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Vexed - it tried to kill me [Aug. 16th, 2010|01:52 am]

Today, the BBC nearly choked me.

At the moment, I have one of the most unjust colds in existance: The Weekend Cold. You feel it come on late on Friday, suffer through it Saturday and Sunday, unable to use that hard-earned time for yourself on anything other lying in bed feeling sorry for yourself. By Sunday morning, you feel like you could be ready for anything again after a good night's rest. The only problem is, you're due in work the next morning. That means, absolutely zero downtime from a work perspective, at the expense of your own personal time. How fair is that? Ok, I could have called in sick on Friday, but due to the fact that I had some work that absolutely, positively had to be finished up that day (or so I thought), I hauled my sorry, sniffling and pale ass in. Turns out the work due had to be delayed until Monday, but I still ended up putting in nearly a full day before finding that out. There was no point taking sick leave for the sake of leaving an hour early, so I slugged it out, and hacked myself home and into bed - asthmatically coughing and sneezing myself to sleep.

Believe it or not, this will relevant, and isn't just some excuse to fish for pity.

Today, I watched a new BBC series called Vexed. It looked like it was going to be a police comedy/drama. From the opening scene we were sizing it up, comparing it a mad scientist's cross of Coupling, Mayo and Life on Mars.

The main characters are strange. I'm still deciding if I like one of them. Like all police-based shows, you have a pair of detectives. Like most shows, they're mismatched in some way. Unlike most shows, you see a blatant disregard for a lot of procedure. The main male character (Jack, played by Toby Stephens) seems like a cross between Patrick from Coupling and Gene Hunt from Life On Mars. The character seems like an immature student playing at being a cop whose never seen the inside of a police station, and you're just WAITING for someone to haul him away to the funny farm. He demonstrates no real inclination to follow procedure, and is a very difficult character to get to like (this is partially down to the accent). The actor, himself, has one quality that I'm sure most in the acting profession would kill for; a genuine on-stage laugh.

This is where the BBC tried to kill me. Imagine this immature wannabe-detective listening to his partner describe a killing, while he laughs at an imbecilic, purile joke worthy of Beavis and Butthead's contempt, then breaking out into a full belly-laugh that was so infectious it had me laughing despite myself, just after I'd taken a mouthful of tea. Now, just imagine the chesty, phlegmatic cough that would come with my laugh, after my weekend cold. Imagine me in a fit of the giggles, despite not finding the original joke that funny, trying to swallow my cup of tea, while also allowing myself to cough my lungs out because I've just started laughing. Something had to win out. It was the most ungraceful, phlegmatic spittake ever seen. All of this was set in motion just by Toby Stephen's laugh. That has got to be worth something.

The female partner (Kate, played by Lucy Punch - she was the initial receptionist in Doc Martin) is good. I know that sounds like damning with faint praise, I actually really want to see that character grow, and think that she has a lot of potential. Again, her character made me howl with laughter, although I just don't have as much to say about it, despite that fact that she was responsible for the most damage in total. While she was as funny and strange, and well-written as Jack, she just didn't induce that same spit-take. I was laughing at what she did and said (as one would expect from characters), but Jack just happened to have the singular effect that he made me laugh just by laughing, which slightly casts a shade over her performance.

The opening episode seems to be following in the footsteps of a lot of UK drama at the moment. There seems to be an agenda (one that I don't disagree with) in current UK television series to remind its audience (generally citizens of the United Kingdom) that Endemol's Big Brother House is wholly unrealistic, in that it doesn't have nearly as many closed-circuit cameras per square inch as your average London High Street. However, the writers treat this theme very differently to most; it doesn't try to smother you with this Big-Brother-Britain, nor does it try to wave it in your face, but takes it as a fait accompli and explores how humans use this new-found power. It's an episode that leaves you feeling like the detectives are as bad as the people they're investigating at the end.

As for the story-line, it wasn't that bad for an hour-long. The case itself was simple, they were set onto the main thread quickly, with little run-around, and set a nice rhythm and set up the characters nicely (including the fact that I'm beginning to doubt more and more if Jack actually IS a police officer) but had a nice little twist, and deus-ex-machina that avoids the cliff-hanger quite neatly.

I'm not sure the entire series will keep me as enthralled as this episode did, but it's certainly a strong start. I'd recommend that if anyone has the opportunity to see the first episode of Vexed, they should do so.