Wednesday, January 22, 2014
DANCING ON THE EDGE/TRUE DETECTIVE
The six episodes of Dancing On The Edge were available on demand, so I watched three episodes one day, two the next and the last the following day. And truthfully, Bisset was really impressive in it. There were some other good performances, mainly Chiwetel Ejiorfor's, playing the main character, a British jazz band leader in London in the early 1930s.
Modeled on Duke Ellington to a great extent, Ejiofor's character is classy, smooth, brilliant (musically, and at times socially and in some other ways, though often his actions seem not to smart) and ends up embroiled in a murder mystery plot, though the purpose of the show seems to be to emphasize the racism in England at the time.
The writing is often predictable and/or redundant, and the directing, including the casting, and acting are uneven. But Bisset is a revelation as a mourning, reclusive aristocrat with a taste for jazz music. Only the music seemed totally miscast. The theme and soundtrack music is modern, which is okay, other TV series with similar time periods, e.g. Boardwalk Empire, use contemporary music in their openings (though few do it for background soundtrack).
But the music that the entire premise of the show depends on bears little resemblance to the jazz of the period. And the storyline depends on our accepting that England was unaware of "black music" i.e. jazz, until 1932 and Ejiofor's character comes along. Then the main jazz singer that supposedly captivates all kinds of people from all different classes, is played by a competent singer (if it's her voice) but nowhere near as exciting and original as the actual recorded black jazz singers of that period (like say early Ella).
And she's supposed to be beautiful in a way that captivates all kinds of men, and though the actress playing her is attractive she is nowhere near as stunning as she's made out to be. And so on. Then there's the other male lead, the white one to balance Ejiofor's character, a music reporter played by Matthew Goode, the British actor I always mistake for another one until he moves and talks and then I realize it's Goode, whose charm and attractiveness are not, for me, those of the leading men he generally plays.
The story did suck me in because I wanted to see how they resolved it. But they used the cheapest of cheap shots to do that, so ultimately the whole experience was mostly unsatisfying, save for some of the acting (everyone was good in that regard, even if they were miscast), especially Ejiofor's and Bisset's.
I mean seriously, watching him in this is like a lesson in screen acting. As good or better than anything you could say that about, like early DiNiro or Pacino, or Brando even, or Jennifer Jason Liegh at her peak. And he's playing mostly off Woody Harrelson, who's no slouch either. Harrelson has some incredible moments as well, the subtle ones are the best, but it's mainly McConaughy's show and he makes it work in as a unique way as you're likely to ever see on TV.
The camera work, the music, the atmosphere, the editing and casting and direction are all so good, for me this show, so far (fingers crossed it doesn't disappoint in future episodes) is the new benchmark for TV drama (with the caveat that it does play the sensationalism, sex and violence card, as did Dancing In The Dark and does Boardwalk Empire and Homeland and so many others). Can't wait to see it continue to play out.