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32 Brinkburn Street, “Episode 1” (1.01)

The 32 Brinkburn Street logo: a street sign declaring 'Brinkburn Street'.

A review of the time jumping BBC drama’s pilot, written by Karen Laws and directed by Daniel Wilson, after the jump…

Well, that was interesting.

32 Brinkburn Street, much like Marchlands before it, is a drama straddling multiple time periods as it builds a mystery for the viewer to follow. Here, we straddle 1931 and 2011, as two families struggle to survive in a time of economic hardship, while their children try to declare their independence.There are hints that, in 1931, there will be a death that leads to a body being hidden behind a wall.

So, it’s got its hooks. But does it deliver an entertaining viewing experience?

Though it doesn’t stand up to the greats, or even Marchlands, its worth a look. It’s got a trio of actors who ‘pop’ onscreen (Amy Tickle as 1931 oldest daughter Violet, Jack Deam as 1931 father Walter, and Tisha Merry as rebellious 2011 daughter Poppy), which was enough to hold me over into the back half of the episode, where the rest of the ensemble started to grow on me. At first, I doubted whether I’d be hooked, as the characters seemed uniformly either unlikeable or boring.

Elizabeth and Grace look on as Walter tosses objects through a hole in the wall.

But they started to grow on me, particularly the wearied Gracie (Rebecca Callard), trying to make it through The Great Depression with a husband whose best attempt at getting ahead financially is gambling. The show had plenty of ‘now and then’ moments, both contrasting (with Gracie telling daughter Violet that she “looks like a tart” in makeup) and comparing (two signs, both declaring ‘Economic Crisis Deepens’, and Poppy/Violet’s parallel stories). It’s not terribly subtle – it’s no Mad Men – but it is an enjoyable story.

The 1931 story, right now, is the more interesting of the two. The larger ensemble has a more interesting web, and the 2011 story features Ellie (Eva Pope), who is pretty much the least sympathetic or interesting member of the cast. Whenever she’s onscreen, I have the visceral desire to see her exit stage left, even as the show tries to draw her quest for a baby as a reason to be sympathetic to her. I read her, as of the pilot, as condescending and selfish, and I can’t help but think that’s not going to change.

After Marchlands, I’m not terribly invested in the ending of them mystery; I know stories like these often use it mostly as a hook, and don’t really pay it off. I am interested in seeing what happens with this family,especially Violet, who seems doomed to a young death. If I can get my hands on the remaining four parts of the series, I expect I’ll give them each a little revie.

To those who have seen it: What did you think?

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