Thursday 22 March 2018

Gérard's the main pull in clichéd drama

Gérard Depardieu in Marseille
Gérard Depardieu in Marseille

John Boland

We've all had the experience of watching shows that were so bad they were good fun, and maybe that's the best way to approach Netflix's new drama series, Marseille, which stars Gérard Depardieu and which you can binge-watch at one sitting.

Netflix dramas can be great when they know their territories and characters, as in Better Call Saul or House of Cards, but Marseille blunders into the Mediterranean French city with all the preconceptions of a gormless American abroad.

No cliché is left unturned as sultry vixens strip down to their ooh-la-la lingerie, scowling Arab villains do dastardly things and venal politicians forge deals with the local mafia.

As seemingly the only decent man in the whole city, veteran mayor Robert combats backstabbing deputies and duplicitous femmes fatales in his bid to save his beloved city.

"It's not power he loves," an admiring journalist declares, "it's Marseille."

Depardieu saunters through the role of Robert like someone who doesn't really care what he's been asked to do and say, but at least he's Depardieu and you can't take your eyes off him - and not only because of his currently quite alarming bulk.

But the plot twists are frequently bonkers, as is much of the characterisation and motivation, and some of the acting is really very bad.

Oh, hell, you'll probably love it, and Marseille itself looks so great that you'll want to visit it immediately.

I was hoping to love Ben Elton's new sitcom, Upstart Crow (BBC2), which critics have been comparing to his wonderful Blackadder. Here the main character is a pretentiously dopey Shakespeare, but the lines simply aren't as funny as Elton imagines, while the amiable David Mitchell is no Rowan Atkinson.

"You should put it in a play," Will's wife says of a little drama he's concocted. "A play within a play?" he muses. "That's not going to work". But that's as good as it gets.

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