anybody else’s.
Which, of course, in 99% of all of the above, it probably wasn’t.
By the end I had become rather bored with the talking heads and was instead craving for footage of the Fab Four in action – of which there was actually precious little in the documentary (no doubt so the makers could avoid the expense).
This was going along spectacularly well from a visual point of view – well bar the overbearingly “We are all guilty” climate change dogma blatherings of the uniformly ‘preachy’ presenters, who were simultaneously contributing ‘live’ from four different points (and of course time zones) around the globe – until this happened, rtight towards the end of the programme – DAILY MAIL
Great writing, fast-action, great set-ups, great performances, loads of plot but a huge sense of deja-vu.
The opening (main) story-line – I’m not giving anything away I shouldn’t here – was a hi-jack of a lorry-load of important high-value (drug) contraband being escorted front and back by two police cars containing armed officers … an opening not too dissimilar to every other series of the show thus far.
Come on Jed, you can do better than this! … I say that knowing/expecting that – as ever – as the new series cranks up it will become better and better by the week.