Thursday, February 12, 2015


I have been watching a television series on BBC Entertainment called 'Frankie', which is about the trials and tribulations of a district nurse somewhere in Britain (a close look reveals that the series is filmed in Bristol but the story does not refer to this). It seems that there are only six episodes and I've seen three of them, enough to have sufficient material about which to write.

Whilst one might assume that the series can be compared to 'Casualty' (also originally filmed in Bristol, but now in Cardiff), there is in fact very little in common. True, the series follows the lives of medical professionals and there are always new 'patients of the week', but 'Casualty' has a bigger cast (with some not appearing each episode) and of course takes place in a hospital casualty department, where unfortunately death is always a possibility. 'Frankie' has a smaller cast and less pressing medical issues (although there was a death in episode 2).

If anything, 'Frankie' reminds me of 'William and Mary', although without the William story line and the sentimentality. Frankie is a district nurse whereas Mary is a midwife; they always go the extra mile for their patients and sometimes get into trouble for doing so. There is even a physical resemblance: Eve Myles (Frankie) looks quite like Julie Graham (Mary) although the latter is Scottish and the former Welsh (sometimes I can hear traces of her accent peeking through). Mary was lucky in love whereas Frankie (at least, so far) is not.

It seems as if every episode has two story lines: the first, naturally, is concerned with Frankie and the second is with one of the four other nurses under Frankie's command. 

All in all, I think that this is a good television drama: well written and well acted; modest, in true British television drama style.

I have also been watching an American series, 'Madam Secretary', which is definitely not the real thing. This was touted as worth watching for those that enjoyed 'The West Wing', but I beg to differ. The difference between MS and TWW (and Frankie, for that matter) is in the scripts: MS has so-so scripts with plenty of holes and super-quick diplomacy and/or solutions. The eponymous secretary (played by Tia Leoni, who is the best thing about the series) is a university professor (ex-CIA analyst) who gets catapulted into the job of US Secretary of State. Her agenda and methodology are somewhat different to that of her predecessor (who died in an accident) which often causes tension both with her staff and with the President (or more accurately, with his chief of staff). The problem with the stories is that they are all superficial and sometimes come with non sequiturs (for example, the fifth episode starts with someone blowing up an oil pipeline between Canada and USA; this event is referenced during the first ten minutes then completely disappears). 

In my opinion, the best scenes are within the secretary's family: the secretary's husband is a university professor in ethics/religion and of course their three children are bright. These scenes are intelligent, interesting and developed; the scenes set in the secretary's office are ok and the world-wide scenes are too simplistic. There are occasionally hints of some great drama hiding behind the scenes (was the death of the CIA agent shown in the pilot a real accident or a hit? Did the previous SoS have some hidden agenda?) but these threads are not developed. It's ok to have some kind of conspiracy ideas floating around, but they should be expanded and not simply mentioned in the final minute of each show.

At least, the series is watchable, which is more than I can say for most American series. But it tries to accomplish too much and in doing so, spreads itself too thinly. Reviews on IMDB are roughly the same as mine.

[SO: 3801; 3,15,36]

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