Friday, 9 May 2008

Exposition Man

Drama was busting out all over last night, what with The Invisibles (Last of the Summer Wine with cheeky cat burglars), Heroes (saw the first three episodes of series one, then forgot all about it), and Midnight Man. Since ITV are down in the dumps after a record £5.68M fine for letting Robbie Williams appear on the British Comedy Awards*, I went with Midnight Man – ITV need all the viewers they can get, bless ‘em. Not that I think I made the right choice, mind you.

Given the stellar bunch of talent involved (David Drury, David Kane, Gareth Neame), the whole thing was about as subtle as a brick – and that was only once you’d gotten past the vast swathes of clunky exposition that stomped about the place like a hormonal teenager. Exposition is not a bad thing – after all, any writer has to impart a certain amount of information so that the audience know what the hell is going on at any point: but doing it well (i.e., not drawing attention to the technique itself) is difficult. For example, it’s all very well for a character to suffer from phengophobia (fear of daylight), but having somebody else tell him this because he ‘might have forgotten’ just seems silly. I suppose broad brush tactics such as this may work if you want to get to the crux of the story quickly, but I can’t help thinking that there’s a more dramatic way to impart information than just ‘casually’ dropping it into a conversation with all the subtlety of a shovel round the back of the head.

Lack of subtlety aside, Midnight Man cracked along at a decent enough pace, even if the whole thing did seem overly familiar. A troubled protagonist with marriage problems? Tick! A conspiracy that goes right to the heart of government? Tick! This is a template that’s been used before by TV drama to much greater effect than this, which is a shame as you know exactly how everything is going to turn out. I think next week I’ll have to try The Invisibles, but somehow I'm dreading it already.

Another interesting story is here in today’s Guardian, which details the abysmal first week’s box office for Three and Out. The marketing push behind this film has been phenomenal, to the extent that you couldn’t move without seeing some mention of it somewhere. Unfortunately, this huge push has not translated into box office moolah, probably because of two things: the subject matter (or more specifically, how the producers have gone about publicising it), and the absolutely horrible poster used to promote it. One look at Mackenzie Crook’s depressed boat would be enough to put anyone off, I think: couple that with the fact that Three and Out has been sold using an apparently lethal cocktail of suicide and the London Underground (not hugely cinematic concepts, I'd say), and there you have it – a first week take of £189,454: a sizeable lottery win, but not a figure to get massively excited about if you’re a film producer.

* Not strictly true, but hey - if you're going to fine ITV for something, it may as well involve Robbie Williams.


Robin Kelly said...

Actually, Three and Out wasn't al that bad and should do OK on DVD and TV sales. The irony of the publicity was that it was ultimately sweet and (over) sentimental.

Chip Smith said...

Coupled with the almost overwhelmingly negative press about the film and the poster campaign, I didn't feel compelled to give it a go to be honest! There must be a reason why the general public stayed away from it in their droves, and I'd hazard a guess that the publicity campaign didn't help. Quite happy to check it out on DVD when it arrives tho'!

Robin Kelly said...

Reviews don't usually matter so much and I agree that was to do with the publicity including the poster.

If more people had seen it then it would have got some moderate word of mouth approval which is the main thing.

The article mentions how much money was wasted on publicity when it would have been more cost effective paying the writers for another draft to turn it from "OK, I suppose" to "quite good".