Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Miniseries will give you sinking feeling

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If nothing else, it can be fairly said that Global TV's new Titanic miniseries is true to the theme of the story it endeavours to tell.

It is, pretty much, a disaster.

As ambitious and well-intended as it is, this four-part dramatization of history's worst maritime calamity is a clumsy, clunky affair that seems so concerned with providing a properly stiff-lipped, Upstairs, Downstairs-style insight into the class system that governed British society in the early 20th century that it completely misses the mark in terms of portraying the emotional and organizational chaos of the tragedy.

And given all the other programming available on various channels in the lead-up to the 100th anniversary (April 15) of Titanic's sinking -- not to mention the Oscar-winning James Cameron blockbuster that stands as the definitive dramatic treatment of the event -- this tepid offering feels rather redundant and pointless.

This new Titanic, an international co-production led by Britain's ITV, Canada's Global TV and U.S.-based ABC, takes an unconventional approach to telling the familiar story, using each of its four episodes to examine events leading up to the sinking from the perspective of a different slice of the shipboard population.

Sunday's opener focuses mainly on the upper-class folk, led by the Earl and Countess of Manton (Linus Roache and Geraldine Somerville), who occupy Titanic's first-class cabins and are simply appalled by the notion that they might spend even the most fleeting of moments in the company of second- and third-class passengers.

There's even a great amount of unease among the aristocrats that they're sharing top-deck accommodations with the unsophisticated likes of American financiers and, perish the thought, film actresses. Still, the upper-class dining, dancing and gaiety continue right up until the moment the ship and the iceberg meet.

Episode 2 concerns itself more with the goings-on in second and third (steerage) class, as well as the interactions of various crew members. As is the case in the première, the script is peppered with snippets of conversation that not-very-subtly foreshadow what we all know is coming.

A discussion of cost-cutting during Titanic's construction leads one puffed-up financier to observe, "You're being stubborn -- we'll never need lifeboats for every passenger," and, later in the same heated conversation, "If liners sink at all, they take a very long time about it -- more than enough for other boats to reach them."

The stiff and unwieldy dialogue is matched by Titanic's overall production values, which rely heavily on digital effects to create the illusion -- not very effectively -- that the scenes are being acted out aboard a massive ship.

None of it is convincing, so the entirety of this Titanic effort is likely to sink quickly from view as audiences abandon ship long before the inevitable conclusion.

-- -- --

Getting Bent: The sitcom genre has always embraced the notion of unlikely romance between mismatched partners, but it has seldom thrown together two less-destined lovers than Alex and Pete.

Alex (Amanda Peet) is a high-strung single-mom lawyer who's still stinging from a recent divorce, and Pete (David Walton) is a scruffy, surfer/slacker layabout who passes himself off as a home-renovation contractor in order to make ends meet.

She wants nothing to do with love or lust or casual hookups; he'll sleep with anything that moves even remotely in his romantic direction.

But she needs a kitchen reno. And he needs a paycheque. So as completely Bent as it seems, this new NBC sitcom (which premieres tonight at 8) throws them headlong toward each other. And, of course, sparks fly.

It's illogical and almost unbelievable (but hey, so were Sam and Diane on Cheers), but there's an undeniable chemistry between Peet and Walton that might inspire many of those who sample Bent's first episode to give this dislike-at-first-sight coupling another chance.

Ain't love -- even when it makes no sense at all -- grand?

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

TV REVIEW

Titanic

Starring Linus Roache and Geraldine Somerville

Tonight at 9

Global

2 stars out of 5

Bent

Starring Amanda Peet and David Walton

Tonight at 8

NBC

3 stars out of 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2012 D3

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