TV Viewpoint: 15 Days and The Trouble with Maggie Cole


YOU know how it is when you’re waiting, and waiting and endlessly waiting for a bus, and then two come along at once? That’s how I felt when I was perusing the TV schedules last week and not one, but two dramas set to begin on the Virgin Media channels piqued my interest.

I have nothing at all against Virgin Media One, Two or Three but for some reason (maybe a misplaced loyalty to the dearly departed TV3?) they are just not on my radar. But it seems to have picked up a few dramas from British networks in time for turning on the heat and shutting the curtains at 6pm season, no better time in this age of staying indoors and making our own fun.

The first of the two that I watched, which began last Thursday on the flagship channel at 9:00pm, was 15 Days. It has all the characteristics of a moody drama; an estranged family of adult siblings gathers in a Welsh country pile to scatter the ashes of their mother, with aspirations to stumble across her will.

15 Days

Add to the nasty family dynamics what could be a supernatural element – the domineering oldest brother’s new partner Moira has been hearing noises coming from a long-locked room – and you have all the ingredients for a compelling hour of drama and mystery.

Opening with what certainly appears to be a brutal murder carried out in most confusing circumstances, the action then reduces from a boil to a simmer as we rewind to two weeks earlier, when the characters are descending on the gloomy old house for the ceremony.

Ample time to be introduced to the largely unpleasant clan, including the middle daughter’s lascivious husband with designs on his wife’s willing and ready older sister. Rhys, the youngest son arrives with a heavily pregnant girlfriend and the siblings’ uncle, his wife and their smarmy son round up the party.

There are hisses and side-glances and muttered insults aplenty, and heavy drinking in abundance, enough to get the temperature back up to boiling point and to tip over spectacularly when the will is uncovered, and everyone finds out their intended inheritance.

Not a bad start to an intriguing premise, although because we know what happens 15 days from the initial gathering there may not be enough guesswork afforded to the audience to keep us interested, although it’s definitely enough for me to check out episode two.

The first episode of The Trouble with Maggie Cole was broadcast on Virgin Media Three on Friday at 9pm, a repeat of a showing from earlier on in the year that I missed due to conflicting schedules. Starring Dawn French as the self-appointed historian of idyllic medieval seaside village Thurlbury, the opening episode does a good job at introducing the characters that we are going to be very familiar with by the end of the hour.

French as the titular Maggie Cole is as restrained as a comedian can be in playing a town busybody and upstart, lending a three-dimensional aspect to what could be a wholly unsympathetic character.

Maggie’s grandiose leanings land her in hot water when a local radio host manipulates her overexcitement at being interviewed, and what was supposed to be a straightforward chat about the history of the village becomes a gossipy character-assassination on a handful of locals, many of which are gathered at a party organized by the Cole’s to listen to the radio show.

Coronation Street’s Julie Hesmondhalgh is Maggie’s best friend, local schoolteacher and one of the “outed-six”. A far cry from Hayley Cropper, she brings a lightness and levity to proceedings, without veering too far into sad-singleton pastiche. Mark Heap plays Maggie’s husband Peter, headmaster of the primary school on the edge of retirement, and solid, rational figure to Maggie’s reckless imperiousness.

The Virgin Media Three may not boast the most prestige shows, but on closer reflection they host some hidden gems. The collective network’s online player is also easy to use and streams fairly well. When next I browse through the TV guide, the trio will get my extra special attention, to make up for lost time.

First published in The Tuam Herald on 30 09 20

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