Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Oh my God...

I was quite looking forward to Bonekickers (BBC1, Tuesdays, 9pm) as I like my BBC drama series and this one looked like it could be up my street. Interesting topic, lots of characters, a little dash of Spooks and it was written by the folks that did Life On Mars. Good pedigree.

What a bag of unmitigated toss. And remember, I have the lowest of standards usually. Lets see if I can replay some of the highlights.

The lead character, a tough-ass female archeologist with some hidden family past, has absolutely zero empathy. Zero. She is just brutal and abrasive for the sake of it. I was desperately trying to place where I had seen the character before and then it struck me - its the Dead Ringers version of Fiona Bruce. Utterly unwatchable.

The plot - a housing project turns up a Knights Templar site which happens to maybe have a piece of the Cross of Christ, but the land just happens to be owned by a lunatic right wing Christian zealot trying to start a holy war against Muslims using ex-Eastenders actors with longswords - was almost (-almost-) watchable, as it didn't quite stray into Da Vinci Code territory. Throw in a woman with a splinter in her finger that can heal the dying and some hilarious vignettes to camera by said lunatic in the manner of V For Vendetta and it began to slide into silliness.

Then they discovered the dovecote with the massive vault containing all of the crosses brought from the Holy Land, under a church (no subsidence, obviously) and things just went from bad to worse. You have the lunatic sword wielding young men turn up in a classic stand off of 'drama!'. The zealot lunatic rappels down into the church like a Bond villain, with his obligatory sword. There is an argument, a scuffle and then the DEVOTED ARCHEOLOGIST sets the entire place on fire! We are then privy to some really bad blue screen work as the archeologist and the lunatic duel on the hanging ropes in the style of 'Hang Tough' from Gladiators. The bad guy falls and decides to off the plucky third year archeology student from Durham (typical Durham 'rah') and instead of screaming and begging for her life, she starts singing 'Jerusalem' at him!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, everyone good escapes, the lunatic and the guy from Eastenders burn to death, the underground chamber is left blazing away - probably undermining the entire area - and the archeologists go off down the pub. I shit you not. The death of two people isn't worth a blink for these neo-Indianas!

Next weeks is about slavery, the American presidency and has redcoats in it. I can hardly wait!

The BBC: Making the missable, missable


Samarcand said...

Didn't you see the trailers? The dialogue in them was enough to put me off!

Stil, it's always good to get independent confirmation...

Anonymous said...

That show was so good I was more interested in my economics text book than the TV.

Not good.

Now, as is usually when these things happen I naturally see what could have been: CSI, with an archeaological bent and the visual flare and early originality of spooks.

Instead we got British Hokum.


redben said...

The Mirror's ace TV critic, Jim Shelley, wades in -

'Somewhere in a hub of creativity (the pub), two of TV's most feted talents were poring over the bare bones of an idea buried (sensibly) at the bottom of a drawer years ago.

Eventually Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham - creators of Life On Mars - would formulate the exciting (albeit imaginary) concept "Indiana Jones meets CSI" or, given the BBC's budget, Sea Of Souls meets Time Team. Hurrah!

Actually Bonekickers ended up more like Waking The Dead meets Rentaghost.

Our four heroes are predictably eccentric, maverick archaeologists committed to The Truth.

Hugh Bonneville enjoys himself tremendously (the polite way of saying he over-acts horribly) as breast-obsessed historian Gregory "Dolly" Parton.

Julie Graham plays Gillian Magwilde, the type of troubled obsessive who can be found kneeling over a trench, whispering: "Give up your secrets."

Then there's Adrian Lester, an actor who once played Hamlet and now reduced to shouting: "This is rewriting-the-books stuff!"

Rather than CSI, the team seem to have chosen as their inspiration the gang in Scooby Doo - forever asking questions ("why would anyone want to fake a ship's voyage 200 years later?") that spell the plot out to anyone (me) who can't follow it.

In episode one, they marched in like the Bones Police, declaring that obviously the presence of one 14th century Middle Eastern coin meant they were going to seal off a park in Somerset and dig it up. Personally, I was with the disgruntled builders. "What if there's nothing down there?"

"There's always something down there," Gillian declared. "We have a medieval riddle to solve so we start digging!"

A series of flashbacks showed a dozen extras dressed up as the Crusaders - not, sadly, the 70s jazz-funk band, but blokes in chainmail whose horses rise up on their hind legs.

Their findings suggested (gasp!) the Crusaders had been ambushed by Saracens. "That's patently crazy!" insisted Adrian Lester, and he should know. There was evidence too of the Knights Templar (don't ask). "That's just nuts!" Adrian reiterated.

"In the middle of the English bloody countryside!" joined in Julie. "That doesn't make any sense at all."

Next they found a piece of cedar. From the Holy Land. Dated 32AD. Soaked in blood. Mmm. Evidence that 2,000 years ago, someone had "been lacerated with a nail and bled into this wood." Who?! Who could it be?!

The team gathered around a picture of Jesus being crucified and stared at it meaningfully. "Do you in all seriousness believe you have found part of the cross of Jesus Christ?" scoffed their boss, speaking for us all.

They did! They had! And in their very first episode, too! How lucky can you get?! Clearly this wasn't enough so we spiralled into a demented sub-plot about a sinister right-wing Christian, the spit of Peter Mandelson.

He had a small gang of vigilantes (very small: two, one of whom was Joe from EastEnders) dressed up as St George and running round slaying Muslims.

Luckily, the archaeologists stopped them from turning Britain into a hotbed of religious tension by setting fire to their leader during a sword fight. Less impressively, the archaeologists razed a set of sacred crosses in the process.

In tonight's episode, they rewrite the history of George Washington and help a senator on his way to becoming the first black president.

So well done, Ashley and Matthew. From one of the best programmes of all time to one of the worst.

A series of flashbacks showed a dozen extras dressed up as The Crusaders - not, sadly, the 70s jazz-funk band'