mon 01/09/2014

Field of Blood: The Dead Hour, BBC One | TV reviews, news & interviews

Field of Blood: The Dead Hour, BBC One

Bang bang, you're dead funny: corpses and comedy in the second of Denise Mina's Glasgow newspaper trilogy

McVie and Meehan investigate: Ford Kiernan and Jayd Johnson in 'Field of Blood: The Dead Hour'

There are not generally a lot of laughs in dead bodies. So Raymond Chandler saw the funny side of murder, and Carl Hiassen dresses felonies in a bright Hawaiian shirt. But Glasgow, you’d think, would tend to keep corpses and comedy in separate boxes. Not here. Denise Mina’s fiction can keep a straight face when it needs to. Her trilogy of novels set in a hard-boiled Glasgow news room in the early 1980s takes a head-on look at the worst in humanity. But as adapted for BBC One, they’re also a hoot.

The Field of Blood made a bit of a splash when it was adapted in 2011. Its sequel has now been hard-boiled down to two lean episodes. To keep viewers in mind of what they enjoyed last time, it’s called Field of Blood: The Dead Hour. The first story told of child abuse. Here the fearless young reporter Paddy Meehan (no one calls her Patricia) pokes her nose into the death of a female lawyer further even than the police seem inclined to go. When the body of another lawyer is hooked out of a canal, things start to smell decidedly of the fishmonger’s. Meehan (Jayd Johnson), accompanied by her seen-it-all camel-coated colleague McVie (Ford Kiernan), proceeds to root around a murky story that involves the Miners’ Strike and GCHQ.

Like all the best news stories, this is one that struggles to see the light of day. The paper is still edited by David Morrissey’s world-weary idealist Devlin, but a ballbreaking editor-in-chief Maloney (no one uses first names round these parts) has been parachuted in to take the paper downmarket in pursuit of sales and maybe eradicate some of the sexist old codgers clogging up the corridors. As played by Katherine Kelly (pictured above right with Morrissey), Maloney is all miaow and talons, an off-the-scale minx ferried in from the pantomime stage, and jolly good fun she is too. “There’s such a thing as ethics,” Devlin bawls at her. “That’s right,” she drawls. “It’s one of the Home Counties.”

David Kane – adapting and directing – tunes into Mira's seamy world with a fine ear for Scottish wit, much in the vein of (the admittedly American) Donna Franceschild and Scotland's high priest of humour Bill Forsyth. “My arse was flapping like a flag in a hurricane,” says one hack after an encounter with the boss. In a drama that hops between national, local and office politics, it’s not clear that the thread involving Paddy’s rigidly Catholic homelife adds much (in tonight's second episode it all gets a bit heavy).

But the smoky stuff about the former life of newspapers has a lovely sepia-tinted seediness. “Typewriters’ll be in a museum soon,” someone says. “I don’t want to be in there with them.” Johnson as Paddy Meehan is a treat, perky and resourceful but also vulnerable and naïve. They don’t make them like that any more. They probably never did. There’s another story to complete the trilogy. Good.

Jasper Rees on Twitter

Katherine Kelly is all miaow and talons, an off-the-scale minx ferried in from the pantomime stage, and jolly good fun she is too

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