The BBC 's lavish new thriller, The Night Manager, shows promise - pity TV3 had to hack it to bits with commercial breaks.
OTHER THAN THE occasional cursory look at its news shows, I don't normally watch TV3. Strangely, I don't feel inclined to watch The Bachelor or Family Feud.
However I will be watching TV3 for the next six weeks because its screening BBC's lavish new six part spy drama The Night Manager (Sunday, 8.30pm).
Some 20 million pounds has been invested in this adaptation of John Le Carre's 1993 novel, updated to the present day. The firstepisode opened against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. It has the look and feel of a big screen production. The first episode alone started in Cairo and ended up in Switzerland, with an intermission in London.
But is it any good?
I've always been something of a fan of John Le Carre's novels. He charted the moral and ethical vacuum that the intelligence services of the capitalist west and Stalinist east operated, and in George Smiley he created one of the definite characters of twentieth century fiction.
When Stalinism collapsed and the Cold War ended Le Carre moved on to write about the inequities of globalisation, unchecked multinational corporate power, and the role national spy services play in protecting corporate interests.
“The things that are done in the name of the shareholder are, to me, as terrifying as the things that are done—dare I say it—in the name of God,” Le Carre said in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!
The Night Manager follows an under cover operation to nab 'humanitarian' and international arms dealer Richard Onlsow Roper (played by Hugh Laurie). Former British soldier Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is recruited by Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), an intelligence operative, to infiltrate Roper's inner circle.
We know we're in Le Carre territory when a British Foreign Office functionary informs Angela Burr that sometimes Britain’s interests are best served by letting bad guys sell weapons to each other.
The Night Manager, from its slinky opening credits to its exotic locations to its heavyweight cast, has invited comparisons with James Bond. Indeed the glistening world that central character Jonathan Pine inhabits is a million light years away from the grubby world of aging and downbeat George Smiley. The Night Manager isn't Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy revisited. Already Tom Hiddleston is being touted as the next James Bond.
Although only one episode has been screened The Night Manager shows definite promise. I'm not expecting an intellectual tour de force but I'm expecting something with a little more depth and complexity than the normal Bond fare. I'll keep watching, despite the ugly commercial breaks. In Britain they are enjoying the series uninterrupted. That's because its being screened on BBC1, a non commercial public broadcaster. We're denied having a similar public broadcaster in this country.