the NY Times Review 4/5/01:
Review of SS 2 from the Wall Street Journal HERE. Thanks, Chris R.
Episode: From the BBC: On BBC One 2/4 - Second Sight This
outstanding crime drama series begins its last two-part story tonight
and it's a minor masterpiece. Clive Owen's DCI Tanner finds himself
up to his defective eyes in racial tensions and neo-fascism as he
investigates the murder of a black community leader. Wonderfully murky
and full of great dialogue, this is the pinnacle of a superb series,
and has the added bonus of a great guest appearance from Peter Vaughan,
one of our finest senior actors. Thanks,
Link to a new review of SS HERE. Thanks, Natalie
Reviews for Part One From the UK Press Below -- Warning, some spoilers (Thanks, Gill)
London Times Preview: SECOND SIGHT -- BBC1, 9.10pm
Picture above from the Mail - 1/28/01 Thanks to Gill
The chosen ones -- Trying out a potential drama series as a one-off pilot may seem a logical way of assessing audience appeal. But, as the police drama Second Sight shows, it has its pitfalls, says Mark Lawson
Mark Lawson -- Guardian -- Monday January 22, 2001
One of the biggest changes in television in the last three decades has been the attitude to try-out episodes. In the 60s and 70s - when budgets were much greater, rival channels scarce and the opinions of viewers were thought largely irrelevant - a "pilot" show was usually for internal consumption only. If admired by the programme-makers, it would be screened as the first of the eventual series, shown in the summer slump as what was euphemistically called a "special", or simply shelved in the basement: there have been entire documentaries constructed from unseen sample shows.
These days, as this column frequently points out, the power is with the consumer. The schedules contain more pilots than the cabin-crew rest-rooms at Kennedy Airport. Most potential series are now asked to screen a taster, rather in the way that supermarkets lay out paper plates with small pieces of new delicacies for shoppers to try, with the hope of tempting them to purchase.
One of last year's in-store promotions by the BBC was a Paula Milne two-parter about DCI Ross Tanner (Clive Owen), a detective diagnosed with a degenerative condition of the retina which produces blurred vision and hallucinations. He confides in DI Catherine Tully (Claire Skinner), whose big, bright eyes became his own when they were at work. When they were at home, he gazed in to them with romantic intent.
Second Sight now returns for a second viewing as a series, and offers a fascinating case-study in the difficulties of turning a successful one-off into a long-runner.
The first difficulty is personnel. One of the attractions of the first Second Sight was that it was written by Paula Milne, one of the best television dramatists. But the level of demand for her words has made her unavailable for the series and so she becomes, in the closest the TV scriptwriter gets to being god, an absentee creator, her characters handed over to the lesser-known Antonia Hallem.
It's true that many television shows are multi-authored - all the soaps, most American comedies - but there's a problem when a piece of writing begins bespoke and then goes off-the-peg. Editions of ITV's London's Burning were fine as long as you hadn't seen the single crafted drama by Jack Rosenthal, the spark from which it spread. Watching that - and now Second Sight - you begin to contemplate a literary equivalent of the Child Support Agency, bringing writers to account for the conceptions they've left others to raise.
Executives would argue that only very picky viewers spot a change of dramatist. But an overhaul of the performers is harder to disguise.
In the pilot episode, viewers presumably responded to the central couple and the secret they were keeping. Yet, having carefully established this intriguing dependency in the tempter episode, the series opener is devoted to dismantling it. Skinner is missing from most of the second part, assumed working on other projects. She returns briefly near to the end to play what has the feel of an exit scene, patting her lover's dog and asking him to look after his master. The strong Hollywood precedent is that actresses who say goodbye to Fido have got another offer.
Lacking both the initial writer and the original co-star, Second Sight is in even worse than usual condition to face the traditional complication of the series-pleader which gets accepted: how much recapping should there be? Think of that moment at a dinner-party when a late entrant or loo-user arrives at the end of a joke or anecdote. The demanded repetition is not only irritating for those who know the punchline, but the narrator may get self-conscious in the re-telling.
The making of a series from a drama previously previewed is a multi-million pound extension of the same dilemma. With the establishing episodes recently repeated to build interest in the series, a large percentage of viewers have already lived through Tanner's terrifying realisation that his vision is slipping. The solution in what might be called the second Second Sight is to run elegant variations on his difficulties: a hand-shake with a stranger becomes like finding the light-switch at night, he trails his fingers along the nearest wall in a mannerism which looks idle but is vital. There is, though, no speech for new viewers explaining what his condition is.
It increasingly seems to me that the most crucial question in making television programmes is: how much does the audience know? In news and documentary, the answer to this question sets the intellectual level of the product. In drama and comedy, the response decides whether the script can be allusive and subtle or filled with characters telling each other things they already know. Most British dramas follow the American tradition of the re-cap ("Previously on this series..."), but the test is most severe in the shift from pilot to series.
