Lady and the vamps

Your Week­end TV reviewer Jane Bowron shares her small-screen highs and lows.

The Press - Your Weekend (The Press) - - Feature -

There are a few bum notes in The Hal­cyon (Thurs­day, 8.30pm), Prime’s new eight-part pe­riod drama about a posh Lon­don ho­tel valiantly try­ing to de­liver glam­our at the out­break of World War II.

And those bum notes re­late mainly to the per­for­mance of ho­tel Hal­cyon’s res­i­dent band chanteuse Bet­sey Day. Played by Kara Toin­ton, Bet­sey ex­udes such ex­ag­ger­ated sex­i­ness you won­der – as you glimpse her step­ping out of the bath – if she’s there for any other rea­son.

Hal­cyon is owned by Lord Lawrence Hamil­ton (Alex Jen­nings) who is un­hap­pily mar­ried to Lady Priscilla (Olivia Wil­liams). Due to Lord H’s wildly in­dis­creet car­ry­ings-on with his mistress, Char­ity Lam­bert (Char­ity Wake­field) Lady Priscilla looks per­ma­nently pained as ho­tel staff try to keep mistress and Lady from be­ing in the same room at the same time.

Sport­ing a bad blonde wig that looks like a left­over from a Vivienne West­wood cat­walk, Char­ity is heard spout­ing pro-hitler sym­pa­thies at a back­room meet­ing in the ho­tel. Lord H and his co­horts are try­ing to dis­cuss ap­pease­ment mea­sures with con­stant in­ter­rup­tions from the mouthy mistress de­mand­ing re­fills of gin.

Gen­eral man­ager of the ho­tel Richard Gar­land (Steven Mac­in­tosh) and daugh­ter Emily (Hermione

The Hal­cyon

Cor­field) are ex­perts at ho­tel diplo­macy. Gar­land and the aris­to­crat share a sin­is­ter his­tory, which makes Gar­land Lord H’s thing.

While there’s no love lost be­tween the man­ager and Lady Priscilla, Emily the daugh­ter is ex­chang­ing hot and heavy looks with Fred­die Hamil­ton (Jamie Blake­ley), a fighter pi­lot. Mean­while, Toby Hamil­ton (Ed­ward Bluemel), Fred­die’s twin, has a lowly desk job that doesn’t im­press his fa­ther – but is there more to Toby’s pen push­ing than meets the eye?

There’s a cru­sader jour­nal­ist, by the name of Joe O’hara (Matt Ryan), sniff­ing round look­ing for a scoop while the band plays on and the an­noy­ing

Down­ton Up­stairs, Down­stairs

Bet­sey belts out hits of the era in be­tween air raid sirens.

Hal­cyon has been called the new Down­ton, and this drama has a cos­tume de­signer and a di­rec­tor who hail from that il­lus­tri­ous se­ries. There’s shades of Up­stairs, Down­stairs too, with love that dare not speak sev­eral names be­tween toffs and staff. Other shady go­ings-on with a spy on the loose, and a dark se­cret, which has Lady Priscilla and the ho­tel man­ager com­bin­ing forces, make this ex­pen­sive but patchy drama worth viewer in­vest­ment.

For the sec­ond week in a row, NZ on Air’s Plat­inum Fund is money well spent on Sun­day The­atre: Re­solve (TVNZ 1, 8.30pm). Based on the real-life events of the gang con­tract hit taken out on Christo­pher Crean in New Ply­mouth 1996, this drama­ti­sa­tion was made de­spite op­po­si­tion from Crean’s fam­ily, who mounted a pe­ti­tion in an at­tempt to stop it.

Pana Hema-tay­lor (West­side) bril­liantly por­trays Crean as an earnest but ex­as­per­at­ing, turn-the-other-cheek evan­ge­lis­ing Chris­tian who tries to do the right thing af­ter wit­ness­ing a sav­age gang at­tack on his neigh­bour. The ac­tors who play in­tim­i­dat­ing gang mem­bers are fright­en­ingly au­then­tic and a timely re­minder of the ex­tent of gang in­flu­ence over New Zealand towns and prov­inces.

