CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: School age? They were about as likely as Travolta & Co in Grease 


Normal People

Rating:

Blood

Rating:

Against a backdrop of farming and Gaelic football in rural Ireland, primitive emotions feel magnified.

This makes for a feverish, almost dreamlike setting for both of this week’s major new serials.

Yet beyond those superficialities, Channel Five’s dark, Gothic melodrama Blood isn’t remotely similar to Normal People (BBC1), which traces an intense love story between two shy teenagers, Marianne and Connell.

Despite all the efforts of the stars, Daisy Edgar-Jones (you¿ll recognise her from Cold Feet) and newcomer Paul Mescal, that emotional connection hasn¿t survived the transition from print to screen

Despite all the efforts of the stars, Daisy Edgar-Jones (you’ll recognise her from Cold Feet) and newcomer Paul Mescal, that emotional connection hasn’t survived the transition from print to screen

Normal People is adapted from a bestselling novel, and it shows. Practically none of the scenes in the first two half-hour episodes, shown back-to-back, felt as if they were written for TV.

We were shown banal locations —a school corridor, a classroom, a teen’s bedroom — and left to guess what was going on in the characters’ minds as they stumbled for words or stared out of windows.

I haven¿t seen such an unconvincing bunch of high schoolers since Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease. No doubt fans of Normal People will insist I can¿t appreciate the drama¿s subtlety until I read the book

I haven’t seen such an unconvincing bunch of high schoolers since Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease. No doubt fans of Normal People will insist I can’t appreciate the drama’s subtlety until I read the book

That can work in a novel, with its internal monologues, but not on television.

The book, by 29-year-old Sally Rooney, is supposed to be extraordinary: Anne Enright, the Booker-winning author and critic, calls it superb and says: ‘It is a long time since I cared so much about two characters on a page.’

Despite all the efforts of the stars, Daisy Edgar-Jones (you’ll recognise her from Cold Feet) and newcomer Paul Mescal, that emotional connection hasn’t survived the transition from print to screen.

By the time the excruciating 15-minute sex scene got underway, I was baffled.

We’re supposed to believe that Connell is deep and thoughtful, a sports champion who reads constantly and admires feminist writers. 

Marianne’s intelligence and wit bedazzle him. She doesn’t care that he’s too embarrassed to acknowledge her in front of his friends, as long as he ravishes her whenever they’re alone.

I simply can’t believe in their relationship. It’s a female fantasy: the swotty girl, scorned by the cool clique of prettier classmates, who wins the heart of the local hunk. 

That’s on a par with daydreams about marrying the one with dimples in this year’s boy band.

Normal People is adapted from a bestselling novel, and it shows. Practically none of the scenes in the first two half-hour episodes, shown back-to-back, felt as if they were written for TV

Normal People is adapted from a bestselling novel, and it shows. Practically none of the scenes in the first two half-hour episodes, shown back-to-back, felt as if they were written for TV

It isn’t helped that Edgar-Jones is 21, Mescal is 24 and some of their ‘teenage’ mates look older still. 

I haven’t seen such an unconvincing bunch of high schoolers since Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease. No doubt fans of Normal People will insist I can’t appreciate the drama’s subtlety until I read the book.

I don’t feel any urgent need. My loss, probably.

Another 29-year-old writer, Sophie Petzal, created her 2018 breakthrough thriller Blood (C5) for TV, not the bookshelf, and the difference is vast.

In the second series, Line Of Duty’s Adrian Dunbar still plays the disgraced doctor, Jim Hogan, as a man so complex that even he can’t be sure when he’s lying.

But we don’t have to guess at his thoughts — all the clues are in front of us as he returns to the town where he stood trial for the killing of his wife.

Rejected by two of his grown-up children, he’s reduced to digging ditches in return for bed and board from his son-in-law’s boss. 

Jim’s ready to swing for someone — and that’s before he clashes with the local yobs.

In the second series, Line Of Duty¿s Adrian Dunbar still plays the disgraced doctor, Jim Hogan, as a man so complex that even he can¿t be sure when he¿s lying

In the second series, Line Of Duty’s Adrian Dunbar still plays the disgraced doctor, Jim Hogan, as a man so complex that even he can’t be sure when he’s lying

The story flicks back and forth in time, sometimes giving the impression that we’re trying to complete a double-sided jigsaw in our heads.

But every piece fits, and each flip of the picture reveals something new.

Don’t get sidetracked by the shocks and surprises or you might miss the next clue.

Blood continues all this week, with a double bill to finish on Friday. The first part was slow to catch light, but was well ablaze before the hour was up.

Clever combo of the night: The five quiz titans from teatime’s The Chase have clearly taken inspiration from BBC2 rivals the Eggheads for their primetime show Beat The Chasers (ITV) all this week. 

They’ve teamed up to take on brave challengers. It’s fast-paced, brainy fun.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk