Last Night's Television: Didactic, but Not Quite an Outrage
Sutcliffe, Thomas, The Independent (London, England)
THE FIRST episode of The Grid was so much better than you might have expected that there were long passages where you could have been persuaded that it was good. I was not sure whether it was or not, because relief can do odd things to your judgement, and I'd feared the worst of this BBC co-production with TNT and Fox Television Studios.
But the good news was this: within the limits of a popular television show it at least tried to honour the complexity of its subject matter. There were essentially decent Muslim characters who found themselves drawn into violence and there were bureaucratic American spooks who thought their colleagues were the real enemy. The bad news was that the effort showed.
Throughout this first episode, stiffly didactic scenes stood out from the spy-thriller action like beads of sweat on a nervous man's forehead. "How would you feel if I judged the whole of Christianity by the actions of the KKK," asked a Muslim CIA man, after one of his colleagues had let rip with a precis of her prejudices about Islam. As conversational exchanges go, it was about as unforced as a presidential debate.
The action, like the production, was transatlantic. Their stars were Julianna Margulies, who played a national security agent with expertise in counter-terrorism and hot, breathy sex, and Dylan McDermott, who played FBI agent Mike Canary, still grieving for a friend who died on 11 September, and rubbing salt in his own wound by sleeping with his widow. Our stars were Jemma Redgrave as a tender-hearted MI6 agent (she cried when her agents got iced) and Bernard Hill as a tweedily imperturbable MI5 man.
When Islamist terrorists botched their attempt at a sarin gas attack on a Muslim-Jewish conference in London (never smoke a fag while handling deadly neurotoxins), they started videoconferencing like crazy, in an attempt to forestall the next outrage. What they didn't realise was that it was a blind, distracting crusader intelligence forces while a group of jihadis carried out an attack on Western oil interests in Nigeria. …