TV Review: Blackout proves a bleak watch while Brand X is another Russell Brand comedy flop
This week we sat down for an acting masterclass from Christopher Eccleston in Blackout, though we were less enthused with another in a long line of Russell Brand TV flops.
As perhaps one of the most accomplished TV actors in the world, it’s fair to say that at this stage we would sit down and watch a three-part BBC epic of Christopher Eccleston reading the phonebook.
Thankfully, Blackout (BBC One, Monday, 9pm), beginning this week, was a lot more intriguing than that, even if it had its fair share of problems.
Eccleston starred as Daniel Demoys in the three-part series, an alcoholic and disillusioned council official with barely an ounce of likeability.
His children are afraid of him, his wife (Dervla Kirwan, left with little more to do than appear exasperated throughout) is questioning their future together and within a few minutes of the show’s runtime, Daniel is enjoying the services of a prostitute on a booze-fuelled night out having paid lip service to his young daughter’s ballet show. He’s not a nice man.
Daniel then awakens with the mother of all hangovers and an extremely unnerving discovery. He can recall parts of a rain-soaked verbal battle with a building contractor at the end of the night, but the morning after his knuckles are red raw and the contractor lies in a coma. Could he potentially be responsible for murder?
Luckily enough, a down on his luck detective (Andrew Scott) is on the case and though he doesn’t realise it, he’s closer to the truth than anyone else, as the mother of his children was the same blonde prostitute on the night in question. This fact requires a leap of faith from audiences but it certainly makes for a intriguing development for the final two episodes.
Blackout’s other far-fetched plot twist, however, is a lot harder to swallow. A morose wreck after discovering that he may be a murderer, Daniel visits his lawyer sister for advice yet before he can begin to explain, he’s stood outside a courthouse and has inexplicably jumped in front of a bullet for his fellow man.
From this selfless action, Daniel becomes a nationwide hero and in the episode, his political party is pulling to make him a mayoral candidate for Manchester; an honour he eventually accepts, asking the press: “Who wants to dump the bullshit?”
It’s a brave question because there was certainly a fair amount of it in Blackout’s script this week, with completely unnatural pontificating and quasi-speeches from characters throughout, while the scenario that Demoys has found himself in is simply not believable, lest of all the contrivance of the lead detective’s connection to him.
We’ll give Blackout another go next week but for now, our greatest recommendation is that it stars Christopher Eccleston on top form as always, though the show is already undeserving of his talents.
Over on Sky Atlantic, Russell Brand’s US career appears to be sinking fast. With his first cinematic star vehicle, Arthur, sinking without trace and Rock of Ages recently underperforming at the box office too, the dandy comic has earned his first US TV gig with Russell Brand’s Brand X (Sky Atlantic, Tuesday, 11pm).
Brand X’s flaws should be familiar to anyone who ever watched the star’s former TV exploits for Ponderland, Russell Brand’s Got Issues or the Russell Brand TV Show – he’s far more entertaining when he is a chat show guest rather than helming a series of his own.
In the case of Brand X, the show was a mixture of stand-up related to Brand’s recent adventures (such as meeting the Dalai Lama) mixed with empty philosophical twaddle, with a thankless and pointless role on the side of the stage for political analyst Matthew Stoller.
It was, in short, a complete mess. Brand’s monologues appear unrehearsed, the set was cheap and the near-silent audience was just as perplexed as I when Brand quickly threw away any pretension of telling jokes for philosophical pondering instead. Already a flop in the US, we’d try any another comedy half-hour over Brand X.