Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Halcyon: Hotel Downton

The sets were nice, I'll give it that.
 Like Downton Abbey? Then you'll probably like the new WWII-set ITV drama, The Halcyon. I didn't like Downton, and I was sorely disappointed with The Halcyon. I'd really hoped for something good as there seems to be very little in the way of decent period drama on telly at the moment, but this really didn't do it for me.


Where to begin? On an obvious level, there was the same class-cosiness as Downton had, that impression that nobody minds if rich people are rich and other people have to wait on them hand and foot because they're usually so very nice only the truly churlish could mind, and it's not as though they really expect any special treatment. (Believe that? I don't. Being working-class has never been a barrel of cheery forelock-tugging fun.) The manager of the Halcyon, a luxury hotel, was incredibly informal with its titled owner - and, even less likely, so was his daughter, who, we're also supposed to believed, played with his lordship's sons when they were all children.

Of course.

Then there was the speech. I realise a proper upper-class 1930s accent would sound quite strange to modern ears, and possibly be quite hard for a modern actor to pull off, but what the actors said was more anachronistic than how they said it. I find it hard to believe that anyone posh would've said 'invite' (verb) where 'invitation' (noun) was correct, and 'halcyon' would have been pronounced 'halkyon' because it's from the Greek. It all grated. Possibly it wouldn't bother a lot of people, but it bothered me.
Two things are wrong in this scene: the popsy, and the mismatched chair.
The behaviour of the various characters was simply wrong. There was the aforementioned informality of the staff, of course. But His Lordship took his cheap-looking popsy to a meeting of influential men where she proceeded to laud Hitler and get drunk. The manager's daughter did everything from working on the reception desk to delivering drinks to Her Ladyship because the hotel appeared to have twice as many staff in the kitchen (virtually none of whom spoke) as it did working in the residential areas. It looked as though there were as many members of the band (complete with requisite cockney floozy singer) as there were public-facing hotel staff. Bizarrely, Her Ladyship threw an absolute wobbly about the popsy – among the 1930s upper crust, such a display of emotion would have been considered incredibly vulgar and in poor taste.
Receptionist, deliverer of cocktails... robo-staff never sleep!
All in all, very poor. If you've seen it and have a better eye for 30s fashions, I'd love to know what you thought of the costumes, as they looked to me like a real mishmash, and many of the primary characters seemed about five years out of date. Five years is a long time in 1930s fashion.

I shall refrain from going on at length about the BBC's Christmas adaptation of Agatha Christie's Witness For The Prosecution, but that disappointed me too. The costumes were better, but it still all felt over-wrought and as though a desperate attempt had been made to sex it up.

Law of averages means we must be due something good after all that lot. I wonder what it'll be?

31 comments :

  1. I missed this one Mim but don't feel too sorry about it! I quite enjoyed the Witness for the Prosecution but my Mum says the original film was amazing so I'll have to find that version. I saw Close to the Enemy through to the end and was glad I stuck with it, but wouldn't likely rewatch it. We indeed are overdue something unmissable!!

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    1. I completely missed Close to the Enemy - I was out for the first few episodes, and then iPlayer kept binning out on me so I gave up.

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  2. I know what you mean about period stuff. I get a right shoutey strop on when I see the wrong breeds of horses in films (I know, sad or what?). Haven't seen any telly now for ages so can't comment on the above but was wondering if you had watched the American Horror Story series "Hotel"? It was the usual fare but the star for me was the lovely Deco building. Plus, you might like the soundtrack. It was a bit old-school Goth. Hope something worth watching comes on soon. :) Xx

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    1. Heh, we all have our bugbears, though you're the first person I know who's like it with horses. (With my steampunk friends it's tech, and with my medievalist ones it's weapons and armour.) I tried watching the first series of American Horror Story and wasn't really into it, but now I keep thinking I should go back and try the lot as each series has a different theme.

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  3. Downton's plots grew ever sillier & preposterous so I stopped watching about halfway through the series.

    Why is mainstream entertainment trying to gloss over glaring class differences? Do they think it would be sooo unpalatable that modern audiences would not watch? Or is there some other nefarious plot afoot?
    I watch BBC World and listen to BBC Radio daily. I've heard numerous grammatical errors on BBC World TV in the last few years, hardly any on BBC Radio- what's up with that?
    (My American English is turning slowly into Hinglish. Not sure if that's good or bad but it is interesting.

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    1. I think it's to do with the upper-crust writers. The arts are becoming increasingly posh over here, as arts subjects are squeezed out of the state school curriculum and so many parts of the industry use unpaid interns for starter positions, which limits them to young people whose parents can afford to support them. Two of the charities I support are Arts Emergency, which provides mentors/support for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds wanting to go into the arts, and Trowbridge Arts, which is my town's local grassroots body.

      Hinglish is ace! You're bilingual ;-)

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  4. I loved Downton but was bored stupid by The Halcyon, so I think the comparison is a little unfair, but each to his own. I usually rate a film or tv programme on how long it takes for me to reach for my mobile and start flicking through Instagram or the like. Unfortunately, I grabbed my mobile about 15 minutes into The Halycon and by the time it finished I realised I'd missed most of the story. It's a shame because it had so much potential.

    I was disappointed by Witness for the Prosecution too, I found it really quite depressing, especially all the yellow smog that seemed to fill every scene whether they were outside or in. I did watch both episodes but I would've preferred something a bit more gripping and a little more jolly (as murder mysteries can be!).

    The Durrells will be making a return in the Spring, so that's what I'm looking forward to. You can't beat a bit of Keeley Hawes in the 1930s. xx

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    1. Augh, that smog in Witness for the Prosecution was so bad. There were times when they should have just had a subtitle saying "This is all about the war" too; might have been less heavy-handed...

      Possibly the Halcyon would have been better if they'd taken things more slowly and they hadn't tried to introduce so many people at once. They could have been more nuanced then.

      Keeley Hawes will always be fab.

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  5. Hi Mim I'm no expert on anything to do with fashion from any era but I thought this drama was set in the 1940's. When it started it clearly said 1940. I only watched half of it and got bored so switched it off to read my book lol. Never seen any of Downton either despite being a Maggie Smith fan.

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    1. Yeah, starts in 1940, but then flashes to six months earlier, so at the most early 40s - and so I'd expect most people would still have been in late 30s clothing at that point, bar the very posh, as they wouldn't change things every season.

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  6. Ahhh I'm so sad you didn't like it. I quite enjoyed it just for the drama hahha it's obviously not as good as other period dramas. I have to say my favourite is Mildred Pierce!!

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    1. I really dislike soap-opera-style histrionics in drama. (I hate soaps full stop!)

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  7. currently awaiting the start of Taboo on the beeb , Im a modern movie nimwit so i had no idea what all the fuss about Tom Hardy was , does appear quite cute in the trailers ..lol

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    1. I kind of liked Taboo, and will definitely give the next episode a go. It helps that it's got Oona Chaplin in, who I have a real soft spot for; she's so talented and has such a unique look.

      Tom Hardy is very kind to animals, which makes him Good People in my book.

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  8. Yeah it didn't grip me either, but then ITV rarely seem to get period dramas right (and then when they do the cancel them halfway through!)I think Steven Mackintosh is a great actor but he seemed to be sleepwalking through the role here and weirdly his voice didn't even sound like him.

    Witness for the Prosecution was a major disappointment I had such high hopes too. Again Angela Riseborough is a great actress but somehow. meh.

    Here's hoping for something good soon!

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    1. I didn't really have a problem with the actors, I think it was mainly the script, and the fact that the hotel setting didn't feel believable because there didn't seem to be enough staff.

      Witness... was odd because it didn't seem to know what it wanted to be, a murder mystery or a psychological drama. And possibly it would have been better in one episode.

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  9. As we don't have ITV I didn't see the Halcyon. It will probably make its way to Belgium at some point, but now I know I don't have to bother. The things you mentioned about the accent, the language and the behaviour of the characters would probably bother me a lot too. xxx

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    1. I suspect it will be massively popular, especially in the US where they loved Downton. Not for me, though. Too soapy.

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  10. I loved Steven Mackintosh in Buddha of Suburbia and Luther but that Halcyon thing didn't appeal and The Guardian weren't very keen so I didn't bother.
    I'm excited about Taboo - The East India Company, Tom Hardy and created by Steven Knight - that's my kind of period drama. xxx

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    1. Heh, the last member of my direct family to be in the EIC died at the time Taboo was set (out in Serampore). I quite enjoyed Taboo; I think I prefer my costume dramas with more grit and grime.

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    2. I want some Indian ancestors - I should do some research, there must be a reason behind the obsession.
      Started watching Taboo last night and I'm absolutely hooked. Like you, I love grit, grime, blood and guts (and a bit of Tom Hardy!) x

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  11. Never watched Downton Abbey and never fancied this one either. I did find the Australian Miss Fisher series on Netflix and me and OH have been dribbling non stop at the beautiful clothes....

    Happy New Year, Mim!

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    1. I like Miss Fisher. The inaccuracies there don't really bother me because it's such fun. And so pretty to look at! I'd love loads of her clothes, especially the trouser outfits.

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  12. Never seen Downton Abbey, and didn't watch The Halcyon.... Did you watch Maigret?

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    1. I missed it! Arse, I bet it's not on catchup now either.

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  13. I got five minutes in to The Halcyon before deleting. Downton didn't appeal either. I'm pretty choosy with period dramas xxx

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    1. I don't know what it is about the way ITV does them, but theirs never keep me hooked for long. That said, I've yet to give The Durrells a go, and people say that's great.

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  14. I agree it wasn't the best thing I've ever seen, but even so, I enjoyed it for what it was. The popsy with the awful politics and a penchant for gin was called Miss Lambert, which I rather liked 😊. I'm currently looking forward to watching Outlander which I've ordered from eBay. Helga is very excited about it and if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me. X

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    1. Outlander's massive in the states, but I've yet to try it. (Not sure what channel it's on over here; probably Sky Atlantic, which I can't get.)

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  15. Oh dear doesn't sound good at all

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    1. It might improve. But I won't be watching to find out.

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