Bella Dayne women as Helen (C) in BBC One’s Troy: Fall Of A CityI hoovered up all the available Horrible Histories videos from the epoch and, in the end, found them considerably more entertaining than the £10million-plus play I was watching.
Two were especially helpful: Helen of Troy, and just to introduce it a modern context, Historical Wife Swap.
The former portrayed Helen as altogether the minx, moving from one Greek soldier in a short skirt (pinpointing as a woman?) to another, seemingly at a whim. This is mostly how she was presented by Troy reporter and creator David Farr (The Night Manager).
So it’s historically accurate. That’s a basso-rilievo low relief. We would have lost the Elgin Marbles.
Played by Bella Dayne (Sensitives/Man In The High Castle), Helen – a modern, strong woman and fully sensible of the serious choices she’s making (obviously!) – leapt into bed with the pop in Paris (Louis Hunter) moments after her grieving husband Menelaus began off to his father’s funeral.
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The series comprises a large amount of gore, hand-to-hand fighting, and swordplay
It’s another seven hours of irritated Aegean warriors in short skirts flailing swords about in a fettle and safety nightmare
She then secreted herself in a large wooden box for a caper to Troy. Try delivering that with a drone, Amazon.
Because of the littrateur’s history with The Night Manager, Farr wasn’t averse to present the Greeks at play.
Within four minutes Paris, skirt slatting in the breeze, was bobbing up and down in a field, clearly doing an ancient Greco workout for two from a 12th-century BC Joe Wicks wholesomeness plan.
There were two further Greco workouts before every one considered it far too hot to keep up such energetic activity, whatever the health promotes.
But you can’t live on sex alone, even if you’re Greek. There was gore, too, hand-to-hand question, swordplay and “wafting among silks”. Pity the characters were mostly cardboard cut-outs.
It capability pick up but what really lets it down is the language. It’s a mix of cod formality from court to a in vogue vernacular with a London accent.
Paris flatly asks his bodies Helen and Menelaus, upon arrival: “How did you two get together…?”
It’s also got Greek immortals in it, Zeus and the like. They just make me laugh. In one scene, after a few rail at claps and suitably angry clouds in the sky, Aphrodite stood before Paris.
“Prefer me and you will meet the most beautiful woman ever,” she seems to be requiring, “with whom you can do your… Greco workouts…”.
Maybe it doesn’t subject. Younger people would just go: “God, she’s hot. Wonder if she’d go out with me?”
Troy is in the exclusive Saturday night drama slot repackaged by the BBC.
This is the sort of theatre, with a big budget and sprinkling of good sets, that can look swaying on Amazon or Netflix; indeed Netflix has partially funded this.
But why? We pay a lot to the BBC so that they can make drama for us, not for the rest of the world. If it sells in foreign lands, that’s a bonus.
If you think of the 2005 series Rome with James Purefoy, Ciaran Hinds and Polly Walker, or impartial The Tudors (2007-2010), Troy just doesn’t bear contrast.
McMafia was a overlong series, and lacked sufficient plotThe at worst thing that might save it is an impressively large balsawood horse.
Else it’s another seven hours of angry Aegean warriors in short skirts flailing swords nigh in a health and safety nightmare.
The latest damp squib was McMafia (BBC One, Sunday), again a co-production with another large American TV company, AMC.
The result was an overlong series, with less area than an episode of Percy The Pig.
The final instalment completed James Norton’s Alex “one-expression” Godman conversion into a virgin gangster as he executed his family’s arch rival Vadim in cold blood.
Earlier, older and clearly useless “senior” Godman was responsible for Vadim’s daughter’s murder.
So Vadim and his empire were overcame. All of this was far too easy and too ridiculous.
A “real” Vadim would have been covered by a small arsenal of security, not just a second-in-command colonel from the guarding services.
There is a clamour to have a second series, which it doesn’t justify, not least because all the female characters were essentially Russian grid maids with a good line in obsequiousness.
Endeavour (ITV, Sunday) gave us another concerning mystery. Morse also had a little bit of fun with Fred Thursday’s niece, which affirms that he cannot survive on crosswords alone.
The fifth series of Attempt has arrived on ITVHowever, the episode ended with one of those portentous directions, laden with tragic irony, with Endeavour thinking aloud to Thursday far whether his fate too was to “end in a flat with no company but a bottle”.
In the most compelling TV contest of the year, John Simm v John Simm, I give the award to Trauma (ITV, Monday – Wednesday) for Collateral (BBC Two, Monday).
Interestingly, both focused on those who don’t feel part of of a society for whatever reason.
But in Trauma it was Simm’s brilliantly unstable Dan Bowker who conveyed matters into his own hands – ultimately with a kitchen knife, after the extermination of his son.
Writer Mike Bartlett crafted swirling, compelling two-hander backgrounds between his protagonists, dragging you closer to the edge of your seat.
It was upsetting and superb, with a remarkably satisfying ending.
Three hours of stage play that, for a change, actually said something about the world we energetic in rather than preaching at us about it.
A triumph for all concerned. First Doctor Forward, now Trauma. Writer Bartlett is one of our best.