Two new trailers for BBC historical dramas aired this week, Banished on BBC2 and Poldark on BBC1 – and I couldn’t tell which was which.
Both had menacing, candle-flickering, fade-to-black intrigue. Both had blokes from Being Human (Aidan Turner in Poldark, Russell Tovey in Banished). And both had indie pop music blaring through to fool you into thinking that history can be just as hip as A Knight’s Tale.
The song’s called Wolves, by Brighton-based artist Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, and it’s great: scratchy and scurrilous in all the right places. This sort of trailer song choice once would have had you pricking your ears up in surprise. Now, annoyingly, it feels like a BBC producer trying to show off their Spotify playlist.
Exhibit B: Banished. Setting: 18th Century Australia. Vibe: Hunger Games hangover.
Banished explains why Poldark’s music doesn’t impress anymore. At least that choice was imaginative. Banished is just derivative, nicking Lorde’s cover of Everybody Wants to Rule the World just because it’s got the word “rule” in it. The song was first recorded for The Hunger Games soundtracked, and has since been used in trailers for Homeland, How To Get Away With Murder, Dracula Untold, Assassin’s Creed… The list goes on.
See, nothing to hear here.
Exhibit C: The Musketeers. Setting: 19th Century France. Vibe: Clean sword-cut soul.
Only merest whiff of south London R&B singer Kwabs’ song Saved – just enough to make you wonder what the tune is, not enough to make you actually look it up. Can you see why the pattern is starting to grate now?
Incidentally, the series one trailer featured Run Boy Run by Woodkid, a tune so overplayed during the 2014 World Cup that I can’t remember now whether it was actually still leftfield choice in 2013.
Exhibit D: The White Queen. Setting: 15th Century England. Vibe: TopShop heroin chic
Wicked Games by Coves inadvertently was completely appropriate for this Game Of Thrones-lite tale of sex, death, more sex, pouting and warmongering. There was never much historically plausible about The White Queen, so it doesn’t matter that it ends up looking and sounding like London Fashion Week. As Lady Elizabeth says, “You will dance to whatever tune I’ll sing.”
This is the exception that proves the rule: a series that managed to match the heady skunk of its soundtrack hit for hit. The music in Peaky Blinders just works, right down to the trailer choice (Young Men Dead by The Black Angels). There’s even a ready-made Spotify playlist… probably made by the same person who picked Poldark.