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The Shadow Line - BBC Two - Review

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Written by : published Wednesday 11th May 2011

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Another week, another new British drama for me to bang on about for five hundred or so words. This week it’s the turn of Hugo Blick’s The Shadow Line to take to airwaves on BBC Two (Thursdays 9pm BST), as part of the BBC’s Original British Drama Season.

Before writing this review I had not heard of Hugo Blick, but seeing as every trail concerning The Shadow Line mentioned him personally, I felt some research was in order. The most noticeable credit for me personally was that Blick directed, produced and co-wrote the massively underrated comedy Marion and Geoff. In which Rob Brydon not only puts in a great comedy performance, but is not yet tainted by the annoying role of Uncle Bryn from Gavin and Stacey, and the funny the first time ‘small man in box’ impression that he does on every panel show. But I digress.

The Shadow Line as a result shows a massive change of direction as this mainly comedy drama writer, turns his hand to the dark world of this conspiracy theory thriller. The grey and cold world that Blick creates works well with his cinematography, writing and direction, but did feel slightly repetitive. Scene changes from dockyards and warehouses, to homes and offices showed no discernable difference from each other, but at times this highlighted the similarity between the opposing worlds of the police investigators and the gangs.

The pace in this opening episode is also remarkably slow, with each scene painstakingly introducing new characters. By the end of the programme’s full hour on screen the lack of definite progression in the story makes me feel that I will struggle to remember some of the minor characters by the time the next episode comes round. The main casting however is fantastic with the two male leads played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Christopher Eccleston subverting the expectation of their characters. The closing moments of the programme in particular hint at something interesting to come but struggle to really provide the impact it needs to attract as many viewers back to the second episode.

No matter how much I wanted to like it, I can’t avoid saying that I felt this series opener fell a bit flat. It may have been Blick’s intention to keep not only the characters but the audience in the dark about the story progression, and if it was, then he succeeded. If that makes good television however remains to be seen. I would recommend persevering with The Shadow Line to the second episode, as I feel it might reveal a bit more to us, and the commitment to watch the first episode might pay off. 

 

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About the author Peter Crowther

Peter Crowther

My name is Peter Crowther. I'm currently a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Huddersfield, a Broadcast Assistant at BBC Birmingham and now a TV review writer for thetvking.com.

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