drama

Further World Wide Watchables

A continuing review of dramas from Walter Presents… discovered on All 4.

Les Beaux Mecs (Tony’s Revenge) (France, 2011)

I’ve read many times that one good thing about watching non British and non American drama is that the actors faces are unfamiliar and so their characters are more believable. While I don’t think I enjoy “foreign language” shows especially for this reason, it is probably true.

So, what do you know when I recognise the protagonist in Tony’s Revenge as the guy who played the politically aspirational Afghan crime lord, “Colonel” Amanulla in the brilliant Kaboul Kitchen. The actor is Simon Abkarian.

In Tony’s Revenge, he plays convicted mobster, Antoine “Mad Tony” Roucas, who makes an impromptu prison break with his cellmate, an uppity street gang delinquent named Kenz. His motivation for this is his sudden belief that his one time friend, Guido, who he thought murdered, is actually alive and well.

The drama follows Tony’s quest for the truth and to settle old scores, relying heavily on Kenz for support. Intertwined with this is the back story of Tony’s early life, his introduction to organised crime and why he has to settle those old scores.

It’s typically french in the way it balances nimbly between serious and comedic, the comedy mostly provided by the interplay between Kenz’s street attitude cool and Tony’s old school, cold cool attitude to gangsterism.

It has its moments and is entertaining on the whole.

Les Beaux Mecs IMDb


Crow’s Blood (Japan, 2016)

As I pick these shows purely at random, counting off the list with a random number generator, it’s a lottery which one comes up. I was quite pleased to find a Japanese thriller.

As Walter himself describes it, this is a drama filmed almost as a real life manga, with horror story tropes used to great effect. It’s somewhat Sci-fi too.

It’s set in a girls’ school when a new student arrives whose personality is peculiar and a bit sinister. She is the only daughter of a doctor who, for ethical reasons, was prominently against stem cell research until the daughter was involved in a life threatening road accident. Turning to his adversaries in stem cell research, they develop a means to save the daughter but the process has unforeseen consequences. Cue the horror-thriller events.

I’m not usually impressed by horror-thrillers but this is pretty good though in danger of getting ridiculously OTT at the end.

Crow’s Blood IMDb


Professor T. (Belgium, 2015)

Another drama from Belgium in Dutch (mostly), with a smattering of French, and the occasional English phrase oddly echoed in the subtitles. I was disheartened to find it stretched over three seasons and steeled myself to go only as far as the first, but I was wrong. It didn’t turn out to be a flog-it-to-death concept at all. Each series brought in something new to the drama.

Essentially, it’s a crime drama focussing on a team of police detectives solving homicides. During one case, they enlist the help of academic criminologist, Professor Jasper Teerlinck, a renowned genius in the field but one who also suffers acute OCD and doesn’t suffer fools at all gladly nor tactfully. He solves the case with Holmesian expediency and is soon employed by the force as an official criminologist and criminal profiler.

Not much special in this, it may even seem to borrow from other police dramas, but the Professor’s OCD and the cause of it are played out dramatically as surreal illusions which recall similarities to Dennis Potter dramas – The Singing Detective etc.

There is, I think, a precise blend of seriousness and comedy which works exceptionally well. It’s entertaining and the characters are engaging. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Professor T as well as actor, Koen de Bouw, his measured facial expressions and delivery are perfect to a T.

Professor T. IMDb

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History, Prehistory and Everything Before and After

Ours is not as bad as H.E. Bates’ Larkin’s house where there was always a TV on in every room, but the one telly we have does seem to be on a lot. Mostly, I tune it out but sometimes it worms its way past my unconscious defence.

As it did yesterday. It was showing a medieval drama, a jousting event where armoured blokes upon armoured horses charged at each other, aiming poles at the other’s delicate body parts. And at other times on foot, hacking at each other with huge broad swords. Apart from the jousting scene, you could tell it was a medieval setting because all the poor people were dressed in sackcloth and rags. A funny thing though, a lot of them were exceptionally clean shaven and had nice haircuts, and all of them had really clean faces and hands, as if they’d just taken a hot bath or shower.

To be fair, I guessed it was a semi-comedy drama. What gave it away, and what drew my attention to the telly in the first place, was during the jousting tournament the crowd were all chanting Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, and in a subsequent scene there was an incongruous electric guitar solo – not acted out in the scene, thank god, but on the soundtrack.


During the above faux historical drama, I had begun listening to another podcast about the planet Venus. Early on in our history, Venus was considered to be Earth’s twin, it being close to Earth’s size as well as being our neighbour (Mars is much smaller). It’s also most noticeable in the sky having a highly reflective atmosphere; it appears as a star. Early on, people imagined it contained life and, as it was closer to the sun, its life would be consistent with that of hot, tropical jungles.

