Copycat 'Killing' makes for tantalisingly tense viewing

 

TV REVIEW:It seems a faithful reimagining, despite the transatlantic transplant

ForbrydelsenThe KillingThe Killing

The BBC did not buy the US series made by AMC ( Mad Men, Breaking Bad), because it was too similar to the original. That’s a good sign, and on the strength of the first gripping episode it seems a faithful reimagining, despite the transatlantic transplant. It is set in a Seattle that is as misty, cold and wet as Copenhagen. This isn’t the vibrant Seattle of chai lattes and trendy cyclists. It’s strictly blue-collar workers living in anonymous neighbourhoods, and the atmosphere is as dull as matte grey paint.

The quirky main character, detective Sarah Lund, was a large part of the reason the Danish show was such a success. Her name has been changed to Sarah Linden but, amazingly for an American drama, that’s as far as the makeover goes. With her hair scraped back and not a scrap of make-up, Mireille Enos plays Linden as intriguingly monosyllabic (or enigmatic, take your pick), and fans of the original will be glad to hear she wears a deeply unflattering Scandinavian jumper under her three-sizes-too-big police anorak.

This version of The Killinghas been cut down to 13 episodes, one for each day of the investigation. It begins with Rosie Larsen, a soon-to-be murdered teenage girl, running in terror through a forest at night and moves straight to police procedural, with Linden working the case of the dead girl. It’s supposed to be her final day on the force before she moves to sunny California with her son and fiancé, but of course she stays.

Teasers and a shoal of red herrings multiplied in the first two episodes shown back-to-back on Thursday: Rosie’s body was found in the boot of the car belonging to the slick mayorial candidate; her grief-stricken parents clearly have secrets; and there’s something rotten at her high school.

It’s worth tuning in for the suspense, the performances, particularly those of Enos and Joel Kinnaman as her sidekick Stephen Holder, the brilliantly crafted bleakness of the location, and to see how the teasers littered around the tantalisingly tense plot play out.

THERE’S ALWAYS THErisk that when a drama is bookended by grim real-life statistics exposing a modern horror that you are in for a preachy time, with the possibility that you will end up feeling guilty for watching from the comfort of your sofa – or for even havinga sofa.

Stolen(BBC1, Sunday), a thought-provoking and moving drama about child trafficking into Britain, managed to stay – just – on the fine line that runs in these heavily themed films between information and entertainment, largely thanks to the powerful performances of the child actors Gloria Oyewumi, Huy Pham and Inokentijs Vitkevics.

Damian Lewis was Detective Carter from Manchester police’s human trafficking unit working on a case that started when an 11-year-old West African child was found alone at the airport. Three different stories of trafficking, linked only by Carter, told the story. There was Rosemary, the silent, resilient 11-year-old who thought she was coming to England for an education but ended up being sold for £4,000 to an African family to be used as a house servant; Kim Pak from Vietnam, imprisoned in a cannabis-growing house in suburbia; and 14-year-old Ukranian Georgie, whose dreams of starting a new life end with enslavement in a sandwich-making factory and his death on the streets.

The use of a split screen to show the contrast between Carter’s care for his own young daughter and the unprotected, exploited lives of the trafficked children was a little heavy-handed, and the unequal time given to the three stories was puzzling. Rosemary and Georgie’s stories were told in full, while Kim Pak’s story was little more than a distant sub-plot fading in and out of the film, so that it was difficult to care or even understand much about his plight.

For a drama keen to expose facts, there were twists that strained credibility. When Georgie was knifed by a passing school kid and left bleeding, it just seemed like a clunky plot device to hammer home that trafficked kids die, rather than a realistic scenario. Still the drama threw a little light onto a difficult subject, without quite being the thriller it was billed as.

WATCHING THEastonishingly awful Mamó(RTÉ1, Monday), I was reminded of a hilarious episode in An Crisis, the TG4 sitcom set in a government quango that exists to promote Irish language and culture. It has to spend its money somehow and so funds a film that is as poorly conceived as it is executed, but it doesn’t matter because it’s in Irish and that’s good enough. And besides, no one will ever see it.

Mamó was made with the help of the Northern Ireland Screen Irish Language Broadcast Fund, but what was RTÉ thinking when it bought it (or surely was given it) and then decided to broadcast such a poor quality programme in a primetime slot? The idea is that Belfast granny Máire Andrews, Mamó, goes to various families to sort out their problems. Like supergranny, but as Gaeilge, with no other qualification necessary apparently. In the first of the four parts (a month of it!) Mamó arrives into the Cavan home of Colm and Danni Ó Cionnaith and their three children. He’s Irish and she’s Bulgarian but the most interesting thing about the couple is that they are Moonies and were introduced to each other by Reverend Moon in 1997, moving to Ireland a year later and Cavan four years ago. You’d think that back story was worth more than a passing mention, but it was never brought up again.

Moonies in Cavan? Of course you’d want to hear more. For a reason that’s not explained, it’s an Irish-speaking house, the children go to the local Gaelscoil and dad is a Gaeilgeoir. Danni is struggling – she looks miserable and lonely – so Mamó suggests she learn to drive to encourage her independence and plant a few things in the garden to make her feel more in touch with Bulgaria where they grow all their fruit and veg. Mamó’s real message is that Danni should buck up and learn Irish.

So we had to watch a pitiful scene were Mamó whipped out the flashcards and the cúpla focal and Danni gamely tried to keep up. Mamó suggests that Colm learn a bit of Bulgarian – but you don’t need to be a psychologist to see that’s a rubbish deal for Danni who would feel less of a stranger in her own house if people spoke to her in a language she could understand and that would help her to integrate into the wider community. Whether Mamó, Colm or the organisation funding the programme likes it, that’s English.

Get stuck into . . .

For One Night Only(RTÉ1, Friday) A masterclass in how it’s done or a tired trip down memory lane? Decide on Friday when Gay Byrne is back with a chat show.