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Nobody can accuse Jimmy McGovern of settling for a quiet life. His dramas,
right from "Needle", through to "Cracker" and "Priest", to this
confirm him as one of the most exciting writers in any medium to emerge in
the last decade.
And a masterpiece is what "The Lakes" is, even considering its flaws. Occasionally, McGovern seems more concerned with hitting home his messages (about Catholicism, country-versus-city, sexual politics, etc) at the expense of his characters, but he still creates dramatic situations which are credible, raw, and overwhelmingly moving without succumbing to sickly sentiment.
Focussing on the story of Danny, a Liverpudlian drifter and compulsive gambler, who marries Emma, the daughter in a devoutly Catholic family living in a small Lake District town, and who is implicated in the drowning accident which claims the lives of four local children, McGovern wrings every piece of emotion from his storyline, and supplies a script which his excellent cast are obviously having a field day with.
John Simms is remarkable as Danny, perfectly realising the inner conflict facing his outsider character who craves to do the right thing while aspiring to escape the emotional prison he finds himself in. Robert Pugh and Mary Jo Randle as the parish priest and would-be middle-aged lover handle their roles with compassion and truth, and Paul Copley as Randle's unknowing and decent husband also deserves some kudos.
In fact, the entire cast is outstanding, all perfectly getting under the skins of their characters, and the action is all brilliantly orchestrated by director David Blair, who brings all the initially disparate plotlines into one immensely satisfying whole.
In an age of endless costume drama, "The Lakes" comes like a blast of welcome fresh air, and very few other dramas produced in the 1990s (with the exception, maybe, of Alan Bleasdale's "GBH") come anywhere near matching its heartfelt intensity.
I've just watched this again and the misgivings I had when I first saw it
have dispelled somewhat. Following on the heels of, and attempting to
continue, the first self-contained (if open-ended) saga of Danny and the
residents of the small Lake District town he finds himself in might seem
foolhardy and unnecessary, but the finished result proves these
True, "The Lakes 2" (as it is called on video) does stray into soap opera territory at times; some changes in certain characters behaviour does require a seismic suspension of disbelief; and some plotlines almost fall into self-parody. But, as with the first series, what pulls you into this drama and keeps your attention throughout is the incredible combination of superior acting, writing and directing.
Danny, the hero of Part One, takes more of a back seat here as the action focusses on the Hitchcockian story of the teacher who murders his philandering wife; the devout Catholic mother who sleeps with her priest; the bitch of a rich girl who gets more than she bargains for at the hands of three local rapists; and, best of all, there's Chef who, despite being run over repeatedly at the end of the last instalment, proves that he is still as nasty as ever, polluting the lives of all around him, especially his long-suffering but sluttish wife.
The Chef storyline actually provides a brilliant backdrop to the foreground drama of rape and infidelity, simply because the character is such a great creation: an immoral bull of a man who uses sex as a weapon, hates everyone around him, and who is motivated by an unrelenting vengeful streak against the (obvious) culprit who ran him down. Charles Dale plays Chef perfectly, making him one of television's most memorable and despicable characters who gets his delicious comeuppance courtesy of two very strong women and a rusty straight razor! Compare Dale's performance here with his Mr Nice Guy character in "Coronation Street" and you'll see just how good this actor is.
That's not to take anything away from the rest of the cast: they are all fine, and Bob Mason's world-weary police sergeant deserves a special mention. The team of writers and directors (including original scribe Jimmy McGovern) manage to create a seamless whole, and this is well worth watching and rewatching.
Is it as good as the original? Not quite, but if you take this as written before you sit down to watch, there are just as many enjoyable and striking things on offer here.
This remarkable series has already been repeated on Australian
and as far as I'm concerned it can be repeated each year, and nothing will
come anywhere near it. The sharpness of Jimmy McGovern's script, the
breathtaking performance by John Simm, the direction of David Blair, and
awesome landscape of the Lake District form the foundation of this 4-part
There are many layers and sub-texts to this story. My family were still discussing it for months after the first viewing. Not all the decisions made by the characters in this story will be popular with viewers, but they are realistic indeed. So realistic that one is likely to feel uncomfortable with the result.