That idea was binned once scientific evidence established how hostile its atmosphere actually is: mostly carbon dioxide and so thick, the pressure at ground level would crush a human being, and so hot it would melt lead. Mars seemed a better bet for life after that.

One of the three scientists giving account of the planet gave a short description of how planets formed around the sun, beginning with a swirling of space dust, eventually sticking together by electromagnetism and then gravity, the sun then reaching ignition point, and the residual turning forces of swirling matter making everything revolve and orbit. For Venus and Earth, the period from adhering and coagulating dust particles to a proper orbiting sphere would be around 100 million years. At that would just be the beginning.


I was thinking about my primary school and how I remembered a lot of lessons about prehistoric life. We began with fossils of trilobites and ammonites, those funny looking segmented and spirally sea creatures, then the fishes and amphibians, and eventually the rise and decline of the reptiles – dinosaurs! – and ending with a few early mammals.

It seems to me now how each of these periods in Earth’s past is a distinct portion of the Earth’s life simply because of the huge passage of time each had taken. The Earth has had many lives, so to speak. It may have many more ahead, possibly without us.

And there I was, marvelling at those significant names from England’s “Dark Ages”, and how they seem to dabble in politics and culture as much as we do, and write books about it all. And, well, yes, but it’s only 1400 years ago. Nothing in time. When we’ve barely 100 years each in which to experience existence, how inconceivable is a passing of a million years!


It’s extraordinary to me to think how Earth has sustained some form of higher life for so long, and mostly, if not all, by chance. What are the odds? Do you think we’ll come face to face with aliens from another planet? Across time and space, as vast and hostile as it appears, and to coincide with our time here?

I don’t.

The World, AI and Memory (and a bit of telly)

An interesting piece on AI from Learn Fun Facts, a blog I follow.

Should we worry about the doomsday scenario of AI and robots taking over the world? Maybe it’s inevitable. Maybe they’ll be welcome to it, once the devastating effects of climate change are realised.

My binging of the Walter Presents… archives of World telly drama from the All 4 app, continues. I’ll list a short appraisal below but the most recent drama was the brilliant Tabula Rasa from Belgium, though spoken in Dutch. It’s a nine one hour episode series, complete with no sequel – the kind I like. It has a clever plot with several twists along the way, and one big one midway which I doubt many viewers would predict. The opening titles are very stylish too, you sense you’re about to see something worthwhile.

Tabula Rasa is latin and translates as Blank Slate. In this drama, this is a metaphor for memory. Our protagonist suffers from amnesia following a traumatic experience. This means she fails to remember anything after the trauma very quickly and relies on keeping a notebook in lieu of a normal working memory. (This is similar to the guy in the film, Memento, who wrote notes on his body.) Whenever she needed to verify something, a person’s identity, for instance, she would rush through the pages of her book trying to find the relevant note or drawing.

This is, more or less, how AI data retrieval works, isn’t it? I mean, it’s more refined and therefore extremely efficient, but nevertheless the same. I don’t think anyone yet knows precisely how the human memory works – or doesn’t work, sometimes – how all that data is squirrelled away within the grey stuff. And it’s very energy efficient.

Imagine having to rely entirely on note taking for memory. Or, say, keeping a blog. In time, it would become enormous, and probably unusable. Long before then, you’d probably be chucked off WP for using up your storage allocation; you’d have to start paying and, in no time, bankrupt yourself.

What a marvellous instrument the old brain is. I ought to look after it.


A quick summary update of my Walter Presents.. viewing, most recently watched first,

Tabula Rasa (Belgium, 2017)

A woman suffering short term amnesia is a suspect in a missing person’s case, and probable murder. She is committed to a clinic where, with the aid of a notebook, she struggles to make sense of the situation and events from her recent past. A stylish and clever psychological thriller utilising several horror story tropes.

Blue Eyes (Sweden, 2014)

A political drama about the rise of right wing factions, both legitimate and terrorist. It’s general election time and the plot centres on two women, one a newly appointed civil servant finding herself in the middle of ongoing political corruption and the strange disappearance of her predecessor, the other a single mum who, wanting to avenge the murder of her activist mother, joins a new extreme right wing group. A good thriller.

The Mind of a Murderer (Germany, 2017)

Following the death of his family, a police detective returns to work as a new head of a city crime unit. His methods are unconventional and puts him at odds with his subordinates who themselves have personal issues which affect their work. The quirkiness of the chief character just about raises this drama above average.

Kabul Kitchen (France, 2014)

A not too outlandish comedy about an ex-international journalist, Jacques “Jackie” Roberts, who quits journalism to make money running a western style restaurant and bar in Kabul, during relative peacetime. His estranged daughter turns up unexpectedly as an NGO, and the local criminal boss decides to be his friend and equal business partner, but his problems don’t end there. A very entertaining double series carried admirably by the lead actor.

