I’m one of those people who finds it hard to pick a movie to watch on a Friday night. Growing up, the family’s weekly excursion to Blockbuster became a lengthy, leisurely affair. Despite my family’s frustration, I doubled down and took my time, knowing how important it was to select the right movie for the right evening. A movie was the perfect complement to a long day of being subjected to my peers. These days the choice is made harder by the fact that I’ve seen hundreds of them.
So, when I found myself in Woodbridge Library on a day off last week, I thought I would take a gander at their DVD and Blu-Ray collection. For my first post on Hot Off the Shelf, I wanted to extol the virtues of what I found there, as well as some other DVDs I’ve borrowed from the library recently.
Woodbridge is where I found Press, a PBS Masterpiece series with woefully few episodes. Masterpiece (Theater as it used to be known) on PBS is something I imagine the younger generations have absolutely no idea exists. It’s a series of shows on PBS on Sunday evenings, often featuring actors dressed in empire waists, rigidly riding horses, and declaring how “drole” everything is. I tease because I love – fan as I am of everything romance, including Austen.
Press is something different altogether, though. On the surface, a blatant warning about the future of journalism in Britain (and the world in general) told through a parable about two papers on opposite sides of the political spectrum in London. Duncan Allen is the editor of The Post, a right-leaning tabloid-leaning sensationalist paper that puts narrative above all else, even the truth. On the other side of the coin is Holly Evans, deputy editor of The Herald, an earnest daily that adheres closely to the journalistic code. Despite this — or perhaps because of it — it’s on the way out.
Episodes are divided between the two newsrooms, and there is a clear winner as to which is more interesting to watch. No surprise there. Infuriatingly, Ben Chaplin’s portrayal of Duncan Allen is gripping. Somehow, he makes Allen someone we want nothing and everything to do with. Morally, there is nothing ambiguous as to Allen’s shortcomings. Yet, he sees himself as working towards a better society, “A Better Britain,” as it says on The Post’s stark red wall. Luckily, the other characters are intriguing too and infuriating in their own ways. Case in point, Holly Evans makes a decision that is both incredulous and somehow feels inevitable toward the end of the six episodes. Although you may inhale them all and spend the rest of your life pining for more, like hunger pangs in your stomach, it will have been worth it. It’s better to have loved, they say.
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