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Sarah Louise Madison
Up to date reinvigoration of the time-honoured detective/crime thriller format
There's a lot of good stuff going on in Moses Jones: from the interesting pairing of jaded detective Moses Jones (Shaun Parkes, a familiar face on British TV who finally gets the meaty part he deserves) with young whippersnapper Dan Twentyman (Matt Smith, previously excellent in "The Ruby in the Smoke"); to the extensive non-white casting; to the sense of a real, gritty, netherworld-London which brings to mind 2002's excellent "Dirty Pretty Things".
There's a brooding sense of menace from 'the old country' (Uganda); lots of trapped people trying for a sense of normality, and paying, often, a high price. Steady Solomon can't become a big-time musician because he's illegal; Joy had to leave her son behind and works in a brothel; the irritatingly named Dolly (the wonderful Indira Varma) plays restaurateur and surrogate mother to old friends from Uganda, which turns out to be risky; Mattias, the erstwhile big man determined to receive the old deference, while working a string of nasty, dead-end jobs, the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing.
Now I've watched the whole thing (on the BBC's excellent i-player catch up site since I'm never around when the programme's actually on), I think it's pretty good overall, if a bit violent for my tastes (I had my hand over my eyes quite a bit). The story arc is interesting and relevant and non-formulaic: I wholeheartedly forgive the occasional creaking script point (or forced 'argument' or rather pat ending) in enjoyment of the atmosphere and good acting. Some parts were underwritten, and the police work wasn't really interesting enough. The series was strongest when it verged on docudrama: the outcasts, the mad, those dirty London streets and grubby cafes, temples for the lost and the sleepless. I suspect a proportion of rural and provincial Brits will find it has nothing to tell them that they can relate to (which I guess explains the low ratings relative to time-slot competitor "Whitechapel"). But I think this show has a potentially huge audience on that coin's flip-side: pretty much anyone at all for whom Morse, Midsomer, Poirot and the myriad other genteelly entertaining 'whodunnits' are just not reflecting any part of their world. Recommended: the comfy old slipper of detective fiction given a rough, tough new makeover. Get the dialogue right next time and there'll be something truly memorable.
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