I’m doing a lot of caring listening-and-nodding these days. I’ll sit down to dinner or drinks with friends and I will assemble my features, ready for what’s coming. Because I know, you see, I can tell from the whimpering and the glassy looks, the fiddling with serviettes, that it won’t be long before my companion mutters; “I really miss The Night Manager.”
Honestly, even now, weeks after BBC1’s adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel ended, I’m still hearing this. In fact, if anything, I’m hearing it even more. A chasm has opened up in the lives of my friends and they have fallen down it, head-first. They are inconsolable as they consider the void.
Let me stress, these people aren’t weirdos who never open their curtains and who have a Special Pillow with Tom Hiddleston’s face on it (that’s just me). They don’t write [itals] Mrs Tom Hiddleston again and again on yellow legal pads bought specially for the purpose (that’s just me).
No, these are sensible people with jobs and lives. Something memorable they watched on telly burrowed into their hearts like a happy, persistent mole, and they miss it.
Ah, endings, they are of course a part of life that must be endured, like Gregg Wallace, Nick Knowles and hummus. But isn’t it marvellous that television can still do this, even in a world where there are so many claims on our attention, from the moving advertising hoarding thingy at the bus stop to the man I walked past today who was bellowing ‘NOBODY LIKES ME!” to no one in particular in the street; great television drama can still capture and hold hostage. In a nice way, without the cable-ties.
When a drama we love finishes, it’s a loss. We’ve made the emotional and the time investment, and it’s over. Characters we have come to know must leave us and goodbyes are never easy. There are two more partings this week, Peter Moffat’s legal thriller Undercover and the London noir crime drama Marcella.
Though neither, clearly, was The Night Manager, they each (particularly Undercover) had their own attractions. Solid stories peopled by recognisable human beings with failings and flaws (notably detective Marcella Backland, possibly the finest name in TV drama history, who was burdened with that condition so beloved of television and crime fiction writers, A Woman Who Forgets Things and Might Have Done Something Bad).
I particularly liked Undercover, though the ending’s a bit wiffly and will inevitably disappoint some viewers. But I liked its leads, Nick and Maya (Adrian Lester and Sophie Okonedo), a power couple with a marriage built on lies (his). It was emotionally complex – Nick fell for Maya, a civil rights solicitor, when he was an undercover cop. Yes, he infiltrated her good and proper.
Both Undercover and Marcella have done well in terms of audience numbers, as good an indicator as any that upwards of five million people found something in both to bring them back every week.
Now they too are over. But let’s not be downcast; I know it’s been an extraordinary few months with some extraordinary dramas – Line of Duty, Happy Valley, War and Peace – but there are other things to look forward too – Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander returns shortly, along with The Musketeers (for the last time). The Anthony Horowitz crime drama New Blood looks interesting, as does the French costume drama Versailles (BBC2), which has already twisted a few knickers because of its supposedly graphic sex scenes (ooh, goody!)
So don’t give up hope – the year is young. And stop whimpering.