Cuffs, Babylon and Assorted Brit Fare

I understand they can’t all be a ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Broardchurch’, ‘Call the Midwife’ or ‘Doc Martin’ – sadly there’s just one more series of that latter gem to go. I understand that for the cost of one quality drama perhaps three or four reality/panel/quiz shows can be put to air – most of those being pure dross on the cheap. But, still, it’s somewhat deflating to have enjoyed the first season of a new series only to read, usually once you’re right into it, that the powers to be have deigned not to re-commission it for a second. ‘Cuffs’, recently shown on ABC, as well as ‘Babylon’, watched on DVD, were both subject to this indignity.

I doubt it will happen with these two offerings, but occasionally the clamour of public disappointment will cause a change of heart. This happened here in Oz with the excellent ‘A Place to Call Home’, picked up by Foxtel. In Britain, the fans refused to allow Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks (love the name) to go away when last century’s second great conflict finished. ‘Foyle’s War’ was bought back to sort out matters when the Iron Curtain went up.

I would have thought both ‘Cuffs’ and ‘Babylon’ would be worthy of a second chance. They certainly right royally entertained my lovely lady and myself. Both contained lashings of action (‘Cuffs’ preference for police chases on foot rather that in automobiles was welcome), humour (very black in the case of Danny Boyle’s ‘Babylon’) and interesting back-stories involving the major characters of each.

cuffs

It was hoped ‘Cuffs’ would become the new ‘The Bill’. Reportedly the cast were distraught at its axing – most would have to look for new work to keep the wolf from the door. It was set in the faded gloss and glitter of England’s equivalent to the Gold Coast, the poor luke-warm substitute that is Brighton. ‘Cuffs’ displays plenty of this city’s underbelly. ‘Babylon’ was, to my mind, the somewhat better offering. An American whizz-kid (Brit Marling) is brought in to run the public image of Scotland Yard. She’s all for change and transparency and is championed by the Commissioner (James Nesbitt). The actor is in much demand and presumably had to juggle this with his remarkable work in ‘The Missing’. He’ll be replaced by David Morrissey in the latter for the second round of episodes, but at least ‘The Missing’ is coming back. In ‘Babylon’, it’s ‘Game of Thrones’ style as the Commissioner doesn’t last the season. This in itself may have been a part-cause of its demise. The result, in any case = more actors out of work.

babylon

The demographic I am a denizen of, one of a certain age, love our fodder of the best of British on Auntie. Occasionally we’re outraged when favourite staples are purloined by the buying power of the commercial networks, only to have the flow of their story-lines completely buggered by mundane ads being shouted out at us. But now there’s a new player on the block as well, making the pickings for our ABC even slimmer. Foxtel’s BBC First has now the budget to get its hands on the newest product coming out of Pommy Land. At the time of writing, this pay channel was offering Le Carre’s ‘Night Manager’ (Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddlestone), ‘Capital’ (Toby and Gemma Jones), ‘Shetland’ (Anna Chancellor) and ‘Dickensian’ (Stephen Rea and Caroline Quentin) to its fortunate viewers. Sure, some of these will make their way to free-to-air later on and be released on DVD, but it’s the changing of the guard, isn’t it? I wonder how many of these will be renewed for another season?

After all, quality and the tastes of the great British (or Australian) public do not always go hand in hand. Pity that.

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