Last night saw the first episode of "Banished" a new drama series for BBC2 which features an all star cast, and is based upon the lives of convicts taken from Britain to New South Wales in the late 18th Century.
It is penned by Jimmy McGovern, noted for his usually powerful and thought provoking work (he previously wrote The Street and The Accused). However, this did not seem to hit the mark and was more a poor advert for a third rate love story that needed a good scrub down with carbolic, than a true to life tale of the real lives of convicts in Australia.
Plot devices, such as main character Elizabeth Quinn (played by MyAnna Buring) being lashed, after getting caught in a tryst with her flaxen haired lover, were heavy handed and more akin to something from a glossy US drama than a gritty series.
There was a disappointing air of melodrama throughout, which lead to a feeling of apathy towards the characters. The supposedly "civilised" military and upper echelons were portrayed as one dimensional baddies, but in contrast it was difficult to like any of the convicts either, even though we were supposed to be rooting for them.
The heartfelt speeches by the convicts, particularly in the last scenes, in which we were lead to believe the Vicar (played by the normally sublime Ewen Bremner) would change his mind on the spot about executing Quinn's lover, Tommy Barrett (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and marry them off instead were very plodding, heavy and unbelievable. It turned what was already third rate TV into something even less watchable.
The dialogue itself was very difficult to listen to, too wordy at times, speeches were cluttered and overworked, the more heartfelt the characters became, the more flowery their words. The language should have been riper, more ribald.
Laying on the "them and us" themes only did more to highlight the serious lack of depth to any of the characters and the all round feeling of cardboard cut-out drama, painting by numbers TV.
It's a shame, so much could have been done, so much more realism portrayed.
Given the stellar cast and the normally brilliant writer, "Banished" turned out to be a TV drama that should be locked up, with the key thrown away as quickly as possible. No parole. Life should mean mean life, here. #Show