We were settling down to watch telly last night when I realised something. There is almost no drama on TV these days which does not feature women getting dismembered. I don’t know if it is the time of year, or the recession, or some deeper malaise at work, but if you want to watch a drama with an interesting plot, good dialogue and well-known actors, a woman is bound to get chopped up somewhere along the line. Or, more likely, several women, as the plot of almost all of these shows can be summarised as ‘serial killer on the loose, can only be stopped by doughty/brilliant/maverick detective, with or without contrasting sidekick.’
We have recently watched The Killing, an umpteen-part Danish thriller which was genuninely gripping. It featured a serial killer being hunted by a doughty, brilliant, obsessive, rumple-haired woman detective with a dysfunctional private life, wearing an incongruously cuddly sweater. Then we watched Spiral (Engrenages), a wonderful French detective series in which a serial killer is hunted by a doughty, brilliant, obsessive, rumple-haired woman detective with a dysfunctional private life, wearing sludge-coloured separates from Agnes B.
Last night we turned to Above Suspicion, which seems to be vintage Linda La Plante, and features a serial killer being hunted by a doughty detective (Ciaran Hinds) with an attractively rumpled female sidekick, who seems to be wearing the tight skirt recently vacated by the corrupt redheaded lawyer in Engrenages. We don’t know yet whether she has a dysfunctional private life, but I’m rather suspecting she does.
I wouldn’t mind that this is all so formulaic. As long as it’s reasonably well acted, I’m happy to watch any old stuff really. But I do object to all the mortuary shots, the interminable post-mortems, the lingering camerawork when the latest victim is found. And, above all, I object to the way that it’s always some poor woman who is strangled/maimed/chopped to bits. Why are we always the victims? Serial killers are equal opportunity psychopaths, as far as I know. There have been many notorious killers who’ve preyed exclusively on men.
I’m not saying for a moment that this is a good thing. I’m just saying it would make a change to see a scantily-dressed chap on the cold marble slab now and again. I realise that the killer’s stalking of his next victim gives the plot its urgency and tension, but really, can’t we have the odd homosexual slaying? Or even a woman serial killer. We haven’t had one of those since, oh, Black Widow, ten million years ago.
Besides, I suspect that I am not alone, as a tidy-minded person, in really only enjoying the conclusion of these programmes, when rights are wronged, red herrings are gutted and binned and we can all sleep easier in our beds knowing the dysfunctional policewomen are about to be transferred to the traffic division by their irate guv’nors.
No wonder we all fell on Downton Abbey like greedy children on a pile of profiteroles (or was that just me?). It was such a relief watching great acting that didn’t end with a tense interview in a badly-lit police station. I’m sure that lovely Hugh Bonneville would never do anything sinister, like take out a superinjuction, for example ….
Maybe I should just stick to watching cookery shows, as they are the only other alternative. Though, wait a minute, I’ve got an idea. How about Come Die with Me? Five random strangers sit round a dinner table, then one mysteriously drops dead. Who has poisoned them? Enter the immaculate, intelligent, Prada-suited lady DI from Dulwich who solves it all in time for pudding. I think I could be on to something here …….