That Anna from Downton Abbey has gone all a bit macabre for Halloween. This week Joanna Froggart, the permanently fraught, but ever so nice Anna in Downton, has taken on another bonnets and bodice role playing the permanently pregnant, but ever so nasty Mary Ann Cotton in Dark Angel. Mary Ann achieved notoriety in the 19th century as being the first female British serial killer and boy did she have an appetite for it. According to Wikipedia she had 21 victims, including eleven of her thirteen children and three of her four husbands. All acts committed before the age of 40. That’s quite a death rate.
It seems unthinkable that Anna, sorry, Joanna could ever play such a part, but she certainly knows how to do hard faced (basically dye your hair brown, let it hang limply and don’t use any slap). Unfortunately she couldn’t really nail the accent and seemed to be channelling Cheryl Cole/Tweedy/Fernadiz-Honduras-Rodriguez. It’s considered that the motive for Mary Ann’s killing spree was to claim the life insurance and was interesting to see that unlike Downton, Aviva weren’t sponsoring it.
The main problem with the drama that with Mary Ann having had so many husbands and so many children and killed so many people, that you were struggling to keep up with them. She had “lost” five children before we had even met her and the death toll just kept rising. There was none of the Morse/Lewis structure of one death before the first ad break and the second before the end of episode one; it was death, marriage, affair ad break, death, marriage, death, ad break, death, affair, death and so on. The other thing that struck me was that she didn’t exactly go in for background checks on her potential spouses. Ok, there was no Facebook via which to stark him, but if you want to marry money, then it would make sense to some rudimentary checks into the persons wealth. If she had just put in the leg work and snared one loaded overlord, and she could have forgotten her murderous ways. But there again, if she did that, she wouldn’t be infamous over a hundred years later.
A person who has achieved modern day infamy is Nigel Farage. This week his time between standing down and then returning as the leader of UKIP was satirised in a Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back. Kevin Bishop, who last saw in Porridge portrayed Farage as a bombastic but ultimately sad and lonely man. Personally I prefer John Culshaw’s portrayal on Dead Ringers of Farage as a bombastic but ultimately sad and lonely man…but with a catchphrase. (“No, let me speak” is the catchphrase for any non Radio 4 listeners). The programme did have some great set pieces such as Farage on hold for Donald Trump and Farage being embarrassed by the overtly racists people who voted for him, but it felt that it should deliver more. It was a good 5 minute sketch that was stretched to 30 minutes. Whether with this week’s High Court ruling on Brexit will mean that Brexit will drag on longer than expected and so we will see more of Farage than ever, we will have to wait and see, but if there is to be a “White Nigel Did Next” series, the writing needs to sharpen up.
Last Sunday also saw the return of Humans on Channel 4. Essentially it’s Westworld (reviewed here) but with Merlin, that nice man from Mr Selfridge and her off the IT Crowd. Lower tech and more linear is probably the best way to compare it to Westworld. There is no trying to work out where are in the story with flashbacks; you know who the “synths” are as they have jerky movements and coloured contact lenses that don’t compliment their hair. At the end of the last series they were trying to achieve enlightenment and become “human”. It would appear that a few of them have. We know this because they now seem to have full movement of their joints. Perhaps the trick to becoming human was just a bit of cod liver oil to loosen them up. As with Westworld there are good synths and bad synths. Some like humans because they created them, others hate them because the oppress them. Well I suppose if the machines really do rise up and try and take over humanity, we would just have to create a Mary Ann Cotton synth and let her lose on them. She would soon see them off…well, as long as they all had life insurance.