At the end of every episode of Mildred Pierce, I wonder: Am I dead? Is this what it feels like to have joined the choir invisible: a little bit tired and so bored you want to cry.
But you can’t because your eyes have gone dry as a direct consequence of your tear ducts leaving because they’ve had just about enough of this maudlin drivel.
Or maybe I enter an altered state. Each instalment lasts an hour, but I swear that it’s really ten hours and in a parallel universe I am actually living another life where I have retired to a beach hut by the North Sea to collect driftwood, abuse passers-by and feed Yorkshire cream teas to the seagulls.
Mildred Pierce (Sky Atlantic, Saturday) is a glossy yet drab, shiny yet brown Hollywood misfire, packed with movie stars (Kate Winslet is Mildred, Guy Pearce her lover/husband) and directed by a film-maker of renown, Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far from Heaven).
It’s based on the book by James M Cain and comes donkey’s years after the torrid 1945 film starring Joan Crawford at full throttle as a decent but wronged Depression-era businesswoman with a toxic brat for a daughter. Joan suffered as only Joan Crawford can suffer in that film, in lots of mink and with hair shaped like a pork pie. It was brilliant.
The TV version – five hours in total – is INTERMINABLE, yet it’s hard to credit that one of its executive producers is John Wells. Yes, that John Wells, the powerhouse behind most recently the wonderful Southland and ER, the revolutionary hospital drama that transformed the television landscape forever. Remember ER, how it was so exciting, brisk and intelligent. And, boy, did it move.
But John, where were you? Mildred Pierce doesn’t so much move as crawl on its belly while pausing every now and again for a bit of a cough. Every scene lasts at least five times as long as it should and then it goes on just a little bit more. In short, it has EMMY NOMINATIONS ARE A CERT written all over it.
I think we are supposed to be grateful that we are being touched by movie-voltage stardust. Like Boardwalk Empire (Martin Scorsese! We are not worthy! We are pinheads who watch A Place in the Sun: Home or Away!). And Mildred Pierce is the kind of thing telly-snobs love. You know the people I mean: “Oh I never watch anything apart from Newsnight and my West Wing box sets.”
You can see the thinking behind it that we, the knuckle-dragging saps in the audience, surely must be dazzled by the fact that Kate Winslet (she’s won an Oscar, you know) would actually lower herself to appear in a mini-series. And Guy Pearce, too. Though he’s got his hands dirty in the past, he was in Neighbours, after all.
So frankly, movie people, if you have any more bright ideas that you are sure will impress we single-cell telly addicts, I wouldn’t bother if I were you; we’re quite happy, thanks.