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From Across the Pond: "The Street"

It's no surprise that in these somewhat crazy end times that exploring the sometimes chance connections between people seems like such a zeitgeisty thing right now. Take a look at films like Paul Haggis' Crash or television series like Six Degrees, Lost, The Nine, or Heroes. It seems like each of us is aching, in an age of instant messages, obnoxious cell phone calls, and endlessly frayed nerves, for some real contact with one another.

While American television has responded with glossy dramas, hostage flashback sagas, and epic tales of possibly haunted islands with a string of linked-by-fate characters, British television has taken the opposite tack, investigating the quotidian and average in its series The Street from creator Jimmy McGovern, best known for television fare like Cracker and The Lakes as well as his feature work, Priest and Liam. Arguably a linked drama anthology series, it revolves around the residents of one painfully average street in the north of England. Each episode features a different roman a clef-style story from one of the houses along the street. The intent, it seems, is that every single one of these very ordinary people has an extraordinary story waiting to be told.

In the premiere episode ("The Accident"), Angela (Absolutely Fabulous' Jane Horrocks in a virtuouso performance), a dissatisfied married woman, begins a daily love affair with her married friend and neighbor Peter (Shaun Dooley), an affair that quickly turns deadly when Peter accidentally runs over Angela's daughter Katy in his car. It's a split-second chance accident and it completely disrupts the lives of both Angela and Peter's family, not to mention everyone on the street. As the former lovers become enemies, their families struggle to make sense of what's happened. Peter's adoring wife Eileen (Life on Mars' Liz White) defends her husband, but street-side gossip makes her question his side of the events. Was he distracted? Did the girl run out into the street? Angela's husband Arthur (Daniel Ryan), responsible for not watching his daughter (he was watching footie on the telly instead), is at a loss as to what to do and has bollards placed in the street without council permission. When they're removed, he has a breakdown of psychological and moral proportions and attacks Peter (just as his son attacked Peter's son earlier).

Everyone on the street is to blame in some sense: Peter for not paying attention while driving (he admits to thinking about his illicit affair with Angela), Arthur for not watching his daughter, taxi driver Eddie (Timothy Spall) for parking his cab somewhere he shouldn't have (it's from behind his car that Katy runs out into the street), etc. But none so much as Angela and Peter; Angela blames the accident on divine punishment for her marital transgressions. After 15 years of marriage to a predictable, dull man, she went after a bit of excitement. She knew there would be a price to pay, but she never imagined it would be her own daughter.

In any hands other than McGovern, these storylines would be a soapy trifle of a confection, a Desperate Housewives for the Eastenders set, but instead they take on a sharpness and grittiness that British television prides itself on. These characters are deeply flawed and wholly real individuals and, while no one on the street escapes blame for Katy's accident, no one elicits much sympathy either. For some viewers used to easy answers and sympathetically drawn characters, that might be a problem. For me, I relished the opportunity to watch a brilliantly written and acted drama that held a mirror up to society's current state.

The Street might not be a place I'd like to live in, but it's one that I don't mind visiting on a weekly basis.

"The Street" airs Tuesday evenings from 1o to 11:15 pm ET/PT on BBC America.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Friday Night Lights (NBC); Gilmore Girls (CW); Dancing with the Stars (ABC; 8-9:30 pm); Desire (MyNet)

9 pm: The Unit (CBS); Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); Veronica Mars (CW); Help Me Help You (ABC; 9:30-10 pm); Fashion House (MyNet)

10 pm: CSI: Crime Scene Investigations (CBS); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC); Boston Legal (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Gilmore Girls.

On tonight's episode ("Lorelai's First Cotillion"), written by new Gilmore writer Rita Mimoun, Lorelai realizes that her entire life has been based on doing the exact opposite of what her parents would have wanted for her. Hey, at least Emily and Richard are back (finally) and, hell, it couldn't be any worse than last week's fiasco of an episode.

9 pm: Veronica Mars.

On tonight's episode ("My Big Fat Greek Rush Week"), Veronica is tasked by the campus newspaper into doing an undercover expose during Rush Week on a sorority that might just have a link to Parker's rapist. Just be careful, V, and make sure you bring Backup. (I just love that dog!)

10 pm: The Street on BBC America.

On the second episode ("Bold Street: Stan") of Jimmy McGovern's new drama The Street, a man is discovers that if he dies after his next birthday, his wife will receive next to nothing in insurance, and he sets out to, um, settle things himself. But honestly, with a cast this good, it doesn't even matter what the episode description is. Just tune in and watch it.


Anonymous said…
This show has a tremendous cast of British actors. That said, I wasn't that crazy about the first episode. It felt a little too real to me. I know that's the point but I just had a hard time engaging with any of the characters. I'll have to tune in to the episode tonight and see if my opinion changes.
Melissa said…
I really liked the first episode. I'm disappointed I won't be able to see the 2nd, even with it's airing 4x, it clashes with stuff on both Tivos.

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