Why is The Killing so popular with the Guardianistas?

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It’s an interesting puzzle that a fairly standard crime drama, once transposed to an exotic* location and into an exotic* language, suddenly becomes must-see TV, much discussed on the excellent Guardian series blogs.

I find these blogs are often more entertaining and interesting than the programmes themselves. This was especially true in the case of Outcasts, and was almost true in the case of The Killing, also known as Forbrydelsen in its original language. Only Forbrydelsen means “Crime” according to Google, so I don’t know where they got Killing from.

It struck me watching ITV’s Lewis on Sunday night. There he was, bumbling along, one step behind (title of a Wallander novel, fact fans), trying to catch a killer who struck again and again when it was obvious all along who it was: the special guest star Juliet Stevenson, because she was, you know, the special guest star.

Guardian readers suffer from some of the worst TV snobbery in the history of the world.They fall over themselves to praise The Wire and The Sopranos because they feature swears and boobies. They neglect more mainstream shows simply for being too mainstream. The Guardian blogs the likes of The Killing but allows Justified to languish at the arse end of Five USA, unremarked.

But then I was watching Lewis and I had an epiphany. The Killing was all right, of course it was, but the main thing it had was a cast that we hadn’t seen 65 million times before. Because the big problem with British TV isn’t the small pool of talent, but the small pool of talent that gets used by programme makers. Ninety percent of actors are unemployed, and the remaining ten percent get all the work. It’s not who you are, it’s who you know. Tried and trusted trumps the new and the unusual every time.

Except when they buy in a subtitled cop drama, and then we get to spend 20 hours or so in the company of actors who aren’t Juliet Stevenson, Sarah Parish or James Nesbit or [insert your least favourite British actor here]. This makes for a fresh breath of television air.


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