As a rites of passage tale, "The Lakes" is almost mythological in its strength, gritty realism, and impact.
I look forward to the further work of this remarkable writer.
Absolutely the best mini series ever made. Intelligent, challenging, realistic and funny, even hilarious from time to times. Issues dealt with are not easy; child's death, betrayal, gambling, revenge and wrath. How to be "a good catholic" in modern world but still in a very small village where everyone knows you and tour business? And most importantly, does love really forgive anything? The Lakes has magnificent acting all the way. It's impossible to name one actor/actress above other, they're all fantastic. This is an definitive must-see. Everything in it so real, so touching and it makes you really wonder your actions and value as a human being.
After watching the first series of the Lakes I wondered if McGovern could match his wonderfully complex and intriguing stories in the second series. Well I don't think anyone could have been disappointed. With even more tie ins, parallel stories and character development than the first series McGovern has again proved that he has one of the best minds in British drama. The star performance of the series was again from John Simm as the gambling addicted outsider Danny. Special mention must also go to Kevin Doyle as John who seemed to have a lot more fun with his new homicidal tendencies. All in all the Lakes has again brought me and a lot of others great pleasure. If you have not yet seen the first or second series I strongly recommend you find it, it will be the best bit of television you'll see all year.
Jimmy McGovern's terrific mini-series contains arguably one of the single most haunting images in modern TV, as Danny Kavanagh (played strikingly by John Simm) staggers out of the icy lake bearing the first of the drowned girls. Although nothing else (perhaps inevitably) sticks in the mind to QUITE the same degree, McGovern's writing & Simm's performance help create one of the sharpest British serials of recent years.
The Lakes is definitely one of the best tv series I've ever seen. I love it! It's wet, sexy, violent and well written.
Let's just say that McGovern has done a great job in creating a story about how a small community can be influenced by a horrifying incident. The first season is brilliant. I loved the withheld ( often sexual) tension between the characters and the way how they appeared as persons you might meet in reality. The second season isn't bad, but it's just too long for its own good. There are too many uninteresting side-tracks about boring characters. Also, I couldn't quite relate to some of them anymore, they felt too much as made up caricatures. Though at some occasions it does reach the level of the first one, as a whole it's very disappointing. They'd better made it into 4 or 5 episodes instead of the 10 it eventually got.
More than 10 years on since it was first made i still love to watch this. I own it on DVD and have also seen the re runs on BBC3. I could watch it over and over again. I love the atmosphere of the series, the beautiful setting and the acting has to be the best I have seen on TV in a mini series ever. Because of how series 2 is set and some of the bad events in it, it almost makes Cumbria seem a scary setting and it gives it a lovely dark atmosphere. Agreed series 2 can seem more soap than story in places but not overly. I love the hotel scene where its set, I have even visited the hotel and had a ride on the Ullswater, but not actually had chance to see room 34! Chef has to be one of the best characters ever in a series and played wonderfully! Yes it is far fetched in places, but its wonderfully entertaining and addictive, you watch one episode and you have to see them all!!
I remember watching "The Lakes" with greatest thrill and anticipation.
It was one of the few high quality shows to see on TV at the time I saw
it (2001). The cast consisted of pretty much unknown actors to me, but
I was thoroughly impressed by them all. Especially John Simm and Robert
Pugh, who plays a very interesting part of a priest with an inner
Also the lovely Kaye Wragg was noteworthy, not only because she was the only "fox" in the show but also because of her performance and interesting character, that of a local wild girl who changes as the show progresses. The central character Danny Kavanagh (Simm) also goes through great transformation, affected both by the tragedy that he witnesses and his relationship with the girl whose name I forgot. He transforms from a wild, fun-loving delinquent to a serious adult.
This series is a real treat for those who love drama and intrigue. There is a portion of bloody murder and sex also thrown in. But what captivates the most is the fascinating character study. There are no two-dimensional characters. We see the good sides and the bad sides in them all. And the performances are really strong, as I said. There is so much to enjoy in, if you know how to appreciate it.
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