Tomorrow sees the finale of Channel 4’s adaptation of West Yorkshire born / Tokyo based author David Peace’s ‘Red Riding Quartet’ – four books bizarrely crammed into three feature-length television episodes. Now, I’m a Peace fan, but even by his high standards, the quartet is an astonishing collection of work. Set against a backdrop of serial murders – including the Yorkshire Ripper case – and multi-layered police corruption in and around Leeds between 1974 and 1982, the books capture the kind of unflinching, grotty horror that we should all pray we never have to experience off the page.
The good news is, for the largest part, the television adaptations do too.
Y’know, I wasn’t convinced after the first episode, ‘1974’; a story concerning a young reporter from the Yorkshire Post (played by an infuriatingly wet Andrew Garfield) who, while investigating a series of unsolved child murders, encounters an arrogant local businessman (nailed perfectly by Sean Bean) who seems positioned above the law. I found the grainy film stock hard going; the sequencing of the story wayward; the dank locations a bit too familiar (I grew up in Yorkshire, and believe me, if you’ve ever been to, say, Selby, not that much has changed since 1974…)
But moreover, I just found the whole thing left me feeling utterly wretched. And y’know, that’s fine – I could fill ten sheets of A4 of books, TV, films, even video games that have left me feeling the same way. But the pop culture that really sparks my motor are the works that pin-prick a needle into their plots that allow some light – however little or thin that ray is – into the experience of immersing yourself within them.
I think the concept I’m reaching for here is that of entertainment. I think sometimes the people who make television, etc, forget that’s why I switch the box on after a day of rush hour commutes to work, stodgy canteen food and Pigeon Detectives CD’s in the post… I’m not asking for ‘Noel’s House Party’ here, but something that doesn’t reinforce the feeling in my gut that this existence thing is all a waste of time would be smashing, ta.
Thankfully, the two episodes that follow week one (last weeks ‘1980’ which bastardises Peace’s’ ‘1977’ and ‘1980’ novels into one fairly fan-boy appeasing plot and features Paddy Considine – which is never a bad thing – and tomorrow night’s amazing ‘1983’ episode – which actually, due to a nice, behind the mirror story arc made me like the first episode a lot more in hindsight) there’s little chunks of light running amok throughout.
Watching these two episodes didn’t leave me limping to bed afterwards, but inspired passion and righteousness in me. What’s more, there are increased chunks of Peaces’ prose lifted directly from page to script, which doesn’t half help give some humanity to the authors world that the television is trying to adapt. There’s even a couple of (slight) giggles tomorrow night, and some really great music…
Now, if only I could shake the sinking feeling I’ve got about Peace’s other page to screen adaptation, ‘The Dammed Utd’…