8 May 2003 | Laitue_Gonflable
There's nothing quite like it
"The Book Group" is the sort of show that is completely unique, not in its content matter or style but in the way it makes you feel. This is the second of Annie Griffin's series I've gotten into after the very similarly themed "Coming Soon" and I can't quite decide which one I like, or hate, more.
Essentially it's a look at several unhappy characters, I won't go into them here. But they're all unhappy, or insecure, or sexually frustrated in some way, and the combined misery of all the members of this 'book group' formed by the Ohio depressive Claire all seem to clash in every meeting they have. The first series all dealt with each one's attempts to hit onto each other one; Claire was in love with Barney, Kenny in love with Claire, Dirka & Fist both in love with Kenny, it was quite a vicious love triangle. We've just started screening the second series in Australia and it seems this time everybody has found someone but naturally is still unhappy.
But that's not the way the show seems to deal with it. All the characters are portrayed as pathetic, almost ludicrous in many ways, despite the fact that the feelings they are expressing are not in any way unknown to anybody. But it's black comedy, it makes you laugh even though there's nothing funny about it. And for that reason, while I might spend an entire episode cackling away non-stop, every episode always leaves me with a hollow, empty feeling. Maybe it's the un-finite nature of every episode ending, or maybe it's the haunting theme music or just the fact that the things I'm laughing at end up striking a nerve with me, either way, it's a unique experience.
One thing that has to be noted; very little of the series has to do with books: there are occasional references to the books they are reading for the week, often in the form of a member of the group's fantasy or dream, but apart from that it is simply a character study and fun-poking at some of the most depressing and heart-breaking human emotions set in the surroundings of a group of people gathered together to talk about books. For one thing, you have to realise that at least quarter of each episode deals with professional football given that one member is obsessed with it and three others are married to professional footballers.
Personally I think that Annie Griffin is one of the most under-rated writers/directors around today. She blends comedy and drama in a way that nobody else can do and weaves such intricate, almost psychological plots, around such a simplistic premise. I eagerly anticipate each episode and her next project. 4 stars out of 5.