For being a script writer I don’t watch that much TV. I always make sure I catch Doctor Who simply because I grew up watching the series back in the 1980’s (and there’s a blog post of my Peter Capaldi related thoughts in the pipeline) but I’m not the sort of guy who can sit and watch five or six episodes of something in an afternoon. To give a short example, I’m only halfway through season one of The Walking Dead and this is really only because it’s appeared on my chosen TV streaming service. It actually takes a lot to make me want to sit down for an hour and watch something disregarding everything else. In basic terms, I feel awkward without a joypad in my hands for that length of time.
Last night however was a bit different and BBC4 starting showing The Young Montalbano, the prequel series to Inspector Montalbano. BBC4 have brought a lot of subtitled drama series from Europe onto screens in the UK recently. Shows such as The Killing and Borgen have gained modest audience numbers on what the BBC consider to be their channel where such programmes can thrive. For whatever reason Inspector Montalbano hasn’t quite gripped people in the same way but I consider it a treat anyway.
Salvo Montalbano investigates crimes in the fictional Italian town of Vigata. It’s the usual typical set up of a cop who will bend the rules to get results but, despite being surrounded by murder and corruption, the show never seems too desolate. It might be the Italian sunshine or the wonderful looking coastal location but there’s nothing about Montalbano that can be described as grim. Being Scottish I’m very used to the gritty drama of something like Taggart in a rain swept Glasgow, in Montalbano it’s not unusual to have him seen return home after a day at work to eat pasta on his balcony overlooking the sea as the sun sets. It also contains, despite the body count and mafia run ins, some brilliantly laugh out loud parts.
Don’t read this thinking that it’s some kind of light hearted comedy show, it’s just that I was always advised to mix your comedy and drama together as they compliment each other. The funny parts give the dramatic parts more impact as a matter of contrast. The show itself is excellent and well worth tracking down. I’m not sure if it’s just a BBC thing but they’re showing it in two hours long episodes here and, being subtitled, it does mean that you really have to be concentrating in order to keep up (don’t catch me wrong, the atmosphere would be horrible if it were to be dubbed) .
The performances are top grade also and a lesson in subtle character traits. Montalbano explains early on in last night’s opening episode of Young Montalbano that he likes to see people in their own homes rather than bringing them into the station for questioning because he sees them at ease in their own environment and gets the truth quicker that way. For us as the audience it also means seeing these characters for what they are and a fantastic device for the Inspector to move around the town as we take in the scenery.
The Young Montalbano series has started on BBC4 here in the UK at 9:00pm on Saturdays so if, like me, you hate the annual race for an Christmas record that is X Factor then you have this as a mighty good alternative. Make some pasta, have some pizza, pour some wine and enjoy one of the best detective shows on TV right now. Viewers overseas might struggle unless some scamp has decided to upload it to Youtube within the last 24 hours.