18th century contexts, Bounty Mutiny, Garrow's Law, Horatio Hornblower, Le Chevallier d'Eon, Mildred Pierce, Parade's End, Richard Sharpe, The Bolitho novels, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Video, William Garrow
You guys must think I spend all day watching TV.
Well, I am not.
Still, it’s kind of the topic of the month for me to find movies about the 18th and the 19th century that aren’t outright annoying.
Annoying, as in “the upteenth Jane Austen movie”; or, on the other side, annoying as in “promising British officer with heart of gold does [insert heroic deed]”.
Because, and I might be completely wrong about this, but the mediatic treatment of the era that spans Coleridge’s life is usually one-dimensional, to say the least: When The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Japanese Chevallier d’Eon are about as unconventional as things get, then, well, that means that the general treatment is maybe just very conventional.
Not to criticize the Hornblowers or Bolithos of the literary universe, but between all the repetitive miltary fiction and the (dude that I am) unbearable novels of manners, it’s very hard not to get bored. I am as excited about any new Richard Sharpe TV movie as just anybody else, but the period needs varation in its fiction, plain and simple.
Now, gladly, TV producers are equally aware of the problem, and great efforts are taken to provide the audiences with, quite plainly, more sophisticated approaches to historical fiction. (For example, just look at the recent Parade’s End, or last year’s Mildred Pierce.)
One of the most recent results of those efforts was Garrow’s Law, breaking conventions and strolling into new territory as a period piece court room drama.
For us Coleridgeans, it’s an almost an ideal TV series, given that it provides us with a plethora of social contexts about COleridge’s England that we usually would not be exposed to.
I wanted to like this series. A lot. The thematic background is extremely intriguing, and, in my never-ending quest to understand Coleridge’s life and times better, I maintain the theory that movies – or, organic learning in general – are a viable way to get closer to that goal.
But, really, for that, Garrow’s Law, proved to be of nearly no use to me personally. I can’t say that the series is bad, and I detest the over-the-top, kiss-kiss-bang-bang that modern TV productions seem to favor, but the pace for this one is just too slow. Whatever kind of dramatic incentive the writers try to create, the spark does not reach me.
Garrow’s Law, I concur, while blessed with a stellar cast, and treating with overall interesting topics, is terribly boring. It might serve the purpose of exposing the 18th century in a detail seldomly seen on TV, but the stories, they are just not all that gripping.
That said, if you like it, good for you. The series seems to have been highly successful, which might prompt the BBC to orchestrate similar productions in the future. I for my part tend to think I’ll stick to less immersing, yet more conventionally exciting television. …Even if that means to watch a variation of the Bounty Mutiny for the uptenth time.