Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Clever Take on the Crime-Show Genre That Has Echoes of Past Hollywood Classics

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Clever Take on the Crime-Show Genre That Has Echoes of Past Hollywood Classics

Article excerpt

Byline: Guy Pewsey The Viewer

The City& The City BBC Two, 9pm THERE'S a new Inspector in town. Or is that two towns? 2009's The City & The City, a novel from China Mieville, has been adapted into a new, four-part series. And, as in most crime shows in the history of the form, it all begins with a murdered young woman.

Thankfully, things are a bit more complicated than such generic beginnings suggest. Inspector Tyador Borlu (David Morrissey) works for the Extreme Crime Squad -- this show isn't exactly subtle -- in the city of Beszel. It is an unusual place, not least because Liverpool and Manchester have been dressed up to look like a bleak fusion of New Delhi and New York: something else is afoot.

Beszel has a twin town, Ul Quoma, which sits inexplicably alongside it like a parallel universe, visible to the public like a reflection in a steamed-up bathroom mirror. The murder victim is found in Beszel, but may have hailed from Ul Quoma, a situation that could have significant diplomatic and criminal implications. The idea takes a little getting used to, but it's a clever device which hints at more to come for Tyador and raises interesting questions about his relationship with his wife Katrynia, played by Lara Pulver.

Despite all the neon and strobe lighting, it doesn't quite electrify. But at least it's smart without crowing about it, and it provides a satisfying level of humour too. One thing it isn't, though, is "genrebusting". It has been described as such despite the fact that, in most respects, episode one complies with the rulebook of a classic neo-noir, albeit a good one. So there are shades of old Hollywood classics like Chinatown or The Maltese Falcon, meaning I would not be shocked if the phrase "Forget it Tyador, it's Beszel" came up here at some point. The neo portion, meanwhile, is present in the dystopian bleakness of Beszel, the shifting severity of the lighting and the clever concept of the divided city. …

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