18 July 2017 | blanche-2
British miniseries about a black jazz group in 1930s London
For so many people not liking this, it has a high rating here on IMDb. I enjoyed it but see its flaws.
I am not familiar with the work of Stephen Poliakoff, so I can't comment on the criticisms of him.
The series is about a black jazz band in the 1930s who is discovered by a music journalist, Stanley Mitchell (Matthew Goode). With Wesley's help, the group is booked at the upscale Imperial Hotel and even entertain Prince George (erroneously described during the program as the Prince of Wales, who was actually Edward, Prince of Wales).
The band becomes successful and is written up often by Mitchell. With two talented singers (Wunmi Mosaku and Angel Coulby), they come to the attention of a record company and radio. But tragedy strikes, and the ensuing events threaten to ruin the band.
I'm at a disadvantage here because I'm not familiar with early '30s jazz music, but the critiques say the music presented is actually from a decade later.The songs are original to the production, which were also criticized. The producers certainly could have found actual songs, but I suppose they didn't want to pay for the rights. A couple of the songs weren't very good.
It's an expensive production with some excellent actors: Goode, who I've always loved, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Louis Lester, the leader of the band, Anthony Head, John Goodman, Tom Hughes, and Jacqueline Bisset. Very formidable.
There was also criticism that the series did not really evoke the '30s. I thought it looked wonderful, particularly the hotel scenes. But I agree, there was something missing in the period feel. Fascinating to me was the statement in the series that the Brits didn't know what Americans sounded like until the advent of talking pictures, as well as the talk of the wireless. One really does get the feeling of limited communication and how far we've come.
Suspenseful, well-acted, this could have been more fascinating with some stronger writing, attention to period details, and maybe some cutting, perhaps to four episodes instead of six. The research wasn't perfect -besides the Prince of Wales ID, there was also the reference to Clark Gable. In 1933, Clark Gable was just coming onto the radar in the U.S. Ronald Colman would have been much better. The devil is in the details.