Aidan Smith's TV review: Industry won't make you nostalgic for the office, but it's a terrific show
Maybe like you, I’ve not been in the office for months. What do I miss? Not the competitiveness, the backstabbing and everyone wanting to nick my ideas, that’s for sure.
I hate when you’re sent out to buy lunch for the bosses because the orders are always so fussy and elaborate that inevitably someone ends up with the wrong salad. (Though I do like shouting out “Who’s the dinosaur?” which I reckon they know isn’t me checking requests for this variety of kale, but actually what I think of the whole bloody lot of them).
I hate, too, how there isn’t enough room on the toilet cubicle floors to get even just a few hours’ kip when everyone else has long since left for the night before a fresh shirt is delivered to your desk and you can begin the relentless, red-eyed grind all over again.
Or am I confusing my office with the one in Industry, the new BBC2 drama about an investment bank and its fresh intake of graduate recruits? All of the above happens in the first episode, apart from the joke about dinosaur kale, which is mine. (Memo to the writers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay: you can have the gag for free, although by the looks of things so far you’re not going to need it).
This is exciting stuff. A careering show about careerists. Fast-paced (direction by Lena “Girls” Dunham) with a whomping soundtrack that flits from the night owl’s headphones to clubland where one of the would-be masters of the universe stays ’til sunrise, getting up to all manner of bacchanalia.
It begins like a dramatised version of The Apprentice then quickly leaves that programme far behind with lines like: “Mediocrity is too well-hidden by parents who hire private tutors. I’m here on my own.”
You’d never get one of Lord Sugar’s little perishers coming out with that, far less the answer given by another of the graduates when asked how he rated the two most important figures in his mother’s life, Jesus Christ and Margaret Thatcher: “One’s the reason we’re all here and the other’s a carpenter.”
It’s a brutal life (and, in the opener, death). I try to scribble down some of the Cityspeak abuse dished out daily to the underlings to make it seem like I understand how trading works, but my shorthand can’t keep up. The most-humiliated has the breast pocket ripped from his shirt by his line manager who sneers: “You’re not here to fix the lights.”
The early focus is on Harper (Myha’la Herrold) who shapes up like the star pupil but seems to be running away from her past. She calls home for a friend’s help faking a transcript. In return via Zoom she must - and I can’t believe I’m writing these words again after my review of Love & Anarchy last week - pleasure herself. Honestly, you wait ages for a drama featuring masturbation in the workplace and two come along at once.
I never got into the first series of His Dark Materials (BBC1). Fantasy isn’t really my thing, but maybe my own stubbornness was the biggest problem. Old enough to remember Animal Magic, I refused to believe Johnny Morris could be topped for making our furry friends talk. Of course he could. Here was a talking moth that turned into a talking mouse, a talking wildcat, a talking dragon but most of the time was a snow-white stoat which proffered words of wisdom laced with sarcasm to Lyra (Dafne Keen) as she yomped across the parallel worlds of Philip Pullman's novels.
But I try again with the second season and the pace is slower than I remember, which is a good thing, as it allows me to marvel at the sets, the most astonishing of which is Cittagazze, a town rising vertically from a mountain top with crazy staircases which seems to have been designed by Pieter Bruegel and MC Escher after a heavy night on the absinthe.
The streets are deserted so Lyra and fellow traveller Will (Amir Wilson) resemble lockdown refuseniks. The show chimes again with the here and now when the government-like Magisterium must face up to a threat to their omniscience. “We cannot ignore what everyone has seen,” says one of their number. “It’s visible in the sky over our heads,” adds another. That’ll be the poll result from Pennsylvania, then.
But really the best thing about His Dark Materials is Ruth Wilson. Her dark seductiveness can make a chap forget all about old Johnny Morris.
Are you ready for your first Christmas-themed show yet? A teen romcom set in New York? No, I didn’t think so, but Dash & Lily (Netflix), looks promising. It begins on December 17 - the day before which my father forbade any talk of Crimbo - with a grumpy lad despairing: “The emoji industry has yet to create an icon to represent one’s feelings about being cast away by their divorced mother so she can spend Christmas in Hawaii.”
The young curmudgeon is played by Austin Abrams from the brilliant Euphoria. He seeks refuge in Manhattan’s Strand Bookstore and no programme which loiters there can ever be wholly bad. He finds a diary among the JD Salingers and must use his literary knowledge and submit to dares to locate its author, one of which is to recite a Joni Mitchell song to the bemused browsers, something else in Dash & Lily’s favour.
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