Peaky Blinders, Series 1 (UK, 2013)

peaky-blinders-horse-posterCreated by: Steven Knight. Ohhhhh where do I start with this show? A friend of mine recently asked me: “Is it good?” And I had to reply honestly: “No. It’s not good. It’s actually kind of terrible, according to almost every metric available for judging a TV show, basically every metric other than how good it looks, the set design, cinematography, etc.” And then I paused. “But I fucking love it anyway.” I’m completely hooked, I’ll keep watching the second season. And it’s peculiar, because normally when I decide to watch a show, I follow through and decide to watch it, no matter what (ie Murphy’s Law.) And this show in particular, I was very wary of. (At first I didn’t even want to say the stupid name of the show because I thought it was stupid, and it is stupid, but I digress.) There was a good stretch of time between when I first heard of it to when I actually committed to watching it, for the simple reason that it didn’t look very good. Don’t get me wrong, it looked good, in the way that it did indeed turn out to look very good, and it looked very satisfying to all of my little criteria of guilty brainless pleasures—history, old time costumes, British accents, an immersion into a new British city that I don’t know anything about, a crime story about a nominally “real” period of history, and the potential for a cast of great British actors that I love (Cillian Murphy and Charlie Creed-Miles in this season, and then Tom Hardy and Noah Taylor next!), and it’s all created by Steven Knight, who I just fell in love with for Locke. So I mean, all of this looked fantastic, and in fairness, the show totally lived up to all of this. The only hitch, and smelling this a mile away is what kept me from committing to the show for so long, is that it’s actually just not very good. When I say it’s not very good, I think I have a pretty modest criteria for such things. I’ve seen a ton of TV, and I feel like I know the general rules, the broad guiding principles for a successful TV drama. And I think I can see what the show’s creators are going for, it’s just that none of it is accomplished very successfully. The writing is just…sloppy. The plots are pretty half-baked, and they view like a broad outline of an idea of a story arc over 6 episodes; the characters each feel like broad outlines of characters that don’t quite develop over a 6 episode story arc. And maybe that’s the flaw—that it’s only 6 episodes, and that they’ve bitten off something that takes more than 6 episodes to chew. I don’t know. I do know that it’s still really satisfying to watch, to relish in how bad it is, in an epitome of decadent, post-ironic viewing sort of way. Before, during, and after watching this thing, I was treated to a lot of fun-poking and criticism from different sources—about how silly each episode is, about how questionable the accents are, about how everybody has a Macklemore haircut—and all of that is good fun. I’m no expert on history or British accents, but the glaring fault that I would think is a huge detractor for any common viewer is the music in this thing. Are you fucking kidding me? Almost without exception, the only music they use is White Stripes (and other Jack White related stuff), Nick Cave, and a bit of Tom Waits. Setting aside the whole gimmick of using modern music in a period piece—whatever, I don’t care—but holy shit, they couldn’t branch out slightly? Did they actually just blow their entire budget on sets and costumes, reducing them to begging two or three of their favourite artists to give them a bulk deal on song licensing? The aggravating thing is that, for the most part, the Jack White/Nick Cave/Tom Waits songs they do use are just sort of plopped down unceremoniously, to awkwardly fill a 10 second segueway that didn’t need filling, totally calling attention to the music choice and derailing from the (already flimsy) plot structure. But, really, add this to the accents, to the bad dialogue, and the strange combination of those things when it’s bad dialogue in a weird accent coming from a great actor like Cillian Murphy or Sam Neill (“We must stop these Peaky Blinders!”), and it’s a pretty great experience. I recommend this to people the way I recommend David Lynch’s Dune. To a certain person, I say: “Dude, you gotta see this. It’s fucking amazing.” And really, it’s only 6 episodes per season—why not?

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5 responses to “Peaky Blinders, Series 1 (UK, 2013)

  1. Pingback: The Sweeney (UK, 2012) | Offhand Reviews·

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  5. Pingback: Peaky Blinders, Series 2 (UK, 2014) | Offhand Reviews·

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