This article was originally published in The Dundee Courier on 11th June 2016.
New Blood: Thursday, BBC One
UK’s Best Part Time Band: Friday, BBC Four
I don’t know what’s worse: the murky world of illegal medical testing, or New Blood, an atrocious BBC thriller about the murky world of illegal medical testing.
Written – or rather, assembled – by Anthony Horowitz, the creator of somnambulant detective drama Foyle’s War, it’s a bizarrely inept, dated concoction. With its hackneyed script, woefully over-stylised direction and one-note acting, it’s like a bad ‘90s children’s drama fused with Hollyoaks After Dark.
Horowitz, who’s 61, has committed the excruciating crime of delivering an old man’s idea of a cutting edge youth drama.
The plot? Well, if you must. A group of penniless British backpackers answer an advert for paid medical testing while travelling in India. For some reason, one of them goes crazy and stabs a nurse with a scalpel. Six years later in London, another member of the group is found dead after falling from a building. It looks like suicide, but Rash, an ambitious young PC, suspects foul play.
Meanwhile, Stefan from the fraud squad has gone undercover to investigate a corrupt pharmaceutical company. Even though he lives with a bunch of lazy Poles – not my assessment, that’s how they’re depicted – his attempt at a Polish accent makes him sound like the world’s worst Borat impersonator.
Somehow – it doesn’t really matter – he and Rash eventually team up to expose a conspiracy that so far involves a predatory homosexual, a stereotypical oddball who lives with his mum, the kind of sexy female assassins who only exist in bad thrillers, and Scottish actor Mark Bonnar playing a sinister man from the ministry, just as he did in the recent Undercover.
His presence serves as a reminder that, for all its flaws, Undercover was a far superior conspiracy thriller than New Blood. Then again, so is an average episode of Father Dowling Investigates.
Horowitz is obviously trying to say something important about state corruption and the trials of modern metropolitan living, but he delivers his message with all the subtlety of an H bomb.
It’s a blandly mechanical drama, unencumbered by depth or nuance. Every line of dialogue is lazily culled from the big book of cop show clichés: poor Mark Addy is particularly ill-served by the thankless role of a truculent copper defined by a constant belch of tiresome sarcasm.
Conclusion: Horowitz wrote this, barely, while recovering from the effects of a medical experiment gone wrong. It’s the only feasible explanation. 2016 has been an exceptional year for BBC drama so far. This is a major step backwards.
A benign antidote to The X Factor, UK’s Best Part Time Band is a cheerful series in which comedian and DJ Rhod Gilbert trawls the country looking for, well, the title says it all. There’s no prize as such. Instead it aims to celebrate people who make music for, in Gilbert’s words, “the sheer bloody love of it.” They aren’t after riches and fame, they simply dig what they do.
In the latest episode he travelled around the north and the midlands with affable Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook, who offered polite constructive criticism and advice to various unsung musicians.
An eclectic bunch, they included a “modern mariachi” band who rehearse in the bedroom of their primary school teacher/leader’s mum, a punk band consisting of junior doctors, and a ska band fronted by three middle-aged factory worker brothers.
Without resorting to cheap sentiment, it’s a quietly heart-warming tribute to everyday folk with talent, commitment and desire.