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This Town Is Coming Like a Cliche Tim London wonders whether it is possible to review something honestly and with honour after only watching maybe half and a bit of the first episode? Let's see...

This Town Is Coming Like a Cliche

Tim London wonders whether it is possible to review something honestly and with honour after only watching maybe half and a bit of the first episode? Let's see...

by Tim London,
first published: April, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

I have to turn it off before I end up hating Jimmy Cliff...

THIS TOWN
BBC & iPlayer

Is it possible to review something honestly and with honour after only watching maybe half and a bit of the first episode? Let’s see.

Steven Knight is the writer who rose to prominence with Peaky Blinders, which started as a series of sketches that artfully managed to present the past as a music video but ended up trying and failing to make long form pop videos into epic mini-movies. The kitsch and the pretty did battle with the silly and, greased by a decent budget, became self-indulgently wasteful.

He followed that with the really fucking awful SAS: Rogue Heroes, a whole series that was predicated on Knight not waking up with an SAS dagger at his throat. Like being present at a reunion and watching the booze bring righteous glory to acts of murder, whilst cowering in a corner.

So I approached This Town with trepidation and was pleasantly surprised for ten minutes as characters are quickly established. It’s 1981 and it’s the Midlands. And so far there have been no nutty boy skinheads or mohican haired punks. Yes, there is still a layer or two of grime missing from Birmingham’s streets and the son of the IRA man’s drainpipes look suspiciously stretchy, but all wardrobe and set quibbles can be dismissed if the story is fresh and the script grabs you.

By the end of the first ten minutes we have had it made clear to us that there is a gangster waiting to appear, that the main character has decided he is a poet after coming up with some greeting card musings he thinks are brilliant, even if he says so himself, that the teenagers look like twenty-somethings, that the riots in Handsworth were pointless and the British army in Northern Ireland were basically the same ignorant but good hearted Tommies as on the Somme battlefield.

Knight’s advertising writer chops are in full effect. The truth is whatever sells well. Context gets in the way of the sell. Politics doesn’t sell. The screen creates its own truth. Pop music is the soundtrack to the big sell. Half way through I realise I’ve been sucked into a moving billboard and the dialogue and obviousness just can’t be offset with pretty shots and great music. I have to turn it off before I end up hating Jimmy Cliff.


essentials
This Town on BBC/BBC iPlayer now

Tim London

Tim London is a musician, music producer and writer. Originally from a New Town in Essex he is at home amidst concrete and grand plans for the working class. Tim's latest thriller, Smith, is available now. Find out more at timothylondon.com


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