Thursday, 12 December 2013


Caught the first episode of this last night. So far it's fine social-realist TV drama in the tradition of Our Friends in the North, Tinker Tailor, Red Riding, etc, and certainly better than anything the Beeb have done this year I reckon. (Definitely better than last year's shambolic effort in this regard, anyway.)

There's quite an interesting political thread running through it, too. Christopher Eccleston is deliciously demonic as gambling club owner John Aspinall. An unusual amount of script space is given over to Aspinall's Randian dialogues full of references to Alpha Males, biological determinism, the survival of the fittest, the importance of accepting the growth of an inferior underclass, and all that shite. He's basically a walking Adam Curtis theory, a right-wing crank grumbling about the power of "the Miners" in social-democratic post-war Britain, a sinister Blimp full of embittered determination to reassert what he calls the "natural order". Of course, the character is all the more shady because his views will become depressingly mainstream some ten years after the early-seventies moment that provides the backdrop to Lucan's narrative.

Another interesting thing is the way this class narrative is synthesised with a powerful feminist argument. Egged on by Aspinall's reactionary Alpha Male spiel, Lord Lucan starts to intimidate his wife Veronica - mentally and physically - in an attempt to get her committed so he can win custody of his children. Fortunately, this is the progressive early seventies rather than the Downtonite 1920s, so the courts decide in favour of the independent, sound-of-mind woman against the imperious, bullying aristo. The tragedy is that the working-class nanny who has supported Veronica in the run-up to the trial is bludgeoned to death by a crazed Lucan at the end of the first episode.

The symbolism here - of a brutal, quasi-Darwinian patriarchy reasserting its authority after a period of "effeminate" egalitarianism - is not difficult to grasp. The unheimlich contemporary relevance - bearing in mind certain recent uber-Darwinian pronouncements of the British Conservative Party - is also striking.

And then you realise who Aspinall's step-nephew is:

There can be no more denying it ...

The conspiracy theory is the true realist art form of the twenty-first century.

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