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A marathon of misery, so broadly drawn and poorly done it never hits home as realistically as it wants
Network: BBC America; Genre: Drama; Content Rating: TV-MA (strong language, sexual content); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 - 4);
Season Reviewed: season 1
Jimmy McGovern's suburban England based anthology drama is advertised by BBC America with the slogan "Everyone is connected by something". After watching season 1, each episode telling a catastrophic story from the lives of various families on the street, I can't help but come to the conclusion that that connection is misery.
I don't want my TV to be happy all the time. Great TV lifts up the rock facade of life and exposes the slimy worms and ugly reality underneath. With a wiff of "American Beauty", and not to be confused with the pop American satire "Desperate Housewives", cheers to this show for taking the more difficult path. For committing to entire scenes of couples in knock-down-drag-out screaming fights. Even bigger cheers for going where other shows don't have the care or guts to, up into a child's bedroom as she lays awake listening to her parents fight.
"Street" has all the pieces for another cringing piece of British brilliance, but a slow realization occurs after several episodes: McGovern can only tell the story with such a heavy hand that it becomes a relentlessly unpleasant trial. Dramas like "The Sopranos" contain brutally realistic domestic fights, but also have palette cleansing moments. That isn't all they are, but that is all "The Street" is. It has no other mood. Here, the characters don't have one or two brutally realistic fights; the hour is packed with them. So much so that we become numb to it all and repulsed by the sound of it. Likewise, the characters are broadly drawn clichés that can offer us nothing in the way of originality or insight. Nobody seems reasonable; everybody behaves specifically at the service of the story.
It works like this. A couple is having an affair, a boy steals a pair of tennis shoes, a women is being abused by her husband or, in the relatively best episode, a man peeing in the park is mistaken for a flasher by a young girl. Then we watch for an hour as their lives are taken from them, they spiral out of control, their friends, family and community alienating them, they suffering one crushing defeat after another. Each story hits a single note and then proceeds to keep hitting it for the rest of the hour.
The real kick in the teeth are the unbelievable happy endings. After slogging through an hour of depressing angst, we are given a 30 to 60 second button at the end that is supposed to make us all feel relieved. The endings feel like tacked-on after thoughts. Nothing was learned, no revelations where made.
As much as I tried to give "The Street" the benefit of the doubt, I just can't see a single redeeming quality in it. Ugly, obnoxious, manipulative. It is the opposite of entertainment. A marathon of narcissistic pain and contrived bad luck made all the more punishing by the show's complete and total inability to tell a story on its most basic levels. Dud.
* / 4
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