TV UK, 9 October

Murduh, middle-youth and Hitler: the Rise of Evil.

Dolan Cummings

Topics Culture

Hitler: the Rise of Evil (Channel 4, concluding on Saturday), like Hitler: the Military Downfall (Europe, concluded 1945), is an Anglo-American co-production. (All right, the Russians were in on Military Downfall too, but you get my point.)

As the title suggests, the docudrama is not shy about the moral dimension of the story, and while efforts were made in last week’s opening episode to establish the political context and implicate the German bourgeoisie in Hitler’s rise, the overwhelming impression given was that the real driving force was Hitler’s own irrational anti-semitism, which seems to have been his way of dealing with a ‘major childhood trauma’.

The opening quote from Edmund Burke (1) was not promising, and while the Scottish actor Robert Carlyle affected a northern English accent to play Hitler, the ‘good man’ was all-American, so I assumed at first that his character was supposed to be American. He wasn’t, and it’s tempting to see this discrepancy as more of the moral colouring we discussed in Boudicca last week. For all its worthiness, then, Hitler: the Rise of Evil is probably better enjoyed as simple entertainment, and not taken too seriously.

Now that the infinitely more interesting cop show The Shield is over, and with CSI not quite making the grade, I’ve been forced to turn to British crime drama. The discovery of human remains or other evidence that opens up a decades-old case is a regular one-off plot device in the American shows, and this is the basis of Waking the Dead (BBC2), in which a special team of detectives takes on such cases.

Last week’s episode about Sixties gangsters and Jamaican ritual was a bit clumsy, but the involvement of one of the team allowed for some musing on memory and identity, clearly central themes in the programme. That and the effective ensemble acting, a key feature of the American shows, mean that I’ll come back to this.

I can’t say the same for Taggart (ITV1), even if it looms large in my own memory and identity. The Glaswegian detective drama has now been going for 20 years, latterly without Taggart himself. The acting isn’t bad at all, and there is the odd witty line, but the plots are just awful, and consequently there is no room for character. Tuesday’s episode started with the murduh of a celebrated novelist, and quickly descended into a public information film about the abuse of prostitutes.

That brings me to Peep Show (Channel 4, late on Fridays), which isn’t in fact about strippers at all, but it is British and it’s good. Stranger still, it’s British, it’s a comedy show and it’s good. Two middle youths share a flat; the title comes from the fact that we switch between the two men, seeing things from their point of view and listening to their thoughts.

Yes, the basic joke is that they are both losers, which is perhaps very British, but the internal monologues are uncannily realistic. The plots aren’t funny at all: if Peep Show were a conventional sitcom, it would be pretty dire. But this is more like being inside the heads of sitcom writers, where all the humour is unintentional.

If only the same approach had been taken in Hitler: the Rise of Evil….

Dolan Cummings is publications editor at the Institute of Ideas, and editor of Culture Wars. He is also the editor of Reality TV: How Real Is Real?, Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).

Read on:

spiked-issue: TV

(1) All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that…zzzzzzzzzzzzz

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Culture


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today