Tuesday 17 September 2019

Two sirs chew the scenery in new BBC adaptation

Kirsten Dunst in Fargo
Kirsten Dunst in Fargo

Ronald Harwood's 1980 play The Dresser was made into a movie three years later, starring Albert Finney as the aged Shakesperean actor and Tom Courtenay as the bitchy minion who fusses over him as he prepares for his umpteenth performance as King Lear.

Despite these two magnetic players, I thought it all overly theatrical and really quite tedious, and I felt much the same about last weekend's latest filming of The Dresser (BBC2), with Anthony Hopkins as the tyrannical thespian and Ian McKellan as his resentful underling.

This was acting in capital letters, enjoyable if you like that kind of thing or are old enough to have fond memories of Tyrone Guthrie and Anew McMaster as they chewed the scenery throughout extended tours of Irish village halls.

I'm afraid, though, that I caved in after an hour.

Meanwhile, over on RTE2, there's the NCIS spin-off, NCIS: New Orleans, which is so lacking in originality that every few minutes the lead character, played by Scott Bakula, seeks video-link assistance from Mark Harmon of the original NCIS franchise.

That had never been up to much anyway, but it now seems like a masterpiece compared with its New Orleans heir, which flagrantly tries to use its scenic tourist locale as a way of diverting the viewer from its lack of dramatic substance.

Still, there's always season two of Fargo (Channel 4), which never fails to startle, disquiet and darkly amuse and which gets more engrossing with each episode. There was a tremendous stand-off this week between local cop Lou Silverson and the criminal Gerhardt clan, and an equally tense encounter with goons from the Kansas City mafia, while a hapless stooge met a terrible end at the episode's conclusion.

Add in Ted Danson as Lou's taciturn father-in-law and Kirsten Duntz as the ditzy wife who's in the process of getting herself and devoted hubby into all sorts of trouble, and what you have is the finest TV drama since...well, since last January's first season of Fargo.

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