By Edward Howard.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
A very crude sex scene. Moody introduction music, so cliché of police dramas like this. Oh and the worst, and a lame anti-Brexit joke (what is up with liberal TV writers thinking that they know better, and then subsequently insult the vote of 17.4 million people?). This is already an ideal beginning for a TV drama, of which is less Broadchurch and more Broodchurch (that show of which itself was overrated, though that’s a story for another time).
Now admittedly, despite the heavy advertising, I wasn’t expecting much of the first episode of The Bay. Having already sat through most of ITV’s previous ‘high quality’ dramas Cleaning Up (of which combined leftie claptrap with an utterly stupid plot and character decisions) and Cheat (of which proved that the likes of 1987’s Hellraiser and the 2004 remake of The Grudgeremain the best fictional warnings against infidelity of latest memory), I wasn’t expecting much from this. I feel that I was mostly right, albeit the flaws I was planning to find were not the ones I expected. I legitimately don’t know whether that makes it better or worse, despite this there we go.
My main problem (with the first episode at least) is how constantly miserable it is. The show is focused on a cast of characters who are either miserable or moody. This mainly arises from how many of the characters are in situations of which inevitably stem misery. Broken and dysfunctional families. Lonely kids at secondary school. Unhappy and brooding police officers. Former fathers getting worried about how their new family is doing under their subsequent stepfather. Children being bullied at school. All in all, it is such a constant state of misery throughout the show that it makes it hard to create empathy or sympathy with these characters because there’s no humanity and their miserable personalities and lack of explanation thereof as to how these circumstances came to be, it is hard to get in to the character’s heads and therefore sympathise with them. Not to mention how this constant misery fails to make the characters any more than two-dimensional archetypes. We don’t have any idea of what these characters are like beyond this, and why they are constantly miserable, as beyond the convenient circumstances of which were aforementioned, however, wouldn’t seemingly make anyone this consistently miserable, let alone all at the same time.
And while it can be argued that this reflects real life and that it’s used to create high drama, I shall disagree. This mainly comes because of how I’ve seen other films or TV shows (most recently 1995’s La Haine and 2012’s version of Les Miserables) of which were also very downbeat but at the same time. This is different from say, an episode of The Gifted whereby the main character seemingly died, but as we understood her character and personality beyond the plot, we could sympathise and feel sad at her death. As there is no equivalence here, that doesn’t happen, a major failing for a serious police drama like this. As former Daily Mail film critic Christopher Tookey pointed out, ‘when realism is this relentlessly dour, it ceases to be realistic’.
On top of this, the central police force seems rather alarming in its carelessness. The main detective is bent to the extreme, being late to work after getting plastered the night before (of which a higher up knows about by calling her traffic excuse ‘b*llocks’), taking time out of duty because of family matters and doing specific actions to drop a suspect in. One wonders why she isn’t fired, given her lack of excellent work, of which isn’t established either in the show. Meanwhile, the force is so incompetent that it assigns someone to a high profile missing persons case of who admits to having ‘failed’ the training course, and is excused when this is questioned on the grounds that he was a ‘good kid’. I highly doubt most police forces are like this (beyond the ones that allow by-election hustings in Lewisham to be shut down by far-left groups that is), and it makes it even harder to emphasise with such bent coppers. It’s almost as bad as when the cops in aforementioned Broadchurch whereby the police officers openly admit that they believed the victim, of which sets a dangerous precedent as The Mail on Sunday Peter Hitchens points out, because it insinuates that a biased police force (ignoring blind justice, hence why Lady Justice on top of the Old Bailey is symbolically blind). It may not be as bad as that, but it’s in the same ballpark, and it makes a show that is already hard to like harder to do so.
Admittedly, the plot is slightly intriguing, and hopefully, it can pick up in later episodes. And it leaves a suitable cliffhanger in that sense too. And at least it wasn’t as big a disappointment as the latest screening of the highly overrated 1998 J-Horror Ring, even though it is similarly average.
In conclusion, The Bay is by no means terrible, but it lacks any sort of strong humanity that usually creates empathy with these characters to make an enjoyable show. As it is, it leaves me rather cold, as it’s about as whiny and miserable as your typical Radiohead or Tool song, without the fantastic music abilities and songs of the latter or the legions of eye-rolling hipster types to defend the average output of the latter. Hopefully, it shall improve in later episodes, though this isn’t a very good first impression.