Watching Wallander: TV Moving Closer To Films Might Not Be Such A Good Idea

It's not often I get the chance to catch up on TV series these days but, given how highly I rate Henning Mankell's Wallander series of books - and in particular, Sidetracked, one of the best crime novels I've ever read - I wasn't going to just let the Kenneth Branagh-fronted Wallander pass me by.

Blu-ray duly tracked down I settled in to watch Sidetracked, which happens to be the first episode. Surely, with Branagh in the lead and a solid BBC production team behind it, this would be a worthy English-language adaptation of the Swedish detective's rather disparate and often dark existence.

I couldn't have been more mistaken.

A lot has been written recently on how the values present in televisual productions and those that are made for the big screen have come closer together in the past few years. HBO shows have taken off big time (a fact reflected with the launch of Sky's new Atlantic channel in the UK) and series such as Lost have inspired as much dedication to actors based in television as those who normally make their money in Hollywood.

If ever there's an argument against this though, it's Wallander.

The series seems to have learned everything it could from the world of film. On Blu-ray it looks fantastic. There's beautifully photographed shots of Ikea-stocked interiors and cold wasteland-esque exteriors. The opening moments, in a bright yellow rape field, are dramatic and dynamic in a way few series' openings have managed before. And there's Branagh; a Hollywood star (compulsory in TV series nowadays) who both lends the project credibility and acts his assumedly very expensive socks off.

What Wallander doesn't have is any further acting ability, a script, a semblance of excitement or, really, especially for the non-book fan, a reason to make you carry on watching the rest of the series.

In producing this wonderful, Hollywood-esque, novel the producers seem to have forgotten all of the core components necessary to make Wallander a success. All the elements that make Mankell's novel great are here but that's just it; they're all just here, placed almost lopsidedly in a world where not one actor (save Branagh) can deliver a line of dialogue without sounding like they're in a school play. Rather than fizzing with tension and excitement and building dread, Sidetracked is, well, one of the most boring ways to spend ninety minutes I can currently think of.

If this is the result of television moving towards the 'values' of big budget film productions then please stop now. Go back to focusing on long-term story-telling. Forget about emulating the movies. At least, for God's sake, remember to write a script.

The next episode - based on a more pulpy novel about Internet terrorism called Firewall - follows a much more predictable, linear, plot which requires few embellishments and has no need to run on for ninety minutes. I'm not optimistic.

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