Doug Coutts: Our Girl

TV Preview: Our Girl | TV1, 9.30 Sunday

A PERSON VIEW By Doug Coutts

By Doug Coutts

I’ve always thought that British TV producers excelled at the grim-reality sort of drama (which is not the same as the grim reality TV churned out by our friends at MediaWorks) and Our Girl shows that they’ve still got it.

I’ve still got the boxed sets of Fox and Boys from the Blackstuff that I trot out whenever my commitment to the Cause is questioned.

They, and others like them, stand to attest that despite the doom and the gloom and sense of hopelessness that seems to have pervaded most of the British Isles since the days of Cathy Come Home or even earlier, the human spirit can still triumph, or more often, transit van.

Our Girl’s like that. Played by former Eastender Lacey Turner (so she knows what she’s acting abaht), Molly is oldest of about 500 kids living in a cramped council flat in Norf London, with an unemployed boozer of a dad, a mum trying to hold them all together and an absolute loser of a boyfriend.

A night on the turps sees her – just like every other night – vomiting in the gutter. Except this night, she’s puking up right outside an army recruiting office and … cue epiphany.

Except this epiphany is going to be a while working itself through. You can take our girl out of Norf London but you can’t take the aggro attitude and curled lip out of the girl, and that means taking instruction, something drill sergeants quite like their recruits to do, is problematic from the start.

Which is good, because there are quite a few episodes to come and it’s always nice to have someone to cheer for. It’s also nice to have a drama about real people with real issues, and one that doesn’t have a title starting with CSI.

What other critics said:

“It’s cliched and schmaltzy. I don’t believe it – that Molly from the start could be turned into Molly at the end in a few weeks. Or that Molly would join the army in the first place; she’s got too much sense (actually I think I like Molly from the start better, she’s more real). It’s naive, crude – setting the war in Afghanistan against multicultural London, a racist dad against a Muslim boyfriend.” — The Guardian.

 “The portrayals of her father and of her boyfriend failed to ring true as did her attitudes towards them. And the depiction of the army – which became too obviously her surrogate family – would be better suited to a glossy advertising campaign than a television drama.” — The Telegraph.

Our Girl was so unequivocally approving of the benefits of joining up that it seemed entirely possible that viewers at a loose end might consider giving Army life a go. There were characters here who derided the organisation. But they were such conspicuous dead-end losers that their criticisms simply turned into another kind of endorsement.” — The Independent.

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at: Weakly Whirled News.
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