The Governor, Being Human and Traffik among DVD highlghts
The old school fares well against newbies in intriguing TV drama releases
The Governor ●●●● features a curious performance from Janet McTeer, just four years before her 1999 Oscar nomination for Tumbleweeds. In the first season of Lynda La Plante’s excellent prison drama, she switches between giggling schoolgirl and feisty iron lady as she tries to contain the inmate mayhem, official incompetence and being persistently undermined by that nice Charlie Slater in between spells of fixing her hair and looking bemused to have been handed the governorship of the maximum security all-male Barfield prison.
Season five of the episodic Skins ●●● is generally viewed as a return to form which would make you grateful for missing out on earlier series’. Not especially controversial anymore, it veers more towards boring and annoying with the only saving grace the sweetly curious romance between the ballerina and metalhead. Perhaps the vampire, werewolf and ghost triptych in Being Human ●●●● had enough of sharing a city (Bristol) with the irritating Skins crew as they hotpawed it to Barry Island for a tumultuous third season. Hopefully one day they’ll sink fangs and claws into Gavin and/or Stacey. Jack Rosenthal at the BBC ●●●● is a blast from the Play for Today past with the clear highlight being the superb Bar Mitzvah Boy while his widow Maureen Lipman gets plenty time to reminisce on the DVD extras.
But the pick of the bunch has to be Traffik ●●●●●, the 1989 Channel 4 six-parter which inspired the Hollywood blockbuster from Steven Soderbergh. It has faultless performances from Bill Paterson as the government’s drug tsar whose daughter (Julia Ormond) is hooked on smack, Lindsay Duncan as the manipulative wife of a ‘respectable’ dealer and Jamal Shah as the poppy field worker whose semi-innocent journey into the heart of darkness leads to awful tragedy. There are a couple of ropey performances and the odd clunky scene, but the spaced-out electronica and nerve-shredding slice of Shostakovich which make up the show’s dual soundtrack plus a running children-in-peril motif help make this a vital and unforgettable late 80s cultural artefact.