Last autumn I had a disturbing experience. Well it wasn’t too bad because I was only sitting in front of the telly and no blood was spilled, and you know how it is when a character appears and your immediate reaction is ‘oh that’s so-and-so from what’s it’s name,’ because with any actor worth their salt you’re bound to think of them as their most recent persona. But this time it got out of hand.
I was watching the dramatisation of Capital by John Lanchester and couldn’t miss the fact that city financier Roger Yount was actor Toby Jones aka Lance from cult BBC4 comedy The Detectorists. But then Roger’s wife Arabella turned out to be Rachel Stirling who happens to be the wife of the other guy in The Detectorists, Lance’s mate Andy. Confused? No, not exactly, but it didn’t help with my suspension of disbelief.
Then there was Nicola Walker (great actress, loved her feisty farmer in Last Tango in
playing two different detectives apparently at the same time. Okay, in River she actually played a dead cop while
in The Unforgotten she was very much
alive, but a cop is a cop and it’s hard enough to remember which crime series
is which these days without the cast being the same.
I began this rant back then (we saved the whole of River until The Unforgotten had finished) and put it to one side, but now it has come back to haunt me. Current flavours of the month are Olivia Coleman in The Night Manager (a worthy actress but hardly ever off our screens) and her co-star from Rev, Tom Hollander. But hey, while Night Manager is screening, what’s this on the other side – Doctor Thorne with its eponymous hero played by none other than Mr H.
|Good cop, bad cop, same cop?|
Stuff like this has been happening for a while of course, because in the on-going ratings war that is current TV, any show that does well immediately has new series commissioned regardless of whether or not there’s a plot to carry on with and any face that fits well in one scenario is pounced on for anything similar (or not so similar) that comes along. In this respect Dr Thorne (apart from Hollander and the similarly ubiquitous Rebecca Front) has at least introduced a few new faces and brought the welcome return of an old one.
But when we see the same people in different dramas airing on the same night (I give you James Norton in almost any role you care to mention) it does make me worry at the extent to which TV relies on known celebrities. We can’t deny James or anyone else the right to get it while they can, but while a few actors hog the limelight it’s the others, the drama school fledglings or the people who were popular ten years ago, I worry about. It’s as if the TV channels are throwing all their money at an increasingly small number of actors (thereby hiking up production costs too – several million for each ep of The Night Manager, we hear) while many others are stuck in the dole queue, waiting for the chance to be in something less glitzy, except glitzy is what everything these days has to be.
People will say it’s the market that makes it like this. To sell a programme there has to be a big name. Now I wonder if there’s another arena in which this scenario rings a bell?
Picture credit: Image from 'From Pages to Pictures' by Briana https://frompagestopictures.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/monday-movie-meme-good-cop-bad-cop/