The first promotional still from the upcoming BBC 2 television movie, "Legacy" which stars Andrew Scott as a Russian diplomat, was revealed today. In the photo Scott sports a moustache and a longer 1970s hairstyle, befitting the period.
"Legacy" tells the tale of British spy, Charles Thoroughgood (Charlie Cox) who discovers some unsettling information about his father that leads him to believe he may have been a Russian spy. Scott plays Viktor Koslov, an old friend of the MI6 agent from college who now works at the Russian Embassy. Thoroughgood contacts him for help concerning a network of caches of information which were secreted in western countries by the KGB dubbed "Operation Legacy."
Also appearing in the drama as part of what the BBC is calling it's "Cold War Season" is Romola Garai, who appeared with Scott in "The Hour," a BBC TV series from a couple of years ago that ran for two seasons and was recently cancelled.
This film sounds like it might be good. It has the advantage of not being a prolonged series padded out over several episodes and the premise is intriguing. However, one thing that gives me pause before I get on board the "Legacy" train is the plot's emphasis once again on the family angle.
British television has its ups and downs. No pun intended to invoke the ghost of "Upstairs, Downstairs," although it was an entire series that used the family angle, pretty much. A tv show from 2012 starring Scott, "Blackout," suffered from family angst more than with the plot they'd set up for the characters until it became laughingly boring. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a "family plot" so-to-speak, if done well, but belaboring scenes with lots of crying and hand-wringing, throwing in affairs every other plot thread is unnecessary and speaks more to a lazy type of writing than a polished script. The premise could be set anywhere and the characters are basically cardboard. I hope "Legacy" isn't one of those. At least, the dad is already dead.
The BBC and other British channels used to turn out absolutely fantastic stuff like "Sunset Song" and "David Copperfield" which were shown here on "Masterpiece Theater," but lately they have gotten bogged down in soap opera storytelling. The real shame of that is the production values are top-notch. The sets, costumes, make-up, casting and locations are worth tuning in for even if the story doesn't match them. It would be so great if they did try a bit harder to give us a story we can be interested in, too.
The global hit, "Downton Abbey," which is mostly just wonderful scenery, clothes, great acting (especially from the grand dame, Maggie Smith), and contrived plot twists is a wonderful example of this. Escapist entertainment at its best, but not television at its best exactly. Worth watching though, as they did come back from a horrible second season to deliver some fantastic episodes in the third in compellingly-written stories about the Crawley family so it certainly can keep us on the edge of our seats with a well-told tale.
Ironically, "Downton Abbey" turned out to be the giant hit around the world rather than the program that made Andrew Scott into a name (the name being Moriarty more than his own - at least in Great Britain) "Sherlock," which probably came as a big surprise to its creators, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt. But, this incarnation of Sherlock Holmes suffers greatly from the conceit that "Sherlock" is a modern-day take on the stories because it's set in the present and employs cell phones and nudity. It's a gorgeously produced show with impeccable acting, but the writing is more like over-writing. The plots are full of holes and nonsense that matter only to the fan boys who wrote it. The ha-ha-the-joke's-on-the-fans' behavior routinely pulled by Moffatt and Gatiss is reprehensible and shows an amazing immaturity. The much ballyhooed "pool scene" at the end of season one that introduced Moriarty and left the viewers wondering for over a year how Holmes and Watson were going to get out of being blown up by him was resolved in an appalling "joke" in the first episode of season two when Moriarty's phone rang and he decided to not kill them because he had other things to do. Can you say lazy writers? Get ready for next season with the reportedly faked shots of Moriarty and Mycroft Holmes (played by Gatiss) shaking hands to make the folks camping out at the set think that Moriarty colluded with Sherlock's brother about ... something. Really, was it necessary to mislead the fans?
As for a modern take on Holmes check out the compelling characterization of the sleuth as portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller in "Elementary" along with the fascinating Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. I had my doubts big-time about this show, but they got everything right. Even the reveal of Moriarty in the last season didn't turn me off. Instead, it increased my respect for the creators, writers and casting people who went with a risky idea and pulled it off magnificently. Get a clue from them, Moffatt and Gatiss.