How does anyone keep up with all the good stuff out there on TV?

The latest Scandi drama that’s showing great promise (despite the liberal-lefty politics) is BBC4’s Follow the Money

19 March 2016

9:00 AM

19 March 2016

9:00 AM

‘We have a problem. Yes. At the wind farm.’ Any conspiracy thriller with lines like that has definitely got my vote. Possibly most of you are unaware of this, because it’s not something I talk about often, but I happen to be not too fond of the things I call bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes — nor of the charlatans, crooks, liars and parasites who make their living out of them.

Indeed, whenever I try to think of an industry that’s worse than wind farms I keep coming unstuck. At least landmines serve a useful purpose for force protection; at least Albanian prostitutes make a few men very happy. Wind, on the other hand, is a business entirely dependent on junk science, compulsory government levies and crony capitalist favouritism which produces nothing of real value. It is intrinsically corrupt and therefore prone to exactly the kind of greed and skulduggery we see in the latest Scandi crime series, Follow the Money (BBC4, Saturday).

One of the vows I made after my recent brush with death was to spend more time playing video games and watching TV. But what I’m finding is that even when you treble your screen time, it’s still not enough to keep pace with all the good stuff that’s out there. I haven’t seen Happy Valley yet, which I know I must. Nor, despite a heroic effort, have I got further than the middle of season four of The Walking Dead. And of course as soon as the new season of Thrones starts we’re going to be really stuffed. It is quite clear what is to blame for all this: globalisation.

When all the foreign TV you had to catch up with was American, it was just about manageable. But now that the French have started making good stuff (Spiral; Les Revenants — the first series, anyway) — and the Germans (Deutschland 83); and the Swedes and the Danes (Borgen; The Killing; The Bridge; Wallander); and even the Icelanders (Trapped) — there just aren’t enough hours in the evening to keep abreast of everything.

This means you have to be quite ruthless. For example, after two episodes, I am thinking of ditching Occupied, the Norwegian series with which I’ve been catching up on Sky Arts. It has an interesting premise: Norway has a keen green prime minister who — to combat climate change — decides to go all out for thorium and close down his country’s oil fields. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go down well with the Russkies who, in alliance with the European Union, occupy Norway and force it to bring its oil production back on stream. Cue much nationalistic resentment, tension and brinkmanship.

What I’m finding, though, so far, is the implausible but potentially thrilling geopolitical backdrop is being somewhat wasted on what’s too often a cosy domestic drama (Will she/won’t she keep her restaurant open? How often will he volunteer to do the dishes?) combined with the sort of anally retentive political intrigue that explains why I never watched Borgen or the West Wing. Tell me if I’m wrong, though: if there’s some heavy Spetsnaz action to come and if all kicks off militarily in future episodes, then I’m in.

Follow the Money (finally…), on the other hand, is showing great promise from the off. There’s a decent range of characters with whom to sympathise and identify — led by Thomas Bo Larsen as the gritty cop Mads (you’ll have seen him in Festen and The Hunt), but also ranging from a semi-reformed young car thief to a sassy female lawyer at the wind business (gloriously called Energreen) who may already have got herself in too deep by intriguing with the boss who I’m sure is evil because he rides to meetings in his suit on a smug racing bike.

A thing you have to beware of with Scandi dramas, unfortunately, is their immensely tedious lefty-liberal politics. The Stieg Larssen books (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.), for example, are all but undone by the maddening interludes where he recites bleeding-heart junk statisticoids about how 200 per cent of all women in Sweden are raped at least twice a week. (Yep, Stieg my late chum, Sweden does indeed have a massive sexual violence problem. But it comes from a very specific quarter of the male population.) Even with lesser offenders like Occupied, you do feel slightly like you’re being given a treatise on the importance of racial and sexual equality.

The first series of The Bridge cleverly got round this by having a heroine with a disability (PC brownie points!) which few male viewers, at least, would consider a disability at all, viz: being an incredibly sexy blonde woman who occasionally shags random men at the drop of a hat because she’s a teeny bit Asperger’s and behaves more like a man.

I don’t mind the lefty-liberal element in Follow the Money — making you care about the outrageous exploitation of immigrant workers. Possibly I would if it were the oil industry. But where greenies are the bad guys: not a problem.

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Show comments
  • Ingmar Blessing

    You can also ditch The Walking Dead. Here is why:

    The characters are stupid in the sense of mentally not so much up to the job of escaping the apocalyptic zombie bottleneck. In the 4th season about 2 years went by (the baby made+breded+born) since the outbreak and in all that time they have managed to develop exactly one technology: A string with tins on it that clap together when zombies walk through, as an early warning system. That’s poor and too poor for two years of survival in a still highly dangerous environment.

    Especially since they know that zombies can be deceived with smell, can’t run, can’t climb ladders, can’t swim (how about a river and a boat, or the stationary version: an island?) and probably freeze when its cold. That all is valuable information and known to everyone. Why don’t they use it? Why not looking at how castles were built, why not showering or using electricity, there are generators everywhere – the cars! And why using small cars all the time in the country of the F150??? CO2 issues? Why don’t they guard their shelters 24/7 and get rid of the zombies at the fence when they arrive? Why not building stumble or other traps to fish them out? Where is the body armament (leather, wood) and the adapted fighting techniques?

    I could go on… They will not make it, definitively. You need more than just instinct and a magnum. You need skill, discipline, order, some serious R&D and at least learn from the biggest mistakes.

    Bottom line is: Why watching stupid people die?

    • Zalacain

      A couple of Roman legions would of put paid to the zombies in no time.

    • Robert Basset

      They seem to prefer mumbling about their feelings, crashing cars and acting like autistics.

      The writers have went full PC-tard recently too, every single couple is now interracial (or homosexual). Truth is, in an apocalyptic situation such as on the show, people would
      become intensely tribal and ethnicity would be one of the few real unifiers.
      Ethnic and cultural dentities would become even more entrenched, not less.

      • Ingmar Blessing

        lol… that reminds me of Orphan Black. That was quite promising in the first few episodes and personally I don’t mind cross-dressing gays being the (anti-)hero of the show.

        What I had a problem with – and which was the last scene I watched – was when the bio-chemist clone said something like “Oh, that is strange. One clone is straight, one is gay and I am bisexual. But I should know better as bio-chemist. It’s all socially determined.”

        What utter BS!

        In the movie Ex Machina they handled that much more realistic..

        • Robert Basset

          Yea, I gave up on Orphan Black.

  • Trini’s dad

    Fella you gatta staap doing dis ‘mon. Reitin ting like dis two pay four your TV subskripshaan, daz makes no economic sense bratha.
    Jusgo nstream di content online I am tellin you. Its aal out der ‘mon. Data is data.

  • Wendy Howard

    Reading your review online, at no cost, makes me thankful I don’t subscribe to The Spectator. I could not tolerate reading vitriolic articles about right wing hatred of most other strands of society and paying good money to do so.