Norskov (Denmark, 2015)

A policeman returns to his economically impoverished hometown, recruited to clean up its high drug related crime. There, he reunites with two old friends, one serving as the town’s mayor and the other runs his own building contractor company. A brooding Scandi drama, slow at times, maybe, but deep enough.

Spin (France, 2012)

Les hommes de l’ombre, (the shadow men), the original French title is better. Three series of this political drama centred on the work of a spin doctor, his adversary and one time partner in business, and the assorted politicians he mixes with. Not much politics seems to happen oddly, it’s mostly about politicians climbing, and sliding down, their greasy poles. Nevertheless, good plots and well acted performances.

Tainted (Brazil, 2014)

A disgraced police officer finds work as a bounty hunter, working for an ex-colleague’s sideline business. Meanwhile, he attempts to find the evidence to clear his name and get back to living a legitimate life. So-so, macho cop kind of thing.

The Cleaning Lady (Argentina, 2017)

Conscientiously efficient professional cleaner, Rosa, is contracted to clean up an assassination scene by the local mafia. She does such a good job eliminating all the evidence, she inadvertently becomes the mob’s go to cleaner of choice, thwarting the efforts of the two detectives investigating their crimes. I thought this was going to be a comedy, but no, it’s completely straight. I quite enjoyed it too.


My other Walter Presents reviews can be read here.

World Wide Watchables

For what it’s worth, here is a rundown of series I’ve seen from All4’s On-demand “Walter Presents”, a channel dedicated to International Telly Dramas.

There must be around 70 or more programmes to choose from and I simply picked these at random by thinking of a number beforehand.

I’m of the opinion that any review can be a spoiler but I hope I’ve kept it to a minimum. Cast, director and further gen contained in the IMDb links below each.


Clona (The Lens) (Czech Republic 2014)

Roman is a film and media student who wants to go to college to study filmmaking. Unfortunately, he gets rejected a number of times. He hates making do with photographing or filming weddings and his father, a traffic cop, thinks he’s wasting his life. Eventually, Roman accepts the offer to work alongside his father, photographing scenes of road traffic accidents.

One of these assignments ends tragically and Roman’s future takes an unintended path. He is offered a position as forensic photographer as part of a small, special crime squad. He has the support of his boss but the team are not so convinced; they quickly nickname him “Fellini” and regard him as a liability. As a cop, he knows he isn’t a match for the others, but as a detective, he seems to hold his own.

This is a series of separate case episodes though continuous character storylines run along side: relationships between colleagues, family issues and Roman’s development, and acceptance, as a cop. While the premise seems implausible, it’s an entertaining series. I liked it.

Clona IMDb


Hellfjord (Norway 2012)

Having watched the Norwegian movie, Jackpot, a few months back, I’m inclined to think Norwegian comedy has no boundaries. Oh, I found both Jackpot and Hellfjord funny but not without feeling slightly guilty about it.

The premise here is that Salmander, a rather inept mounted police officer, is sacked after publicly and brutally killing his horse in an act of mercy – that isn’t a contradiction, you’ll need to watch the first episode otherwise it’ll be too great a spoiler. As his superior is obliged to give him three months notice, he posts him to an island in the far north, Hellfjord, where he will act as community sheriff. There he is reluctantly assisted by the vulgar and hobbit-like local man, Kobba, and his beautiful and multi-talented “mail-order bride”, Riina.

It should have been a quiet gig if it wasn’t for a slightly scatty, local investigative journalist, Johanne, who’s convinced the island hosts a nefarious secret centred around the fish export factory run by Swedish businessman, Bosse Nova. If it’s true, Salmander is convinced he’ll get a reprieve if he cracks the case.

It’s a bizarre and often absurd comedy, near the knuckle in places. I liked it.

Hellfjord IMDb


Dupla Identidade (Merciless) (Brazil 2014)

I don’t know anything about Brazilian telly but my first impression from this series is that their audiences are shown a greater amount of brutal, graphic abuse than I think would be granted to British audiences. But hey, here we are in the UK watching it.

This is a police manhunt drama. The guy they’re looking for is a psychopathic sexual predator and killer. Apart from the violence shown to the victims, it’s standard police manhunt trope – for UK audiences, think Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren – though the perpetrator here is revealed from the start. There is sound reason for this and it does create extra tension in the drama.

Running parallel to the investigation is a political corruption story, involving a career politician hell bent on elevating his position at any cost. This creates problems for the senior officer handling the case as his own promotion is decided politically. If that isn’t enough, the independently minded and strong willed psychologist appointed as criminal profiler turns out to be his former lover. All the parts are then intertwined.

