Truckers, Chicago Fire

 W H A T   I   S A W   L A S T   N I G H T 
 Chicago Fire 

IF I WERE a straight black guy, I'd be a little bit pissed off by the recent episode of the BBC's dispiritingly formulaic Truckers, in which Ashley Walters plays the pussyhound-absent-father-with-a-heart-of-gold-who-comes-good-in-the-end Steven. Is this really the best Britain can do when it comes to T.V. drama (no, The Tunnel - a carbon copy of The Killing - and Doctor Who - an unspeakably bad, bastardised version of the original Doctor Who and Buffy The Vampire Slayer - don't make up for it)?

Walters plays a truck driver who's separated from his wife, with whom he has two sons. Said wife is oh-so subtley coded as bitter black single mum (basically Jill Scott with an English accent), and tries to keep her primary school age boys away from him, lest he disappoint them any further. Steven decides he's had enough of this, and does everything in his power to spend more time with his kids.

Do we really need to see yet another portrayal - utterly lacking in nuance - of the absent black father? Is that a stereotype we need to perpetuate? Is that the only story the working class black man in 21st century Britain has to share? No, I didn't think so. As for his stoney-faced missus - Christ, if I was a straight black woman, I'd be suing for damages. This grim cow is enough to make even a happily married brotha run into the arms of the nearest white slag.

Speaking of which, Truckers isn't averse to making use of Walters' appealing physical attributes. Being a pussyhound, Steven has a couple of said white slags on the go, and BBC One gladly makes use of its prime black buck with ample scenes of a sexual nature.

I don't know who wrote this episode of Truckers, but I'd put money on it being someone called Oli or Hannah, who read classics at Cambridge. One excruciating scene sees our wayward Steven - having "kidnapped" his sons from school - explaining his day job in his cab as they chug along the motorway. He says something like, "So we drop off our cargo at the distribution centre, and then load some more and take it to another big distribution centre..." The kids look dead bored by this, and he trails off, dismayed by their disinterest. Because, you know, working men try to justify their menial jobs to their privileged kids like that. It's an incredibly patronising view of the working class. The insinuation is that driving a truck is infinitely more soul destroying than, say, writing anodyne genre shit for BBC One, destined to be rewritten ad infinitum by a focus group of BBC management clones recruited from the graduate class (with names like Hannah and Oli and Harry and Emily) and consumed over a Tesco Finest meal by middle England.

And incidentally, someone might want to tell the casting lackey that the kids couldn't look less like brothers if they tried. Still, they're both black, and the majority of people who watch this shit won't notice the difference. They'll be too tanked up on supermarket Chardonnay, and besides, child stage school is packed with Toms and Harrys, and not so many Leons and Marvins.

IN THE shit T.V. stakes, the U.S. doesn't get off lightly either. Received wisdom dictates that American dramas are the very best of the best. Endless column inches are devoted to The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, or whatever else is in vogue. Rightly so - even Smash is better than Truckers. But for every True Blood, there's a Blue Bloods. And for every Chicago Hope, there's a Chicago Fire.

Chicago Fire. Jesus H. Christ, was ever there a more soul-destroying back-draft of steaming hot gasses. Chicago Fire is bad. Really bad.

This is the country that gave us Rescue Me, the definitive firefighter drama, a series as blisteringly politically incorrect as Chicago Fire is crap. Fire - on the beleaguered NBC - wouldn't ripple the skin on a custard. It's peopled with pretty actors whose faces don't move much, but whose make-up is just perfect. It's like Blue Bloods, but with firefighters (or beautiful people dressed up as firefighters, at any rate), and without the camp value of Magnum P.I. himself. Eamonn Walker (Oz) plays the fire chief, the poor bastard, and looks suitably pissed off throughout. It's a little like if Ian McKellen was to pop up in Hollyoaks. That kind of adult/creche feel.

It's a given that British actors will migrate to the U.S. for better work. American T.V. and film is full of them. Ashley Walters, with a criminal record from his days in rap collective So Solid, won't get that chance. At least that means he'll be spared an appearance in Chicago Fire.


Lindo said...

Chicago Fire is kind of boring, but I still like it.

◄Design by Pocket