Wednesday, 30 January 2008

City of vice

This programme is a visual feast and this review is the perfect summing up.

Nancy Banks-Smith
The Guardian,
Tuesday January 29 2008

City of Vice (Channel 4) continues - powerful, beautiful, abstruse and very hard on the dentures. Dr Johnson defined a net as anything reticulated or decussated at equal distances with interstices between the intersections. Or, as we would put it, a lot of holes strung together. City of Vice is Johnsonian in its rolling periods, antique vocabulary and obfuscation. When Mr Anderson (Gary Lewis) said the roast pigeon was transmogrified, was he being pretentious or is my hearing going again? We have grown used to predigested television, and City of Vice comes in large lumps. You learn a lot along the way, though. I didn't know, for instance, that "the bill" refers to the warrant a Bow Street Runner carried.
Sumptuousness is suggested with hangings, candlelight and shadowy distances. It looks like a theatrical company, once feted, now fallen on hard times. The language is now lively, now stately. A gang of robbers is described as, "like a dose of lice. They are not to be shaken off." Henry Fielding says, "We will apprehend these men and see them hanged." "That is of absolutely no consequence or comfort," says their broken and heartbroken victim.
Television can hold its head up here. I am usually wary of mentioning my profession. People tend to say incredulously, "That's work?" Sometimes it is damned hard work but rewarding.

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