BBC’s ‘The Watch’ Is A Success In Hopefully The First Of Many Seasons To Come

Courtesy: BBC Studios/BBC America

More than six years ago when the British television network itv premiered its short-lived action series, Jekyll & Hyde, that series proved a big hit among many audiences.  Even with its popularity, the series ended up getting canceled after just one season.  The decision by the network’s heads to cancel the series due to pressure from certain group was a terrible decision.  That is because the series really could have been something great had it been given more of a chance.  Now years later, fans of BBC’s The Watch are hoping executives at that network do not make the same mistake with that series.  The show, which is an adaptation of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, ran for eight episodes from January to February of this year and was released to Blu-ray and DVD over the summer.  For those who have yet to watch this hopefully inaugural (and not only) season, it is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation.  That is even with the deviations from Pratchett’s original novels.  Speaking of which, the story at the heart of the show forms a strong foundation for the show.  It will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s work on camera adds to the show’s appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the show’s home release rounds out its most important elements and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the show’s home release.  All things considered, they make the hopefully first of many seasons to come a success from beginning to end.

BBC’s The Watch is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation from which so many American network executives could take a hint.  That is because of how bland and boring so much American television programming is today in comparison to this and so many other shows from “the old country.”  The show’s success comes in large part through its story.  The story centers on a group of misfit law enforcement officers in an alternate dimension who for years had done little to nothing in the way of law enforcement.  That is because crime in the city that they “watch” has become largely legal.  The Watch’s officers – Capt. Sam Vimes (Richard Dormer – Fortitude), Cpl. Cherry (Jo Eaton-Kent – Lessons, Don’t Forget The Driver), Cpl. Angua von Uberwald (Marama Corlett – Guardians of the Galaxy, Blood Drive, Sick Note) and Sgt. Detritus (Craig Macrae – Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) spend most of their time just sitting in their office until one day when the young, naïve Constable Carrot Ironfoundersson (Adam Hugill – 1917, The Banishing, Sherwodd) comes along and shakes things up.  He and the re-emergence of Vimes’ former friend turned villain – Carcer Dunn (Samuel Adewunmi – Angela Black, You Don’t Know Me, Prime Suspect: Tennison) lead the officers to start returning to what The Watch once did.  It also leads the outcasts to grow personally and as a family of sorts as they work to try and prevent Carcer from achieving his evil goal.

Speaking of Carcer and his goal, he and his plan actually are just part of a bigger plot.  Not to give away too much here, but as the series continues, it turns out that Carcer is really just a pawn in a bigger plan by a group of unseen beings.  Many viewers might have missed this, but those beings really are a sort of updated take on the Gods in The Odyssey.  Just like they caused so much trouble for Odysseus in that timeless epic tale, these “gods” have their own plan for Vimes and company.  Keeping that in mind, that link between this show and such classical literature makes for its own appeal within the story.

As the story progresses, the character development that takes place within each of The Watch’s officers also plays into the story’s appeal.  Audiences will enjoy watching the growing relationship between Carrot and Angua in its subtleties, as well as Vimes’ own development.  Seeing him go from a “bottomed out” alcoholic police officer back to his former confidence is engaging and entertaining in its own right.  In the same vein, watching Cherry come into his/her own identity makes for its own interest, too. 

Getting back to the story itself, another big part of the story’s success comes in its overall execution.  Yes, it is a serialized show here.  However, the show’s writers somehow managed to make it feel episodic within the bigger picture of the serialized nature of the overall series.  The stories all connect but are their own from one to the next.  Now full discretion (and again, not to give away too much), the last episode does feel like it runs longer than it should have.  It seems like it could have wrapped itself up at many points, but then keeps going.  It makes one wonder how many hands were in the proverbial pot, considering this problem.  Thankfully it does finally end, and when it does, it leaves the door wide open for a second season that again BBC’s officials will hopefully provide.  That is because that second seasons is not only needed but deserved.

