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"Shetland" BBC series - No Spoilers - dorsetgirl
March 12th, 2014
08:46 am
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"Shetland" BBC series - No Spoilers
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I enjoyed Shetland very much last night. It makes such a pleasant change from all those programmes set in cities, to be able to watch someone wandering about in the open air, and talking to people who aren't city dwellers.

Spending an hour staring at Dougie Henshall isn't exactly hardship, either.

It's not till I watch a programme like Shetland that I realise how tiring I find it to watch programmes where everyone has hard city voices, or American accents, or talks like they're in East Enders. I understand from comments on reviews that not many of the characters exhibit genuine Shetland accents, but as an ignorant Southerner that doesn't worry me at all. It also doesn't worry me that I miss 10% of the dialogue as the accents are so different to what I'm used to, because unlike most television, for me the accents in Shetland are a positive pleasure to listen to. (I loved the accents in Broadchurch too, at the other end of the country only thirty miles from my home town, so it seems unrelated to any kind of preference for the exotic.) Perhaps I just prefer rural accents.

The music is good, too. At one point, OH came into the room and said "How can you put up with that boring music?" I hadn't even noticed it, other than to be vaguely aware that there was some. Personally, I think that’s a mark of excellence in tv music. For me, music in a tv programme should in general support or enhance the mood, and not force itself into your consciousness where it's not needed. So in Doctor Who's Boomtown, the music early on is very evident, creating and emphasising the unusually relaxed and jaunty mood the Doctor is in, while in The Parting of the Ways the music is epic where great endeavours need supporting, and haunting when things get sad. And in Shetland, the music is exactly where it needs to be, gently in the back of your mind like the grass and the clouds and the sea.

So, last night’s episode (still no spoilers). There is a murder, of course. (That's a MUH-rr-DUH-rr, not a mur-dur.) And Dougie Henshall wanders around solving it. But I'm never a great one for plot in detective stories - I have a lot of books I'm happy to read time and again because I can never remember Who actually Dun It - and my favourite part of programmes like this is to watch the interplay of characters and to see how a character's interior life affects their exterior, or is put firmly in a box out of the way.

One of the things I found very satisfying in this episode was that when someone made an important plot-advancing discovery, you were shown very clearly how that person's relationships with their family and others had caused them to be in that place at that time. And we were also shown more clearly than often happens, how the victim's home life, and that of her best friend, led her to be where she was, and for her friend not only to not be there with her, but to have no idea why the victim would have been there. "She knows I'm not allowed out so much - it would be like rubbing it in my face, so there was a lot she didn't tell me."

Perhaps I just need to have things explained to me more than some, and maybe I like life to be mainly calm and predictable, and that's why I enjoy this programme so much when many people apparently find it incredibly slow and boring. But whatever the reason, I do enjoy it very much, and when the series is over I shall consider buying the books. I just hope there is nothing in the books’ descriptions of DI Jimmy Perez that might upset my visualisation of Douglas Henshall wandering around the endless hills. I like to read in bed, and that's a vision I'd be quite happy to go to sleep on.




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From:thesmallhobbit
Date:March 12th, 2014 05:42 pm (UTC)
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I really enjoyed it last night, too. As you say watching Douglas Henshall really isn't any difficulty and I liked the way it gently moved along, mirroring the scenery. Although a surprising amount did happen, because when OH woke up and needed filling in with the plot, it took quite a while.
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From:dorsetgirl
Date:March 12th, 2014 07:26 pm (UTC)
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My OH never, ever, watches drama. The idea of him wanting to know what's going on is utterly foreign to me! (I've only just realised that if I'm assertive enough, there's very little difficulty about me watching what I want, but for many years I've been sitting here getting upset and annoyed because he was forever watching Ice Road Truckers, Police Interceptors and the like, while there was something on I'd have liked to watch.)

Middle son, however, came home halfway through and yes, by the time you've said "And that's the girl's friend, and that's the bloke they went to see the night before the murder, and that's the friend's mother, and - I haven't a clue who this man is she's suddenly kissing in the car" it did indeed take a while. It must have been while all that was going on that I missed learning who the rather older bloke in the car was, so I'm still a bit confused on that score.
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From:thesmallhobbit
Date:March 12th, 2014 09:49 pm (UTC)
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I believe the older bloke in the car was the one who had organised the midsummer night's party, which he'd invited lots of people to. The girl who died was taken along by her teacher and I think her friend went too. The older bloke was looking at her strangely during the party.
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From:dorsetgirl
Date:March 12th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC)
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Oh, OK - I seem to have missed that bit completely. I remember Perez interviewing the rich party-giver and apparently not liking him much, but I hadn't linked him with the man kissing the friend.
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From:smudge_seven
Date:October 6th, 2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, someone who likes Shetland too! XD
Don't read the books, I really wouldn't recommend it. I read the books because I liked the show; it was a bit of a let-down. Tosh isn't in them at all and Willow Reeves is white (very different to other TV shows; they had to add in not-white characters and also a brand new female main character). Sandy is made to look (in the books) like an idiot and a kid.
Also - upsetting your ideas of Perez - in the book he's described as being "sallow" skinned, dark haired and with a hooked (?) nose. The author tells us he is a "black Shetlander" - and this (Hispanic heritage) has shown up true in him - because he had one Hispanic relative about 200 years ago. Much unbelievable, I have to say.
This is, I think, a rare case of the TV show being better than the books.
Plus, in some of the books, Fran (Perez's wife) is alive.
Hope that's okay.
Read them by all means if you want to; I was just a bi disappointed and let down. Usually the books are better than the TV/movie.
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From:dorsetgirl
Date:October 6th, 2014 06:11 pm (UTC)
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This is, I think, a rare case of the TV show being better than the books.

I agree. I bought Raven Black a couple of months ago and when I read it, I found it definitely lacking compared with the programme. However, when I read it again I enjoyed it more, and I've since read White Nights and Red Bones and enjoyed them as well. I've currently got Blue Lightning on order, but I have promised myself I won't buy Thin Air until it comes out in paperback!

I read an interview with Ann Cleeves very early on where she said that Henshall didn't meet her physical idea of Jimmy Perez at all, so I was forewarned; I simply decided there and then to ignore anything in the books that ran counter to the screen presentation of Jimmy, and it definitely works for me!

As a family historian, I did wince at the idea that Jimmy has "no Viking blood" as a direct consequence of ONE Spanish ancestor! But the author has lived on Fair Isle so I suppose she's considered the phenotypes of the people there, and it does seem plausible that perhaps the original Spaniard would have been attracted/attractive to one of the darker of the available women and thus preserved the Mediterranean genes a bit. We are, after all, quite a mix of racial types in this country even amongst the “whites”.

I think what I like best about the books is Perez' inner voice: the way he constantly castigates himself for his "emotional incontinence" is lovely when that's imo his best feature (and I think Dougie Henshall captured it perfectly). Even the detective from Inverness recognised that although it drove him mad, Perez' calm and casual ways worked best in the setting. That detective was much closer to the norm for book and telly detectives, so I'm very pleased they didn't bother using him in the series but concentrated on Jimmy.

(Oh, and if this is your first LJ account, welcome to LiveJournal!)
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From:smudge_seven
Date:October 6th, 2014 07:21 pm (UTC)
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I went to Fair Isle on holiday (before I got into the series). The people there (and Shetland in general) are all pretty much your average white-Scottish (i.e. more fairer people and lighter eyes than you'd find, say, down south). Shetland itself is very white (I think there was an incident once where a shop in Shetland was selling gollywogs, ewwww).
I think she definitely just wanted someone a little "different" and "exotic" and so tried this whole "Hispanic blood" thing. Also, people in Portugal consider themselves white (although maybe be perceived differently outside their home country) and they aren't that dark skinned. It just annoyed me a little, that. Especially how he was considered a "BLACK Shetlander". Like, he is black by nobody's standards.
Well, the series of books was alright, and I will definitely read Thin Air (but it's not worth buying, I'll get it from the library). I do like Perez in the series of books though, but I just feel the whole "black Shetlander" thing is going a bit far.
Also, I found it interesting that they had to add in two non-white characters for the TV show as well as an extra brand-new female character. Says something about her writing, doesn't it? Having read other books in other series by her, I do find her books very white and a tad bland.
(This isn't actually my first account; I tried it once before, but it was at a bad time, home-wise, so quit within a few days. Now, I hope I'll last a little longer.)
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From:dorsetgirl
Date:October 6th, 2014 08:00 pm (UTC)
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Especially how he was considered a "BLACK Shetlander".

It's just analogous with "Black Irish", that's all. Just a combination of hair and eye colours that are darker than the norm for Northern Europeans.

Like, he is black by nobody's standards.

No-one is saying he's "black". He's "A Black Shetlander", which is a different thing. And as to other people's standards, it's no dafter than people in the US calling people with light brown skins "black".

Look, I don't want to get into an argument, but you seem to have an agenda here. First, you say that you've been to Shetland and Fair Isle (lucky thing!) and that you observed the people there to be "average white-Scottish (i.e. more fairer people and lighter eyes than you'd find, say, down south)". You also say that "Shetland itself is very white".

But then you say that TV having to add in two non-white characters "says something about her writing". I think it says that she has populated her Shetland just like the real place, but realism isn't good enough for television, there has to be a certain quota of non-white characters. I don't see much wrong with either approach, they're just different.

I read the whole "Black Shetlander" thing as a subtle way of giving Jimmy Perez some aspects of an outsider, even though he comes from such a tiny community. As a detective, he needs a kind of distance from the people, and I think that awareness of being seen as different through his colouring gives him that distance and faint alienation even while we're shown that he really is an insider. Perhaps it could even be considered a way of bringing in a "colour" dimension while remaining within plausibility for the local population.
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From:smudge_seven
Date:October 7th, 2014 08:10 am (UTC)
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And as to other people's standards, it's no dafter than people in the US calling people with light brown skins "black".
Well, there are some lighter-skinned Black people that identify as Black!
I don't really have an agenda.
Yeah, well the whole "Black Irish" (and so "Black Shetlander" thing) makes sense; sorry for getting mad about that.
I read the whole "Black Shetlander" thing as a subtle way of giving Jimmy Perez some aspects of an outsider, even though he comes from such a tiny community. As a detective, he needs a kind of distance from the people, and I think that awareness of being seen as different through his colouring gives him that distance and faint alienation even while we're shown that he really is an insider. Perhaps it could even be considered a way of bringing in a "colour" dimension while remaining within plausibility for the local population.
I figured she was just going for something "different" - even so it doesn't make him much of an outsider; most of the Shetlanders know him.
I think it says that she has populated her Shetland just like the real place, but realism isn't good enough for television, there has to be a certain quota of non-white characters.
Well, I've read some of her other books in other series (the Vera Stanhope ones, maybe you've heard of them) and they're very white too. I think the whiteness is her norm. And yeah, there were barely any not-white people on Shetland, but I don't think she mimicked that deliberately.
To be honest, I am so used to white-washing in media (see: The Hunger Games) that I find it hilarious when I find a TV series that has to add back in non-white people and female characters. I really have no agenda.
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