Wow, that hap­pened fast. You could get whiplash trac­ing the time­line from women want­ing to read sto­ries in the mid-18th cen­tury, to women ac­tu­ally get­ting to star in the sto­ries in the 21st cen­tury.

Look back to the 1750s at the out­rage to­wards the Blue Stock­ings So­ci­ety – fun­da­men­tally a book club where women read books and talked about the ideas in those books. Bloody wim­mins and their in­sis­tence on pok­ing their nose into man-things, like pop­u­lar sto­ry­telling.

Now (care­fully, don’t hurt your­self) look for­ward just 270 years and you’ve got your­self a lady Doc­tor Who. Sud­denly, it isn’t enough for women to sim­ply read or watch sto­ries on TV and in movies, they want to be in them, too. Not as com­pan­ions or in sup­port roles – as lead char­ac­ters. It’s true what they say, “The trou­ble al­ways starts when you let people learn to read.”

Can we keep up with the light­ning speed of this change? Not some Doc­tor Who fans, for sure. Ap­par­ently, fem­i­nists are ruin­ing a lot of men’s child­hoods by re­cast­ing their he­roes as not-men. All I can say is, if that’s what ru­ins your child­hood, you’re liv­ing an oth­er­wise very blessed life.

This is not steal­ing any­one’s child­hood sto­ries – box sets of the first 12 man Doc­tors are still avail­able on overnight de­liv­ery to your door. No-one has ac­tu­ally gone to a vault and wiped the tapes. Also, these were my sto­ries, too. I know I’m not the only dyed-in-the-wool fan who knit­ted their own Tom Baker (4th Doc­tor) scarf, but I am one of them.

At heart, we all like to see our­selves rep­re­sented in our pop­u­lar sto­ries. We want to imag­ine our­selves as the he­roes. I think about Won­der Woman go­ing over the top into No Man’s Land at least once a day and marvel (sorry, “DC”) at sud­denly un­der­stand­ing what it is like to have your own su­per­hero who em­bod­ies the bravest, strong­est part of your hu­man spirit. Some­times I let my grand­daugh­ter ac­tu­ally touch my Rey and Jyn Star Wars fig­urines, I’m that thrilled she has ac­tive girl-he­roes avail­able to her.

If David Ten­nant and Peter Ca­paldi were al­most enough to bring me back into the Doc­tor Who fold, Jodie Whit­taker is the fi­nal nudge. Al­ready her cast­ing has re­stored my faith in gen­eral Tardis magic. The anti-lady re­sponses were just like time travelling back to the 1750s and they ap­pear to have come from minds of in­ex­pli­ca­bly dif­fer­ent di­men­sions. Ex­cept in this in­stance, quite tiny on the in­side.

I can’t wait till the naysay­ers come to terms with the fact that, not only is the 13th Doc­tor a woman, but so are slightly more than half the hu­man race. heads around the fact that most people don’t mind, are keen even, to watch a woman in a lead role in a pop­u­lar film or TV se­ries. That’s why the afore­men­tioned boy­cott threats were proven to be as empty as the heads that made them – Won­der Woman, Mad Max, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Hunger Games and more have proven to be as suc­cess­ful at the box of­fice as they are in the realm of in­clu­sive­ness. (Ghost­busters bucked the trend some­what, but not for any gen­der-based rea­son, it was a ter­ri­ble movie. It still made quite a lot of money though.) Doc­tor Who has a le­gion of fans who will con­tinue watch­ing, re­gard­less of who is at the con­trols of the Tardis, but I also be­lieve this cast­ing de­ci­sion will create even more of them. I might even give it a go my­self.

So what’s next? A fe­male Bond seemed a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity un­til Daniel Craig’s some­what sur­pris­ing de­ci­sion to re­turn for a fifth film. The name “In­di­ana” could fea­si­bly be­long to any gen­der, so per­haps a re­boot of an­other Doc­tor is in or­der. There are so many hard-hit­ting fe­male ac­tion stars these days, so who says Rocky couldn’t use a makeover?

And for the blokes who still think they’re go­ing to catch girl-germs by watch­ing one of these pro­duc­tions, that’s OK. You’ve still got prime time sport to keep you happy.

Posh ho­tel drama has shades of both and – with lash­ings of gin.

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