Monday, October 4, 2010

TV shows

Did anyone watch Masterpiece Mystery's Wallander, Series II: Faceless Killers last night? I loved it.

A few years ago, when I had recently read Faceless Killers, a former boss asked me for a mystery recommendation for his wife. I suggested Henning Mankell, having just discovered him and assuming others didn't know about him. His wife replied that she could depress herself easily enough without reading Mankell to do it. 

Mankelll's corner of Sweden can be unrelentingly bleak. And that's just one reason why I love the series. Another is his troubled, despairing protagonist, Kurt Wallander, done wonderful justice by Kenneth Branagh in the TV series. Wallander is a great surrogate for the reader: he's frightened and appalled by, and often despondent about, the crimes he investigates and what he needs to do to capture the criminals, just as any normal person -- i.e. the average reader -- would be. But he reluctantly perseveres. Branagh captures that quandary. He often has a look on his face saying "Why? Why am I here? Why am I doing this?," and not in a comical, ain't-life-a-kick-in-the-pants kind of way, but in an existential-howl kind of way. 

He also has a troubled relationship with his father, who in early books is on the road to complete senility. (I am currently reading the fourth book in the series, The Man Who Smiled, in which his father is doing much better, at least so far.) They often fight and the son usually puts off going to see the father as long as he can. But the younger Wallander is dutiful and the relationship between the two is neither hopeless or hopeful.

Wallander is no cardboard cutout of the brave, confident cop, but he is heroic.

It's been awhile since I read the book so I am not sure, but I thought Faceless Killers ended differently than the TV episode. Maybe other readers of the book can correct or confirm that. Anyway, they are clearly setting up the viewer for the next episode, The Man Who Smiled, which is, as I said, the fourth in the series. (Faceless Killers is the first.) I won't be giving anything away to say that Wallander is going to be found wallowing in deep despair in the next episode. Don't know how much the TV show will dwell on it, but in the book early scenes about Wallander read more like a description of a criminal than a novel's good-guy cop. 

If you missed last night's show, you can watch it online at PBS

A few quick observations about the new TV season. I've watched a few new shows, including CBS' Hawaii Five-O. The plots are serviceable, but I'm finding the Steve McGarrett character, the one who gets to say "Book' em, Danno," irritating. (I am old enough to have watched the original, but never did, and I'm willing to bet that McGarrett, originally played by Jack Lord, was just as annoying then.) He's a scold and constantly on the back of his partner, Danny 'Danno' Williams. One scene in which he harps on the fact that Danno wears a tie was a complete waste of three minutes of air time. And I confess to always wondering if each scene is choreographed to disguise Scott Caan's short stature. Not fair to Caan, whom I like, but I can't help it. 

I've also never watched any of the vast Law & Order empire, but last week caught the new one based in Los Angeles because I like the stars, Skeet Ulrich, Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard. Howard wasn't on last week (that I saw) so I'm wondering if he and Molina, who both look like prosecutors in the commercials, trade episodes. Last week's episode involved robberies of the homes of actors and actresses and focused on one grown child star and her uber-stage mother. I have always found TV portrayals of movie stars cheesy and unconvincing. As the show is based in LA this may be an ongoing problem for me. 

Finally, I watched Blue Bloods. I liked it. It was the second episode but the first one I watched and it was easy to catch on. The characters are differentiated without being total stereotypes. I found both the crime, a murder brought on by a gang tormenting subway passengers, and the family dynamic believable. 

So: anyone know if the TV version of Faceless Killers was true to the book or sort of a mashup of several Wallander-based books?

No comments: