Posted by: Paul | September 14, 2010

Bouquet of Barbed Wire

It’s not often I write about something on ITV, as it’s not often they make anything worth watching any more. But this reworking of the classic taboo-shattering 70’s drama is compelling stuff.

BOBW focuses on the Manson family (OK, thats the clumsy metaphor out of the way), headed by controlling patriarch Peter (the ever-excellent Trevor Eve). Peter is just a little bit closer to his daughter Prue than perhaps he should be – this father’s love borders on obsession. While he’s sitting at his desk, dewey-eyed watching home video footage of his almost-adult daughter clowning around, his architecture practice is crumbling around his ears. His devoted wife Cassie (Hermione Norris) knows something is deeply wrong in the family but feels powerless, stranded and unable to help. How well does she really know Peter? Why do they never see his family, especially his mother, tucked away in a Yorkshire nursing home?

Onto this already cracking ice floe steps Gavin Sorenson. Gavin is A Bad Man. He’s also A Handsome Man and, as Prue’s English teacher, this illicit liaison has the exact frisson required to drive her father insane, so she falls pregnant by him. Not only is Gavin a very nasty, abrasive and abusive character (once he has Prue well and truly under his spell, including marrying her, he begins physically abusing her) he also seems to be pursuing a personal vendetta against Peter. Despite the age gap, do they know each other? What does Gavin know, and why is he trying to destroy Peter’s family? And who is the mysterious ‘Paula’, that Gavin has tattooed on his arm and sent Peter pale at the very mention of her name?

Two episodes into this three-parter, and it’s building to an explosive conclusion. I think the reveals and twists will come thick and fast next week and, while this version has not pushed the incestual relationship between Prue and Peter as far as the original series did, it’s still uncomfortable viewing at times. In the days before video recorders there were stories of people who weren’t going to make it home in time for the start of the show knocking on strangers doors to ask if they could watch it! I don’t think that’s likely to happen this time, but certainly in my book this is an unmissable drama. The cast are uniformly excellent, to the extent that I’d quite like to punch Tom Riley who plays Gavin (but that’s the idea), and also features one of my favourite actresses, Jemima Rooper, as the junior architect in Peter’s firm who he reaches out to when all around him is falling apart. If you’re a fan of great drama, seek it out on the ITV Player, you will not be disappointed.

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