Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The State Within

A quick recommendation for fans of top-class British TV -- a six-part BBC drama called The State Within.

Imagine a show that combined the nailbiting, non-fascist aspects of 24 with the fast-talking inside-the-beltway realpolitiking of The West Wing, mixing in a healthy dose of ripped-from-the-headlines War on Terror shenanigans of...well...The Bush Administration, all wrapped up in some classier-than-classy BBC production values.

That's The State Within.

The series boasts a sprawling, multilinear plot that seems at first to lead everywhere before settling into an all-too-believable story centering on UK ambassador to the US Mark Brydon (Jason Isaacs -- get this man for the next Bond movie, NOW) and the aftermath of a terrorist attack that threatens to jeopardize relationships between the two countries.

All sort of skullduggery and double-crossery ensue, in a narrative that forces the viewer to lean forward and pay close attention to every scene. If you are one of those people (and I am) who tends to say "Hang on, why is he saying that to her? I thought he was with the good guys? Is that the same guy we saw planting the bomb in the last episode? etc." then this show will most likely make your head swell up to twice its normal size.

There are no big names in this production, although many involved deserve to go on to become huge in the coming years. Isaacs in particular, looking a bit like Clive Owen if someone ironed out some of those crumples from his face, manages to radiate experience and gravitas while complicating it with a little loss of control around the edges (a loss of control that only increases as things progress.)

In general, The State Within achieves a level of believability and realism that is usually lacking in shows of this genre -- a realism that encompasses both the plot itself, as well as individual scenes (the aforementioned terrorist attack, for example, is unexpectedly gripping and harrowing, trapping the viewer very much in the role of helpless bystander.) Fans of intelligent TV drama, Anglophiles, conspiracy theorists, and especially anyone who has recently read Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" will all be sitting and nodding their heads throughout.

-- this blog post taken, with permission, verbatem from the Transatlantica Blog

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