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Monday
Jul252011

SUGARTOWN: AN AREA OF OUTSTANDING NEGLECT

Sugartown is the BBC’s latest comedy drama offering based around a small seaside hamlet in the North. The first of three episodes sees the local community join forces to save their town when it’s threatened with redevelopment. 

First things first, Sugartown is a dump. From the locals themselves we hear that ‘nothing good ever happens in Sugartown’ where ‘an aging population and a fading sense of hope’ ‘hasn’t had bingo since ‘83’. The only young person we meet is desperate to leave. New arrivals are equally unimpressed wondering if they ‘have come up North or back in time’. On screen the town is rain-soaked with boarded up shops and a weary looking beach. For an audience to empathise with the community’s ‘fight to retain it’s traditions’ it should surely be apparent what it is that they are trying to preserve?

The locals' plan to attract investment is further proof that life in Sugartown ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Dredging up a historical ‘reputation for dance’ isn’t exactly current or particularly persuasive. What does the community have going for it now if 'regenerated traditions' from the town's 'glorious past' are their only hope of survival? How too can younger members of the group find enthusiasm for the project to save the town when they have seen nothing of any note in their lifetime? 

 I’m all for nostalgia, but not for nostalgia’s sake - if it looks like a dump and has stubbornly remained a dump for decades... then it is a dump. In my opinion the town of Sugartown needs to be a sweeter proposition for the community, and thus the audience, to really care. 

Wednesday
Jul202011

LUTHER, SERIES 2: WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD BAD GUYS GONE?

The good people of the Serious and Serial Crimes Unit have been having a bad month. No less than three disaffected white guys with violence on their mind have passed through their patch, clubbing, claw hammering and acid blasting a selection of passers-by.

The random nature of these attacks at an office, a train station, on a school bus; with no focus at all on the victims (we were lucky to get a name) is a very effective way of making an audience feel afraid. It’s a crime spree lottery and ‘It Could Be You’.

Thankfully Luther has the inside scoop, reading these enigmatic killers like cheap novels thanks to his psychological insight ('The opposite of an explosion is an implosion... I think that he wants to use that material to dispose of bodies. I think that Cameron is going for the children'). I was disappointed to note however, that once these criminal masterminds were in his clutches their stories drew to an abrupt close. The patchy interview / talk down scenes did nothing to explore the killers’ motives, leaving all three feeling distinctly similar and easily forgettable.

Why are these bad boys, on crusades of such scale and apparent significance, giving up so easily with so little to say for themselves? If Luther does indeed have a deep understanding of what’s at play why does he leave his audience feeling at best, out of the loop, at worst, cheated? A crime drama needs to be about more than the chase. You could argue the less explanation, the more chilling the crime, the more cautionary the tale... but to me it felt like a riddle left unsolved, a case half cracked. Who are these men? What makes them tick? What is their ultimate aim? Without these answers the audience is left feeling like one of the hit and run victims of these casual killers - bleeding, confused and asking why.

 

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