09 June, 2009

What the Papers Say: "Hope Springs"


Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"Hope Springs (BBC1, Sunday) probably could be described as scrappy. And a bit crappy, to be honest. Four attractive lady crims - Ellie, Hannah, Josie and Shoo - do one last job that nets them three million squids so they can retire to Barbados and drink cocktails on the beach for the rest of their lives. And they stitch up Ellie's bad-boy sexist boyfriend (boo!) too, so that's a result for sisterhood. Except it goes wrong and, hilariously, they end up in a remote Scottish village, complete with comedy Scottish people, instead. It's like a drama version of that show where two families swap holidays.

So there are midges, and an incident with a sheep, and some friction with the locals, as well as a bit of how's-your-father. Sex out of the City. They buy the pub, there's a fire, the money gets burnt, one of them gets mouth to mouth from a swarthy local, someone else gets jealous, and there's a body under the floorboards. He he he.

It's hard to imagine how they are going to fill seven more episodes of this. I wasn't expecting The Wire, given that Hope Springs is made by the people who are also responsible for Footballers' Wives and Bad Girls. But this one doesn't have the outrageous archness of those two shows. It's just silly, without being funny."

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Andrew Billen, The Times

" I have been searching for something poetic, or at least nice, to say about Hope Springs, Sunday nights' new “comedy”-“drama”. Well, the sheep that traumatised the tarty ASBO-breaker Shoo put in a nicely understated performance, I suppose, which is more than can be said for Christine Bottomley who played the screaming con, so cool on a jewellery heist, so alarmed by Scotland. Shoo is one of four glam cons on the run from the police and a rival gang, who, by virtue of careful plotting, find themselves running a shabby, dourly Scottish hotel. As a crime caper, Hope Springs started briskly but was soon bogged in the Highland mire. As a McPastoral, it lacks Local Hero's charm. As a study of professional women, you'd have been better off with The Apprentice final (reviewed in the main section). Like most of what is made by its producers, Shed - Fooballers' Wives, Bad Girls - it is so trussed up in high street fashion and its visual correlatives, that real emotion fights for breath. Alex Kingston is the best of the mystery cats, if you can forgive her mockney accent. It's early days and hope springs eternal - but a better critic than I might add, “Man never is but always is to be blessed”."

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Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

" "Oh, don't call it that," I thought, when I first saw the publicity for Hope Springs, the BBC's latest Sunday evening series.

Hope Springs might be the obvious title for a drama set in a small village of the same name, a drama which, I'm guessing, will demonstrate that, even if £3m of your money goes up in smoke marooning you and your friends in a Scottish backwater, life will eventually compensate you with less material rewards. But it's also a hostage to fortune and, it turns out, a really bad title for a drama as clunky as this. Hope is very poorly, you think, as it begins to dawn on you how far-fetched and laborious the set-up is. And by the time the final credits roll, the undertaker is erecting the headstone on hope's grave.

It might be argued that my hopes were unreasonably high anyway. Ann McManus, Maureen Chadwick and Liz Lake's drama comes from Shed Productions, the company that produced Bad Girls and Footballers' Wives. So, obviously, this account of four female ex-cons, accidentally diverted from a prosperous retirement in Barbados, was never intended to be another Brideshead Revisited. It's there as an end-of-the-weekend wind-down, the only problem being that it's never quite tongue-in-cheek or over-the-top enough to make you forgive its shortcomings.

Even its virtues – such as the reassuringly unprettified surroundings they find themselves in, all electricity pylons and radar domes rather than postcard Scottish glens – only makes things worse. You've got the setting for something that might be mordantly funny (like the first series of Shameless, say), but the plot and psychological depth of a children's comic.

The essential plot is this. Having scammed £3m out of her crooked boyfriend, Ellie plans to leg it to the sun with three friends. Unfortunately, the woman delivering their passports expired on the luggage carousel, leaving them with no option but to hop a train to Fort William and find somewhere to lay low, while Ellie's vengeful boyfriend searches for them. Then, for a reason that I still haven't worked out, Ellie decided to buy the local hotel, somehow convinced that this will make a better cover story when they apply for new passports. She didn't seem to have noted that paying for a hotel with a stack of crisp new £50 notes might arouse suspicion, even in the sleepiest Scottish village.

But then that hardly matters since nothing else makes sense here, not even the acting, which, with the exception of a nicely deadpan sheep, was coarse enough to grate carrots on. "What the hell have we got ourselves into?" wailed Ellie – after an arson attack by the local thug incinerates all their loot – and it's hard not to read the line as a cry of pain from Alex Kingston the actress, rather than the character she's playing."

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Catch up on iPlayer

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Official site
Press pack


1 comment:

English Dave said...

Insiders at the BBC had already dubbed this 'Hopeless Springs'

Shed Productions are the only outfit my agent ever flat out told me to avoid as they are writer killers. However, Ann Mensah, head of drama at BBC Scotland, has hitched her donkey to the Shed waggon. It'll be interesting to see the tussle over a second series.