First there was slow food, then there was slow television, the antidote to 24 hour news, sport and noisy, violent dramas. With slow TV you can spend two hours drifting down a canal or take a real time steam train journey.
At this time of year in the northern hemisphere you may be settling down on winter evenings to watch your favourite dramas and probably your favourite crime dramas. January 2020 saw the start of new series of two popular and enduring detectives.
As Vera drove her Land Rover through the wilds of Northumberland a thought occurred. What if she just kept driving and didn’t bother to arrive at the police station, didn’t get any urgent calls on her mobile about a murder? Two hours of lowering Northumberland skies and rugged green landscape, advertisements providing the only drama. How relaxing.
Vera Stanhope is the creation of a crime writer I enjoy, Anne Cleaves and is played by one of our national treasures, Brenda Blethyn. Antidote to glamorous cops, a middle aged woman in sensible, scruffy clothes and the muddy Land Rover. Some of her team have changed but she’s still going strong in this tenth series.
A complete contrast is Granchester, set in a delightful village near Cambridge in the nineteen fifties. The stories were originally written by James Runcie, son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. His crime solving vicar Sidney Chambers has been replaced by an impossibly handsome young vicar who rides a motorbike and fortunately also has a talent for talking to people ( getting confessions out of them ) and solving crimes, helped by the police inspector Geordie Keating. Life in the lovely village is slow, but a surprising number of murders occur. Life in the village would be pleasantly slower if there were no murders or crime of any sort and the police inspector became a lay reader and helped the vicar with his church services instead.
Slow Crime, No Crime could be applied to dramas set in any part of the world. There is always ‘the drive’ – through Scandinavian snow or the red dust of The Kimberleys at the top of Western Australia. Frantic chase scenes in cities could easily be slowed to a halt with road works or green protestors.
But how soon before the novelty wore off for viewers? The truth is, most of us don’t want people being killed just for our Sunday evening entertainment. We want to see scenery and in winter we like to watch anything filmed in summer, but we also want to peep into other people’s lives. The advantage of murders is that they give the perfect excuse for screen writers, the police and us to dissect every detail of the life of the victim and the lives of every person known to the victim.