My fear is that the second Second Sight is too repetitive if you saw the original, not echoey enough if you didn't. The system of piloting shows is designed to be more sensitive to the viewer but, in some cases, it works against the audience.
Second Sight, tonight, 9.10pm, BBC1
Second Sight - BBC1, 9.10pm
Clive Owen (pictured above) and Claire Skinner return in a new run of this Paula Milne-created series. The opening two-parter concludes tomorrow.
The story begins with DCI Ross Tanner (Owen) in charge of a new unit set up to solve high-profile murder cases, past and present.
Ross is still clinging to the hope that his failing sight might yet get better - and to the even vainer hope that his relationship with DI Catherine Tully (Skinner) might remain secret.
The first case the unit has to investigate is the unsolved murder of a glamorous violinist, whose body was found with her traumatised young son beside it.
The initial prosecution case collapsed after a 'honey-trap' operation failed (all of which might sound uncomfortably reminiscent of the Rachel Nickell case).
One of the prime suspects, Dr Ahmed (played by Art Malik), cannot even be interviewed.
to begin? Well, Ross begins by building a full-size replica of the murder
scene. Will this help?
The detectives in the elite new murder unit in Second Sight (BBC1) would impress nobody.
They failed to spot that their boss was going blind, despite the fact he kept bumping into things. Talk about clueless.
They didn't even suspect DCI Ross Tanner (Clive Owen) was sleeping with his number two, who couldn't take her eyes off him.
The penny only dropped when one of the men caught dishy DI Catherine Tully (Claire Skinner) waiting for him at his flat.
Tanner went to his doctor for a check-up but there had been no improvement in his eyesight since the first series. No surprise there.
If it had been getting better, it would be just another detective series and we are up to our eyes in them. He said that on a good day it was like seeing through gauze.
I found things a bit hazy myself but that was only because it was so boring I kept nodding off.
The new squad were given a two-year-old murder to investigate.
The victim was a girl violinist, so there was lots of violin music and another reason for falling asleep.
Tanner ordered an exact replica of the dead girl's luxury flat to be built. So much for a shortage of police resources.
There were lots of close-ups of Tanner's eyes. In fact, there were lots of close ups of everyone's eyes.
Hypnotism? Maybe that's why my eyelids felt heavy.
The only time the optically challenged cop felt safe was in bed. He had no difficulty finding his way around his sexy sidekick's body.
But he looked in a daze most of the time and kept hallucinating - a symptom of his condition.
He was suffering from Acute Zonal Occult Outer Retinopathy - AZOOR for short.
I was suffering from Acute Loss Of Consciousness - otherwise known as DOZING.
Teletext Review - 4 Stars -- Sight for sore eyes
On the face of it the idea of a top murder detective losing his vision yet hanging on to his job is ridiculous.
Yet Clive Owen plays such an absolute blinder as ace crime fighter Ross Tanner that BBC1's Second Sight becomes not only believable but compelling.
Claire Skinner plays his sidekick Catherine Tully, who has become his lover and also his eyes, in this scintillating new two-parter which follows the investigation into the murder of a beautiful violinist.
It's is a tense, well-written murder mystery from the opening scenes - as Tanner's affair with his sexy deputy becomes the source of much amusement in his specialist murder unit.
With Art Malik as sinister suspect number one and the detectives tiptoeing round the murdered violinist's traumatised young son, this stylish whodunnit makes captivating viewing.
The conclusion goes out tonight and my telephone is coming off the hook. Clive has another hit on his hands.
Looks aren't everything - Rupert Smith -- Guardian
Tuesday January 23, 2001
Where was Miss Jane Marple when we needed her? She would have soon figured out who killed superstar violinist Vicky Ingham with a blow to the head in her luxury flat in London, and she would have done it without any of the moody pouting that took up most of Second Sight (BBC1). But instead we had gloomy DCI Ross Tanner (Clive Owen), who spent the entire 50 minutes on the brink of either tears or extreme sexual arousal. He only smiled once, and that was to crack a joke about his dog being dyslexic because it didn't understand spoken commands. With such a poor strike-rate, you can't blame him for not trying.
Second Sight, for those who missed it the first time round, concerns an extremely handsome policeman whose gimmick is that he's losing his vision to a creeping virus. In order to disguise this, he has to have an affair with his number two DI Catherine Tully (Claire Skinner), who shares his bed and his bad moods. Like all office affairs, theirs is dogged by a mania for secrecy - not just about their leisure activities, but also about Tanner's disability. Tully is a combination girlfriend and guide-dog, which brings a unique twist to their police work. She even describes Tanner as a "maverick", which we can usually leave to publicists.
Last night, Tanner and Tully brooded over the messy crime, so absorbed in their specialness that suspects were getting away with murder all around them. Miss Marple would have discounted Vicky's ex-doctor/lover/stalker Ahmed (Art Malik) as being too obvious; she would, however, have pricked up her ears when Finn, the father of Vicky's child, came over all protective about his son, the only witness to the crime. Top of her list, however, would have been the new tenants of Vicky's flat, who proved that they were gay by a) radically reworking the interior design, and b) worshipping a tragic female star, whose photos they kept in a morbid, pink-bound album.
They were far too stereotypical to convince, and seemed to have modelled their performance on the gay puppets in Crapston Villas. The older, fruitier one coyly introduced Tanner into "our bedroom". Well, clearly they coshed the fiddler to obtain the lease of her flat in a daring decorating-related crime.
Once in a while, Tanner had a blinding flash of light - although whether this indicated some kind of supernatural vision, or was just a flashy editing technique, was hard to tell. Sometimes he had hallucinations, and we hoped that he might turn out to be psychic as well as permanently grumpy/horny. Instead, he took a ploddingly literal approach to solving the crime, reconstructing the murder scene in an abandoned gym and praying for inspiration. Like all TV cops, he had a failed marriage, and interrupted his police work for stressful contact sessions with his son.
Little wonder that Miss Marple remained a virgin; her uncluttered mind would have fingered Vicky Ingham's killer in a one-hour special. Now we have to wait until tonight to find out whodunnit, but mark my words, it'll be those decorators.
The Mail: Wednesday 24th January (Big Spoilers)
Crime Hits A Blind Spot -- Second Sight: Hide And Seek (BBC1);
What a pity that the novelty of a semi-blind Scotland Yard detective heading an elite murder squad has rather worn off with the return over the past two nights of a new series of Second Sight.
He may have restricted vision, but Clive Owen's Detective Chief Inspector Ross Tanner demonstrated in this two-parter that he still has far too piercing a gaze while interviewing suspects for us to believe totally in his handicap.
And it takes more than the sight of his hand running tentatively along a window sill or groping for a chair to restore credibility to the idea.
There's always an inclination, too, when the camera goes out of focus to allow us to see as he sees, that we just assume the TV set may need adjusting.
In story terms, there simply isn't enough added value in Tanner's plight to lift Second Sight out of the category of competent but routine detective thriller.
All these points have additional force following the resignation of woman detective Catherine Tully (Claire Skinner), Tanner's mistress and human guide dog, if only because her interventions had a dramatic impact that's lost when the viewer is mentally given the task of looking out on his behalf.
Hide And Seek featured a most unlikely classical violinist, one Vicky Ingham (Helen Hathorn), inclined to cancel a concert at a moment's notice because she wished to go out on the town for the evening. Not surprisingly, she was murdered, but not as one might hope by an impresario, or even a humble concert-goer.
The two main suspects were Gavin Finn (Finbar Lynch) - Vicky's former live-in lover and father of her young son - and another extraordinary figure, a gynaecologist called Faiz Ahmed, played by Art Malik, who'd been stalking her since she dumped him after an affair.
The list expanded subsequently to take in Ahmed's wife, Elizabeth (Carol Royle), but not, as it transpired, the actual murderer. If you failed to suspect the guilty party at least 20 minutes before the denouement, then you probably weren't paying much attention.
But writer Antonia Hallem contrived a neat enough story with a perfectly logical ending. It just didn't particularly flatter the forensic powers of DCI Tanner and his team.
Ah, the team - or Special Murder Team, to give them their official title. It was never possible to see how this bunch of grumbling, dead-beat backbiters had been regarded by their superiors - 'the men with epaulettes,' as Tanner described the Yard's bosses - as an elite.
They were so unobservant that when Tanner blundered into one of them at dinner, spilling his beer, he assumed that the Chief Inspector was drunk. The same conclusion applied when Tanner started fighting with some photographers whose camera flashes had disoriented him at night in the street.
Not until the end of the 100 minutes over two nights did one of his colleagues stumble on the truth, that Tanner had a problem with his sight, though Inspector Catherine Tully had spotted it almost from the first moment she met him. It was his irritation over becoming dependent on her that led to the row that, in turn, led her to get a transfer to another unit.
The elite squad had already displayed a complete lack of discretion by gossiping among themselves about Tanner and Tully's affair. And when we left them, Tanner was urging them to keep his condition a secret, thus making us wonder about his judgment.
The drollest aspect of Second Sight was the decision to have a replica of Vicky Ingham's flat constructed at the disused school that became the Special Murder Team's HQ, because the apartment had been altered since her death.
Everyone except Tanner was appalled at the cost - though I suppose the sofas, carpets, ornaments and pictures could be hired.
But there wasn't a peep out of the Team's normally testy superior, Superintendent Lawson (Thomas Wheatley), who might have been expected to drone on about budgets or even veto the idea.
Imagine the fuss there'd be if the police built stage sets of every murder venue in the hope that suspects might feel so much at home that they would conveniently re-enact the crime for the grateful detectives. They might let the odd extra helicopter through, but the Yard's auditors, we trust, would spot such an extravagance.
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