Magazine article The Spectator

Too Heavy-Handed

Magazine article The Spectator

Too Heavy-Handed

Article excerpt

I've had to give up on The Forsyte Saga, I'm afraid. I stuck it out through the whole of the first series, which I rather enjoyed. But in the new one I find myself curiously reluctant to give a toss what happens to anyone, least of all the intensely annoying Gina McKee character, who's so wet, frosty and sulky that her raping ex-husband Soames seems a joy by comparison.

Did Galsworthy's books get more pulpy the further into the Saga he went? It certainly feels that way. The Romeo and Juliet theme is too obvious; there are too many characters buzzing around with names and faces you can never remember; and there's far too much heavy-handed historical scene-setting. People are forever saying things like: 'Really my child, I can say with some confidence that Mr Picasso's geometric daubs will never catch on,' or 'You must remember Papa, that in reaction to the terrible loss of life in the Great War and the 1919 flu pandemic, we Bright Young Things simply must be gay.' Yes, I'm exaggerating, but you know what I mean.

What I'm not exaggerating remotely is the lobotomised asininity of Cambridge Spies which crept to its miserable conclusion last weekend like some half-crushed cockroach trailing its slimy yellow guts and - ha! - got you, you bastard. I flicked over to a teeny bit of it, just to annoy myself, and saw the scene where the Anthony Blunt character (Sam West) tells the Queen that he likes Marx. 'Groucho?' says Queenie. 'The other one,' says Blunt. 'Ah, Harpo,' says the Queen. Yes, really. Crap screenwriter Thingy Whatisname actually thought this would be a worthwhile joke to include. If only he and the whole cast and crew could be put in a time machine and transported back to Stalin's Soviet Union. That would be good, wouldn't it? I wouldn't fancy Sam West's chances much, with that accent. In fact, Sam West is the thing that upset me most about the whole series. I used to worship and adore him because of his matchless skill at pronouncing with ringing authority German military terms on documentaries about the Nazis. But I read in the Radio Times he's an enormous lefty who thinks the Cambridge Spies were pretty good eggs. Bad, bad Sam.

In the first part of State Of Play, I kept making mental notes of all the reasons why it wasn't that good: the deeply unrealistic idealism of its journalists; the deeply unrealistic intelligence and political competence of its Labour MP; the relentless generation of gratuitous tension - e. …

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