TV Review: The Singapore Grip, Latest TV News The New Paper

THE SINGAPORE GRIP BBC First (StarHub Ch 502) and BBC Player
Ratings: 2 Ticks
Like The Crown's fourth season, this period drama is a series about posh, entitled Brits and features an early exit for cast member Charles Dance.
But that's where the similarity ends.
The Singapore Grip, based on the 1978 novel of the same name, wants to be prestige appointment TV.
While it is pretty - Malaysia standing in for eve-of-WWII Singapore to save having to paint out Marina Bay Sands from every scene - it is also a mess.
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Even before it was broadcast in Britain, it was facing accusations of not representing Asian characters.
English actress Elizabeth Tan is the only non-Caucasian to have a lead role as Vera Chiang, the love interest of protagonist Matthew Webb (Luke Treadaway).
The makers' justification rang similar to that of Crazy Rich Asians - in that The Singapore Grip is a story about an insular, snobbish and self-absorbed group who just did not mingle with anyone else.
Still, it seems incredibly naive to have not considered the implications.
As Mr Webb Sr, Dance is gone before the halfway mark of the first episode - a shame, as in just a few scenes, he acts everyone off the screen.
His death prompts his son Matthew to go to Singapore to take over his side of the rubber business.
And from there, it is clear the makers are not sure what they are making or how to pace it.
Scenarios and characters are inconsistent, possibly due to the people behind the show recognising this attempt at a satire on colonialism is too toothless to work.
Part of the issue could be that it is designed for UK Sunday night TV, a non-threatening bastion of gentle dramas with pretty scenery.
The first three episodes feature the expats in some jolly lark as Webb's business partner Walter Blackett (David Morrissey) tries to foist his daughter Joan (Georgia Blizzard) on Matthew in marriage and get a stronger grip on the business.
Morrissey, usually a safe pair of hands, must have been told that he is in a much broader farce, especially in scenes where he is urging Joan to climb into bed with Matthew, who is by turns an earnest young chap or some Woosterish fool.
The lurch between tones is even more of an issue in later episodes, when the horrors of the Japanese invasion are on display.
When (most of) the clownishness stops midway through, it makes the earlier stuff feel like time wasted and the entire series a wasted opportunity.
Those who make it to the end will only ask, "Is that it?"
- JONATHAN ROBERTS

This data comes from MediaIntel.Asia's Media Intelligence and Media Monitoring Platform.

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