Anorak | Mic Wright’s Remotely Furious: Trouble at The Mill and Problematic Penguins

Mic Wright’s Remotely Furious: Trouble at The Mill and Problematic Penguins

by | 28th, July 2014

The Mill (Channel 4)

Penguin Post Office (BBC 2)

Outside the sun was shining, inside The Mill was on the telly, dragging all light and hope from the world. The first series of Channel 4’s historical drama based on the archives of the Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire was one of the broadcaster’s biggest hits in 2013, presumably acting as a kind of televisual cosh for viewers. Series 2 is shaping up to be no less gloomy with a script that levers in historical references with all the skill of a bemused GCSE student flicking through Cliff Notes.

“Wages are down.” “Blame the Corn Laws.” “It’s not your fault! You’re a victim of the Poor Law!” Outside of the leads Kerrie Hayes as plucky young apprentice Esther Price and Matthew McNulty as swarthy engineer Daniel Bate most of the characters are like dirt-splattered mannequins posed to illustrate the travails of the poor. This series rejoins the characters four years on from the first, in the wake of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act which defined “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, so there’s a catalyst for even more misery.

The Mill was originally pitched as an antidote to Downton Abbey but it indulges in the same kind of cartoonish simplifications. Where Downton makes life downstairs seem far more enjoyable than it can possibly have been, The Mill turns its working class characters into ciphers in a unrelentingly dour history lesson. There’s a drought of wit, humour or humanity outside of one cheeky line noting that “it’s grim down south”.

The writer, John Fay, is desperate to make parallels between the 19th Century and today. You can see his workings when a union man tells the workers: “The English labourer did not cause

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Posted: 28th, July 2014 | In: TV & Radio Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink