Sunday, March 11, 2007

Party Animals proves to be a beast of the show

I realise this might sound like sacriliege, but I'm already half-sick of the ITV Austen Season, set to launch next Sunday (18th). I'm fiendishly into TV 'originals' right now. A quick scan of my blog in recent weeks reveals how much I loved the BBC's Lilies - well, another BBC series, Party Animals, is also getting a big thumbs up from me too. This little-promoted, poorly scheduled BBC 2 drama (Weds, 9.00pm) about young 'politicos' in Westminster Village, was a little bit of a slow starter, but has graduated to one of my favourite TV series of all time. This is in no small part because of the staggeringly good acting performances: Andrew Buchan as Scott, a world-weary lobbyist, is simply fantastic - one of the best young actors I have ever seen. Also good is Matt Smith as his idealistic brother Danny - a great improvement here on Smith's risible cockney chappie 'Jim' in the dire Ruby in the Smoke adaptation, aired on the BBC over Christmas.

For the record that starred Billie Piper, as a woefully miscast Victorian lass, and it looks likely that Piper has been badly drawn again in next week's Mansfield Park, if early previews are anything to go by. Grab a gander at BBC's Newsnight Review programme (broadcast last Friday) for a unanimous thumbs down for ITV's Mansfield Park, which the reviewers felt had been targeted at teenagers. So all the darkness and subtlety of Austen's original sounds to have been dashed in the race for ratings ... except if Mansfield Park flops (and I fear it might) then this augurs poorly for the remainder of the season - Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (in that order). The Newsnight reviewers liked Northanger Abbey as much as they disliked Mansfield Park, so perhaps that's more promising. I rather liked the clip they showed of Catherine Morland indulging in a secret Gothic-inspired erotic fantasy whilst bathing ... very Andrew Davies, and most unlike Jane Austen. But I'm not one for 'fidelity' for fidelity's sake. Better just make a darned good film - and Davies does have a singular knack for sexing up his classics, so I can hardly pretend surprise that he has engineered sweet, innocent little Catherine Morland stepping naked from a bath into the arms of Henry Tilney. I kind of admire his cheek. And I'm always a sucker for a surreal dream-sequence - whatever the genre ...

Back to Party Animals. This has been a superb series and it is truly sad that it is unlikely, with risible ratings last Wednesday of just ONE MILLION, to secure a second series. This is so frustrating and begs the question how this could happen. Two reasons: a) the BBC has cocked-up big time with poor promotion and scheduling and b) the Great British Public never tuned in because it is hard to get excited about a show you've never heard of. OK it might also be because the political underpinnings of the programme left them stone-cold ... and opening reviews were a little less than fantastic. Such a shame because this show is a true grower. It's greatest flaw is its heroine Ashika (Shelley Conn), who is almost too perfect, an 'Ashika-Sue' if you will. Even so, she is highly likeable. Less likeable but fantastically acted is devilishly clever but emotionally dishevelled (and drunk) Home Office minister Jo Portman (Raquel Cassidy). I won't go into plot details in the hope that this series gets a repeat sometime soon. Suffice to say, it is excellent viewing, undersung by a BBC which seems hellbent on promoting dire dull drivel, the likes of Castaway and Casualty.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree totally with your comments about Party Animals (well, except the bit about Ashika, who I think is a flawed character, pretty much like everyone else in the show). I think Shelley Conn, and Matt Smith are very good. Andrea Riseborough who plays Kirsty is excellent, but I wanted particularly to agree with you about Andrew Buchan. It is an extreme thing to say "best ever" but I have to say that I was thinking the same. Certainly the character of Scott is the life and soul of the series, and perhaps that explains it, but the actor seems to have been able to infuse him with such charisma, and likeability, when basically, he's not the most likeable character...In most TV dramas, there is a sort of artificiality to relationships, but in every scene his relationships ring true, whether with his boss, his brother or Ashika. The only one that seems a bit off is the relationship with Sophie, but again, that's probably right because there is something very false about her/their relationship anyway. No offence to Andrew Buchan, but he wouldn't be the most classically handsome actor around, but it's an awful long time since I've seen anyone with such magnetism, and sex appeal on television. I'll be desperately disappointed if there isn't a second series.

Gallivant said...

Thanks for your comment on Party Animals. So good to see others appreciate this fabulous show too! And I agree completely with your comments on Andrew Buchan. To say he is one of the best young actors I have seen was certainly not a dramatic overstatement. There is a subtlety and a realism to his acting which has bowled me over. And yes, he has that magnetism, that undefinable 'IT' factor too, despite not being the archetypal good-looker. In fact his appeal goes deeper than that, because his performance is truly multi-dimensional. You like him, in spite of his hugely flawed character, because he feels genuine. And I agree on Sophie too. The point of that relationship is that it is an extension of his 'PR' personality - but she feels more deeply, doesn't she? What makes Party Animals so fantastic is how so many of these characters, who I didn't like in the first place, have grown on me - perhaps not to the point of my empathising with them all (James Northcote, for example), but I 'enjoy' them, thoroughly. I have a bad feeling that this won't be re-commissioned, based on the lacklustre ratings, which is a huge shame. I love these characters, and I want more of them. And I will certainly pursue Buchan's career with keen interest. I have to say, when reviewing the BBC's Jane Eyre series last Autumn, his 'St John Rivers' in Episode 4 was the stand-out performance for me, from the entire series. That was the first time he came to my notice, and here he has cemented my admiration.

