Tv Review: Dead Still Season 1 Episode 1

dead still s01e01 indexEveryone I know who has watched Spaced has been an enormous fan of Michael Smiley ever since and I certainly have been, and so have followed his quite the eclectic career over the past two decades as he’s been often superb in supporting roles on fantastic tv shows or the lead in a low budget film, and nearly always the highlight of whatever he’s appeared in. Now he’s finally been given his own tv series, and it’s an unusual creation and then some, but one I wish was slightly better than it is.

In the show Smiley plays the magnificently named Brock Blennerhasset who’s a photographer of the dead, which would be odd enough as it is but to make it all the more unique this is set in the 1880’s and is a murder mystery to boot. Some find Blennerhasset’s work distasteful but Conall Molloy (Kerr Logan), a local grave digger, is a big fan, and the two of them end up teaming up along with Blennerhasset’s niece Nancy (Eileen O’Higgins) when a picture of a dead woman goes missing.

The police are also intrigued as to what’s going on, but before Molloy and Blennerhasset can do much investigating the thief turns up, and it’s the husband of the deceased who’s bitter due to family politics and who wants his own photograph with the his now rather long dead wife, and that means a big of grave digging will need to take place. Everything’s then wrapped up with about ten minutes to go which is just enough time to establish that Blennerhasset’s something of a cad who often takes advantage of people, and the promised murder mystery aspect of the series is hinted at a couple of times towards the end of the episode too.

Unsurprisingly the humour is often of the morbid variety, with a few wryly witty comments about the nature of Blennerhasset’s work being quite darkly amusing, and the way he chats to a photograph of his dead wife is grimly bemusing, but it’s not exactly the kind of thing that will make you laugh out loud. The cast are all excellent and Smiley is particularly majestic, and Logan puts in decent work as his sidekick, while Eileen O’Higgins pulls her Uncle up on his behaviour in a likeably bolshy manner, but none of these characters are exactly fascinating, or at least the storyline they’re involved in isn’t.

So despite liking a few elements (well, Smiley, Logan and O’Higgins, and the odd line of dialogue) it’s a show I struggled with, a slow paced affair that didn’t particularly grab me. In this first episode the plot plays out in a fairly predictable manner, and though there’s nothing wrong about it, it’s just not that thrilling or amusing a show. Perhaps it will improve once the murder mystery aspect becomes a more central part to it, but despite being such a huge fan of Smiley’s this is a rare occasion where I’ve no inclination to check out the rest of a series he stars in.

★★★

Alex Finch.
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