While the story featured in the hopefully inaugural season of The Watch does a lot to make it so enjoyable (even with the deviations from the source material in mind), it is just one part of what makes the show so enjoyable.  The cast’s work on camera does its own part to make the presentation engaging and entertaining.  Right from the top is Dormer’s work.  His take of Vimes throughout the show is the most notable.  The subtle way in which Dormer takes Vimes from a hopeless, alcoholic bum to a more self-assured, confident leader makes for so much appeal in itself.  That character development alongside his comedic timing throughout the show adds to the appeal in his acting, too.  Similarly, Eaton-Kent’s almost deadpan persona against the edgier presence of Corlett and the naivety of Ironfoundersson presented by Hugill makes for such a welcome contrast among the cast.  The cast members each make their characters’ personalities so rich yet controlled at the same time.  It shows such professionalism and in turn engagement and entertainment from each cast member.  Of course, one cannot ignore the work of Lara Rossi opposite Dormer.  Her matter of fact, “straight woman” persona opposite Dormer’s Vimes crates its own interesting character contrast that entertains and engages in its own right, too.

On yet another note, Wendell Pierce’s performance as Death is just as worth noting as the other cast members’ work.  The same can be said of Adewunmi’s work as Carcer.  Pierce’s performance, his very persona is so laugh-inspiring in the best way possible.  Instead of being this dark, evil character, he is just laid back, wishing he could be like any human whose soul he has to take upon their dying.  He even complains about it so often, stating, “No one ever listens, no one ever pays attention.”  He declarations and general presence makes Pierce’s work such a wonderful addition even being a supporting role.

Adewunmi does everything right that so many American actors get wrong in the way of playing an overly obsessed megalomaniac.  The subtle control in his anger is so gripping thanks to Adewunmi’s work.  The way in which he emotes, gives him an almost scary calm as he talks about bringing down the dragon to destroy the city and the whole world.  Even as he faces Wonse (Bianca Simone Mannie – Homeland, Vagrant Queen, Our Girl) in the final episode (again not too much will be given away here), accepting his fate, audiences cannot help but be gripped by that reaction.  It is just one more example of the importance of the cast’s work.  Keeping the cast’s overall work in mind here along with the impact of the story, the presentation becomes that much more engaging and entertaining.  Those items are just a part of what makes the show so appealing.  The bonus content that accompanies the show in its home release rounds out its most important items.

The bonus content that accompanies the show runs in a range of directions.  The lead, “Making of” feature takes audiences behind the scenes and shows how some of the program’s key scenes and characters were handled.  The discussion, for instance, on the determination of the show’s creative heads to avoid using CG at all costs really instills more respect for those efforts and the show.  The discussion in question comes as the costume and makeup officials talk about how they created the costume for Sgt. Detritus.  Watching the amount of work that went into the costume’s creation is awe-inspiring.  On another note, there is also a separate discussion in another feature that acknowledges the difficulty in staying true to Pratchett’s novels in creating this show.  The respect that is shown by all involved will hopefully encourage the show’s critics to change their minds about the program.  As if that is not enough, the character profiles do their own share to also show the importance of the cast’s work.  It compliments the other bonuses noted here and the rest of the bonus content to make the overall bonus content just as important to the presentation here as the cast’s work and the story.  When all three items are considered together, they make the overall presentation that is The Watch well worth the watch.

BBC’s The Watch is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation.  Despite what many of its critics would have people believe, it is engaging and entertaining.  That is due in part to the show’s central story.  Yes, there are deviations from the source material, but few TV shows and/or movies based on books have ever been 100 percent true to its source material.  That is just sadly how it is.  Even with that in mind, the story here is still its own entertaining presentation.  From its ability to solidly balance episodic and serialized writing, to its very presentation, the story offers plenty for audiences to appreciate in itself.  The cast’s work joins with the story to make the presentation even more engaging and entertaining.  That is because each cast member’s work is so believable.  From one to the next, each performance is unique and bounces off the others just as well.  The bonus content that accompanies the show in its recent home release puts the finishing touch to the presentation.  It adds just enough background to enhance the viewing experience even more enjoyable.  Each item examined is important in its own way to The Watch.  All things considered, they make this show one of the best of this year’s new home DVD/BD releases for grown-up audiences.  One can only hope at this point that it will get a second season and that the BBC will not make the same mistake that itv made with Jekyll & Hyde.

The Watch is available now.  More information on The Watch is available along with all of the show’s latest news at:

Website: https://bbcstudios.com/case-studies/the-watch

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheWatchTV

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