A Depressed Lawyer said...

I didn't mean to comment anonymously earlier. Hopefully I've got it right this time. I've read your blog...excellent, thought provoking, well done.

Regards

Teresa said...

Completely agree with your comments - Party Animals the only series I have stuck with for ages,but don't know anyone else who has been watching - despite my recommendation. Hopefully will be repeated on BBC 3 or 4 and get a folowing. Have friends who work in Westminister and from what they tell me it rings true.
And Andrew Buchan is a real find - as has been said not obvioulsy good-looking but brngs lots of depth and likeability to Scott making him very attractive

Gallivant said...

Another great episode on Wednesday night (have been out of action since then) ... and am dreading the show ending next week! Based on poor ratings it is unlikely to be re-commissioned, which is such a shame, and would be another stupid decision from the BBC.

GF said...

I have to say that Party Animals was the first full series I have watched from end to end in a long, long time.

Loved it, and the ending tonight had me screaming at the TV.

So hope it gets a new lease of life somehow...

Gallivant said...

Yes, it looks like we might need a 2nd series! I like ot think that Ashika and Scott will have the maturity and the 'connection' to work through this ... but it would nice to actually know for sure! And, I'm a little worried about Ashika now - she lost the election, and one thing's certain, she can't go back to Northcote's office. What now?

Pucci said...

I hope there is a second series! The lack of promoting by the beeb is nothing new - I think Party Animals will become a cult classic. Great mix of characters, Scott & Danny are compulsive viewing. Andrew Buchan has it all!

Gallivant said...

I'm not too upbeat on the prospects for a second series. Lately the BBC seems to have a rather nasty habit of airing one excellent series, and then leaving us high and dry ... Party Animals would follow the likes of Lilies and The Amazing Mrs Pritchard in my opinion.

i loved Scott and Danny too. Buchan is a fabulous actor.

Anonymous said...

I think Party Animals is a rubbish drama - but very true to life (probably why i hate it so much); and reminds me why i was glad to leave my research assistant days behind.

Gallivant said...

Interesting that you consider the show realistic! I read on another blog that it wasn't - but then one person's experience can differ from another's I guess. I must say, it looks a very stressful job ...

Anonymous said...

I've been scanning the BBC schedules for another episode of Party Animals and am so disappointed that it has now finished. Very few people seem to have known about it. The acting has been terrific and I'm sure another series (appropriately advertised) would be a great success.

Will said...

Just wanted to say that even though I live in the States, I have downloaded and almost watched the whole series. I love it! I'll admit my knowledge of the British government is very limited, but that is irrelevant. I agree about Andrew Buchan being fantastic. And while I don't "like" all of the characters, I like the dynamics of their relationships with one another. The feel real and not forced...not contrived.

It is truly a shame that a quality show like this isn't being picked up for a 2nd series.

jill_patrick said...

I've just watched this fantastic series and am ACHING to know what others think of the ending... was it a positive message / reception between Ashika and Scott?? My HOPE is so as I am ROOTING for them like I haven't before for a television couple.

Anonymous said...

the SMS read: "I love you"

Anonymous said...

The series finished in Australia tonight 20th January 2009.

The quality of this drama series was the best I can recall for many, many years.

The acting of Scott and Danny was second to none, and I really did not want it to end.

I have read the comments about it being doubtful that a second series will be made, and I find that regrettable, but believable when so many decisions within public sector departments are made by mental dwarves (with apologies to dwarves).

The end of the series will leave a void in my television viewing.

Anonymous said...

I agree I just watched Party Animals on DVD and thought it one of the very best series ever, went straight online to find out about series 2 and cannot believe there isn't one. Another sad example of the dumbing down of television to cater for the under educated masses. Just because viewers who like intelligent TV series are in a minority does not mean there should be nothing for us to watch. Come on BBC promote the re runs and get the second series going.

Anonymous said...

I agree I just watched Party Animals on DVD and thought it one of the very best series ever, went straight online to find out about series 2 and cannot believe there isn't one. Another sad example of the dumbing down of television to cater for the under educated masses. Just because viewers who like intelligent TV series are in a minority does not mean there should be nothing for us to watch. Come on BBC promote the re runs and get the second series going. The writers, the actors and the film makers and the millions of viewers who supported season one deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Just watched it and rewatched the sms 15 times. The text only says "Foster, Scott"

Anonymous said...

Why isn't there going to be a second series?! It was great and it was left on such an irritating cliff hanger, and now we discover they are not going to show what actually happens between Ashika and Scott!
Grrrrrr!