Wednesday, July 3, 2019

HBO's YEARS AND YEARS: Another surprising gem from the brilliant Russell T. Davies

We have been graced so far with only two episodes of the six-part series, YEARS AND YEARS, but if the following four are as good -- timely, prescient, frightening and utterly serious (yet with a lovely, light touch) -- this might just be the cable television series of the year. It is the creation of one, Russell T. Davies (shown below), who has already given us Torchwood, Cucumber, Banana, A Very English Scandal and Queer as Folk (among much else), so he hardly needs further bona fides. This new series, however, breaks new ground and may be his best yet.

Mr. Davies begins in the just-about now, in England, a country which, though frightened of the increasing stupidity, venality and craziness of America's Donald Trump, seems to be taking a turn toward increasing right-wing nationalism -- in the person of fledgling politician, Vivienne Rook (played to perfection by Emma Thompson, below).

Technology continues to give us new toys and surprises, a few of which are seen here, but employment and wages also continue to falter, even as the banking industry sleazes to new lows, while the wealthy grow even wealthier.

Same old same old, yet in Years and Years, the focus in on family, one extended example in particular. And Davies has created its individual members with his usual brilliant use of specifics and generics that join to give us a wonderfully alive and believable bunch.

Some of these folk are surprisingly into the politics of the scary-but-all-too-real Ms Rook (above), mostly because she seems to be speaking "truth to power" (just as some foolish Americans imagined was true of Donald Trump). Her slow, steady rise mirrors ironically the decline of our "group hero" family, as it endures problems of love relationships, immigration and deportation, Lehman Brothers-like collapse of banks, and a willingness to allow technology to take over one's entire body. (That last one takes us firmly into Black Mirror territory.)

Yes, we're only one-third into this series, but already we're hooked, frightened, amused, turned-on, and a whole lot more. The ace cast includes Russell Tovey (he of those magnificent ears, above, center right), Rory Kinnear (at left, top row, below), Anne Reid (below, above the computer), and lots more -- each of whom may be doing career-best work.

As is Mr. Davies. The man has given us the here-and-now, as well as a remarkably astute preview of what is to come. And while it ain't pretty, the fact that our family (some of them, anyway) soldiers on and maybe survives, is something to cherish. For as long as it lasts....

This British production, originally seen via the BBC, is being shown here in the USA on HBO, on Monday nights. Set your DVR.

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