The Marmite Factor
BBC drama has been all over the place for years, but recently it seems to be coming good. I don't want to be unkind, so let's just forget about 'Hope Springs'. 'Occupation' is now etched into the mind and will be remembered for its power and poignancy. Yes, I cried, a little. Even BBC3 has its Being Human.
And now there's 'Personal Affairs' on BBC3, aptly described in one newspaper as "a distinct and colourful offbeat comedy about four female PAs working for a selection of unhinged execs in a swish London office". This comedy drama, which started last week, has had reactions from the press that can only be described as being akin to the Marmite Factor. They either love it or hate it, and are mainly divided between popular press and broadsheets, which reflects its intended audience, but also the vitriol of those who feel it their duty to ridicule BBC3 in general.
The tabloids and the glossy mags heap praise on 'Personal Affairs' (Heat, Grazia and OK magazines give it 4 or 5 stars as does the Daily Mail which puts it "a cut above the rest", it fairs well in The Express, and the News of the World calls it summer's obsessive viewing, while the Metro goes as far as to say it is "much more sure of itself" than Occupation. I'm not sure about that one. But The Scotsman and The Guardian hate it, and the reviewer in The Times goes as far as to condemn it as a "porn flick for a sub-group of men who get a thrill out of sexual violence against women". I'm sorry, but I've tried to see where this has come from, and can only conclude that as the cliché goes, this says a lot more about the reviewer than any relevance it has to the show. Blimey.
It's pacey and fun, though maybe a bit too disjointed in the wrong way. The comedy is not only in the one-liners which are original and funny though they sometimes get lost in the telling, but there is good visual comedy and some ridiculous scenarios. Under the fun and froth there is a darkness building up that suggests that the stories are going to develop into something substantial. The pool of contrasting characters are very much alive, some more likable than others, and I found myself tutting with regret when the episode was over as I wanted to stay with them for a little longer. If this goes into a second series, and I hope it does because I agree with the Mail that so far it is a cut above the rest, the editing needs to be a lot tighter and the direction doesn't do it justice. But so far, so enjoying it.