Violence aside, it’s a tense, captivating plot. They must have cast the actor (Bruno Gagliasso) playing the killer on his ability to alter a look of angelic innocence into cruel-hearted sinister on the turn of a sixpence. Gripping. I liked it.

Dupla Identidade IMDb

World Wide Watchables

I don’t know how many of you can get the All 4 on-demand telly app but I’ve decided to post a little review on the brilliant Walter Presents collection hosted there. Foreign language TV has only relatively recently found a niche in British audiences. I’m not sure when this began exactly but the 20 episode Danish crime drama, Forbrydelsen (The Killing) had a strong following when it was aired on BBC TV, and other foreign language series seemed to follow on its heels.

But Channel 4 here in Britain seem to have taken the idea all the more seriously with Walter Presents, presented by Italian TV producer and film aficionado, Walter Iuzzolino. At the start of most series on offer, Walter gives an introduction to the show and reasons why he thinks it’s watchable; these introductions are, I think, watchable themselves; he’s certainly into style, cinematography and technique.

I’ve already posted about Deutschland ’83 (Germany) and Počivali U Miru (Croatia), espionage and investigative journalism dramas, respectively (links below). I have since watched two others, Clona (Czech Republic) – a police drama – and Hellfjord (Norway) – a police comedy – and I’m part way through a rather dark crime thriller from Brazil. Posts of these will follow in time.

For what it’s worth, as there are around 70-odd series available, I’ve been picking them at random simply by thinking of a number beforehand. So far this unbiased approach seems to work for me.


Deutschland ’83 Review

Počivali U Miru Review

Grist for the mill

My thoughts on selecting stories from the submissions grid for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (posted previously) could also apply to my latest viewing entertainment on the All 4 catch-up app.

I don’t know how widely available the UK’s Channel 4 is but if you don’t have it, really tough luck. Their box sets of international dramas, featured as Walter Presents…, are a delight to this viewer who’s become jaded with the current state of telly, wanting something a bit more off-grid, so to speak.

After watching the brilliantly polished, German spy series, Deutschland ’83, (posted previously), I chose at random whatever was in grid box no. 37. This happened to be Počivali U Miru (Rest In Peace), a Croatian TV series about a young journalist sent to do a video story on a former prison which is about to be demolished. Whilst nosing around, she discovers a record of prisoners who died during their sentence and whose bodies went unclaimed so were buried unceremoniously in the prison cemetery.

Each episode concerns the story of one of these prisoners and the journalist’s investigation into how they died. She is aided by a retired warder of the prison, a man with his own secrets. There is also a thread which runs through all the stories, a higher conspiracy which obstructs her work and threatens her life.

It’s a slow burner this one but it definitely grew on me. The principal characters are very watchable and it has a gritty plausibility. Incidentally, there’s also a fair bit of smoking (you may be aware how smoking has all disappeared from British dramas now. They only have your welfare at heart, I know, but what about realism?)

Now I’ll need to pick another number and see what lies behind that box. There must be around fifty-odd series to choose from; it’s going to keep me engaged for some time. If you can get it, I recommend it.


Počivali U Miru – official trailer (Youtube)

Inspector Montalbano

I see the Beeb is about to show four new episodes of Inspector Montalbano.

Why do I enjoy this silly little telly police drama?

It’s Italian, down in Sicily no less, which some may argue is distinct from Italy as, say, Cornwall is from Britain. Whatever, it’s sunny and everyone is in open-necked shirts and sunglasses, and, despite the crime rate, everything seems idyllic.

Our protagonist, contrary to the literary one, is played brilliantly by Luca Zingaretti, a middled-aged man, fairly short, reasonably stocky and quite bald, yet he remains the epitome of Italian style, of which there is probably no greater cool. What a great example, and hope, for all middle-aged men. He lives in an immaculate seaside apartment, though does no housework; he swims first thing, he drinks little cups of coffee with his pastries for breakfast, and drinks evening aperitifs on his moonlit terrace. He’s the only cop with an enviable lifestyle.

He’s an epicure, utterly obsessed with food. Italian food, of course, and in my opinion amongst some of the best in the world. He insists on perfect silence while eating. The screenplay is faithful to the author in that the food is adequately described. It’s an inspiration to make your own version, as I have done previously with fair results.

There is an underlying comedic element to the plots, something that’s sorely lacking in 97% of current police procedural dramas. I like the way Italians (stereotypically, without doubt) seem to erupt negatively with emotion, and go crazy with gesticulation, at the smallest inconvenience or trouble, and then having got it all out of their system, revert immediately to stoic philosophy – ah, well, what can you expect? This is life. Shit happens. Hey-ho.

It’s not Morse, nor Frost, nor Taggart, nor any other of those types. I guess that’s why.