A man is forced to return to his hometown after the death of his parents. The case is ruled as suicide by the police, but the hero believes it to be murder, a feeling that is increased after he finds some blackmail notes amongst his parents belongings. Worst of all, everyone in the town seems to be a little creepy, protecting something or someone from the prodigal son. All the makings of an intriguing drama you would think. Addictive viewing even.

It’s not. It’s frustrating. I find myself watching all 3 parts not out of interest but duty. ITV has a habit of doing a year or two of good dramas and then deciding to become a channel obsessed with reality TV, which it stops when BBC pounds it in the ratings. I feel I need to watch The Town to ensure that ITV at least keep trying to make new dramas on a regular basis, even if some miss the mark. And boy, does this one miss it.

I keep trying to nail down exactly what the problem with The Town is. I have managed to narrow it down to two main issues, although there are a whole plethora of others as well. The first is the secondary characters. Of course, the focus should be on the hero. But other characters need fleshing out as well, otherwise the hero is spending their time meandering through a cast of automatons. For instance, the town Mayor. Martin Clunes is brilliant, and what screen time is given to him is well used. Yet even this leaves me annoyed. He’s supposed to be an alcoholic (ironic considering recent news stories) yet seems oddly on-the-ball for a man who is apparently causing fights in pubs. Moreover, Clunes is forced to switch from playing the ‘light relief’ role to being the creepiest of them all in a matter of minutes on-screen. It’s a shuddery jump of character that never wholly convinces.

The second problem, connected to the first, is the length of the run. 3 episodes, an hour each. To me, this leaves the drama in the worst of both worlds. A one-off two-hour drama would mean that you wouldn’t need back stories for most characters. You wouldn’t have to give the florist a dilemma over her sexuality, for example. The focus would be the conspiracy, pure and simple. Nice, tight storytelling. On the flip side, if you extended it to 6 episodes you could give the back stories proper room to breathe. The layers could be more substantial. You would give a damn about how they progress.

As I mentioned earlier, I have other problems with The Town. Andrew Scott seems to have wandering accent syndrome, or maybe I am so used to seeing him as Moriarty I can now only picture him with that voice. More troublingly, I have little sympathy for him. Again, that could be a length issue, as his own back story seems insufficient for us to engage with him.

All of this together makes the show difficult to watch, and not in that ‘challenging but rewarding’ way like Homeland or Accused. When you put everything together, you realise it suffers from that most unforgivable of faults: it’s dull. What a waste of an idea.

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