TV Review: “Dead Still”
I will start by saying that this show is for mature audiences only as there are sexually explicit scenes as well as images of a graphic and sometimes gory nature. Set in Victorian-era Ireland, this show follows the exploits of photographer, Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley), along with his niece, Nancy Vickers (Eileen O’Higgins) and his assistant, former grave digger Conall Malloy (Kerr Logan). Mr. Blennerhasset is a memorial photographer, meaning he takes pictures of the recently dearly departed, usually alongside their very much alive family. This type of photography was popular with the wealthy and elite of the Victorian era who had a somewhat morbid fascination with death and art surrounding it. Seances to commune with the dead were also popular in that time period and occur in the show. During the course of their adventures, a police detective, Frederick Regan (Aidan O’Hare), catches wind of an illicit photograph ring which deals in photos of a risqué nature. As his investigations go deeper into this seedy world, he seeks the advice of the renowned Mr. Blennerhasset.
Dead Still is almost equal parts murder mystery and mad-cap detective story with a healthy smattering of macabre wit and humor thrown in for good measure. If you aren’t good at listening to Irish accents, you may have trouble following some of the conversations, but I love the accents and the delightful Irish-ness of it all. Most of the show takes place in Dublin and the surrounding country estates where it was, in-fact, filmed. This was particularly delightful as true-to-the story location filming is unusual these days. In a May 2020 interview with The New York Post Actor Michael Smiley spoke about filming in a huge mansion which only had one occupant who lived in a handful of the 40 or so rooms in the house. The crew filmed amongst the old relics left in the upper floors because who needs props when you’ve got the real thing collecting dust and creating just the right atmosphere? If you like dark humor blending with a bit of the ridiculous, you’ll love this show. The costuming is fantastic and mostly period accurate (there are a few discrepancies, but it’s a great show, so I turned a blind eye) I have found myself waiting between episodes with giddy anticipation and re-watching the previous week before the new one becomes available—in order to be in the thick of the story when the next installment drops. The show’s tagline is: When death is in the picture, mysteries are sure to develop. And I think that when those mysteries develop, so too does an addictive show. Dead Still is available to stream through AcornTV, which is both a stand-alone service as well as a channel available through Amazon Prime.
Film Review: “The Favourite”
Set during the reign of Queen Anne, spanning the years 1702 to 1707, The Favourite is the comedic tale of two women vying for the close friendship—along with the perks—of the English monarch. While complete fiction from the perspective of period costume and historic events, the film weaves an entertaining narrative lead by three strong female actresses portraying three actual historic figures. Olivia Coleman won an academy award for her portrayal of Queen Anne as a childlike monarch controlled by her lover. While Coleman gave a masterful performance, the historical record shows us that, as a ruler, Anne was highly involved in matters of state.
The love triangle shown in the picture is also fiction—Anne by all accounts was devoted to her husband, and enjoyed his mutual affection and respect. Some events shown in the film are based on history such as the political shift from the Tories over the Whigs, as well as Anne’s stroke; but little else of historic fact shines through this humorous depiction of the early eighteenth century.
Viewers will enjoy the imaginative story woven by the 2018 film, not for the depiction of the past but for the fanciful narrative.