tue 26/01/2021

The Field of Blood, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Field of Blood, BBC One

The Field of Blood, BBC One

Murder and mardy journos in moody Glasgow

The overwhelming impression given in television of urban Scotland in the Eighties is of a land where people had discovered neither vegetables nor lightbulbs. The Field of Blood on BBC One last night went no way towards correcting this: as tenebrous as you might expect for a mini-series about child-killing, everything was shadows.

There was light in the offices of the daily paper the plucky, plump heroine Paddy Meehan (Jayd Johnson) worked in as a copyboy, but it only served to illuminate her unappealing colleagues: the boozy, sexist, obese, balding, stony-hearted, grandmother-selling journalists. The pretty blonde female journalist (Alana Hood) teased them with her short skirt and screwed over Meehan for a story, proving that no one is exempt from that journalistic caricature.

The story was a dramatic one: a young boy goes missing and is found, strangled and beaten, in a canal. While the police arrested Paddy Meehan's 10-year old cousin, she followed a trail (well signalled to even the half-awake viewer) into a much more complicated story, taking in a previous child-murder and who knows what manner of dark doing.

The journalists refused to listen to her, cawing insults and crudities at her, but she persuaded her tough-but-fair editor to let her pursue her line of thought. She wants to be a real journalist, she protested, unlike the scum currently assembling the paper.

There was a problem with a lack of originality in the central story and the tone. After Red Riding's complex trail of political and police corruption and crime, set in a similarly dank, dark Yorkshire, and any number of moody crime dramas of all periods, nothing here comes as a surprise. Where are the strokes of novelty for the jaded viewer? I am not sure how much can be blamed on the source novel by Denise Mina, but a gloomy evocation of Glasgow in the Eighties is hardly groundbreaking.

Much the same can be said for the journalists: they fitted every dirty corner of the stereotype. One hack, with a presumably unintended modern resonance, listened to police transmissions on his own radio, while others never seemed to emerge from a nook in the (dark) pub.

None of this meant that it wasn't interesting television. The evocation of Meehan's devout Catholic family, grandmother in an open coffin in the sitting room at her wake, was grim and the dynamics credible. When it turned out that the suspect was close to home, and Meehan spilled the beans to a fellow journalist, her family started turning on her fearfully. This, too, is not unusual - the teenager embattled - but it added to the mood.

I have my own theory about who did it - a lifetime of watching Murder, She Wrote has trained me - and I have been sufficiently intrigued, if not wowed, to tune in next week.

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