Blackout; it’s got everything. A pinch of drug use and a dash of debauchery? Check. A slightly difficult narrative? Check. A look at the moral shortcomings of those bloody politicians we all bloody hate so much – you know the ones, the ones with the lies (if that doesn’t get me 10,000 likes on Facebook and a two-year contract at the Daily Mail I don’t know what will)? Check. A mysterious and crucially yet to be explained event that offers scope for a few revelations that’ll spin the drama out for a good few episodes? Check. Suitably confused? Well I almost was.
The first episode of this shiny new BBC drama introduces us to Christopher Eccleston’s Daniel Demoys, a corrupt and alcoholic councilman, who, in an opening 10 minute salvo of drunken debauchery swigs down much more than his daily recommended units (tut-tut) and shags someone who seems to be a prostitute (naughty boy). His wife of course has had enough of this sort of thing and soon enough threatens to leave him with the increasingly unimpressed children in tow.
To top all of this off we see him having a dodgy meeting with a dodgy businessman in an alleyway and next thing we know Demoys wakes up with a Gascoigne sized hangover, no recollection of what happened and a shirt covered in blood. Cue drama, intrigue, suspense and a shot at redemption.
Christopher Eccleston. He’s the BBC’s go to everyman. A brilliant actor that usually looks as if he’s just stumbled out of your local, pint in hand (or in this case vodka in hand, and in his stomach and all over his clothes). A dramatic enigma wrapped in a satisfyingly damp British flannel he is, which is good, as Blackout has a tendency to get a little hyperactive.
On a directorial level Blackout is adventurous and aspirational (if occasionally a little too MTV). Never content to point a camera at the action and watch Eccleston vomit on himself from a dolly rail, we get some nice focus work and a nice (and subtle) bit of the old wobbly hand-held business. These constant changes in the shooting style really help to furnish the drama’s transition from a deviant-chic look at bad parenting in the first half into a tale of potential moral significance. Nevertheless, rest assured you are never far from a flashback with the script dropping shots of sex and violence into what soon becomes a steadier 4 to 5 pint session of heightened drama.
Whilst the lead performance holds everything together it also may be a little misleading. With all of the empathy and disgust he conjures up one could be forgiven for hoping that this will turn into an intelligent and politically inflected character drama. That the looming spectre of the story behind the eponymous Blackout is there is a shame as Eccleston is excellent. Here’s to hoping there’s less plot and more character to come, but on prime-time TV that’s a very vain hope indeed.