netgirl_y2k: (panic)
[personal profile] netgirl_y2k
We all have those shows that we love that were cancelled before their time: one of mine was The Bletchley Circle about former Bletchley Park code breakers who get caught up in a murder investigation. It only had about half-a-dozen or so episodes all in; the first series was entirely, utterly perfect, the shine had come off the second somewhat, but it was still good and didn't deserve to be cancelled. So I was delighted when I heard it was getting revived for a semi-reboot with half the original cast: The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco.

They've aired four episodes of it, and guys, it is not good. It feels really thin and cheap, which I suppose shouldn't be a surprise as it was made by a US channel that barely exists yet. Not to mention that 1950s Britain was a very different world from '50s California, and that could have been fodder for a good fish out of water story. Instead it just felt like they'd taken characters from one genre and dumped them wholesale into another; like they've taken the characters from Game of Thrones and deposited them into, idk, Altered Carbon without explanation.

And the writing was -- okay, the original show hasn't been on any streaming service I have, so I haven't rewatched it in years, and I'm probably remembering it through rose-tinted glasses, but I remember it being better written than this. It wasn't even just that the mysteries weren't well plotted, though they aren't. There's an especially baffling scene scene where Jean exits the frame and the camera lingers on the walking stick she's left behind - because people often move to one of the hilliest cities in the world only to discover that they no longer need their mobility aids. And, like, the show aired a handful of episodes that hardly anyone watched six years ago - no one can remember whether Jean walked with a cane or not. If you don't want her to walk with a stick just don't give her a stick.

And, okay, the first iteration of the show never explicitly said that Millie wasn't straight, even though she'd obviously been in at least unrequited love with Susan during the war, and she was one of those female characters who fetch up on historical dramas (Patsy on Call the Midwife is the example that comes instantly to mind) where every lesbian watching immediately goes: one of us! one of us! one of us! So I was always going to side eye the choice to hook Millie up with the blandest tertiary male character in the history of bland tertiary male characters. But I took some comfort from the fact that they seemed to be dropping some hints that Jean might not be straight - there was a subtle as a brick through a window line about her being a confirmed spinster.

There was a weird-ass bit at the end of the last episode which intercut the canon married couple with Millie and her cardboard policeman date, and with Jean and Hailey having a fireside picnic on the beach and going skinny dipping in the pacific. Hailey is the youngest of our new code breakers, although she seems to be more of a mechanic because I don't even know what this show is trying to do or be. And, like, it was the most 'Harold, they're lesbians...' scene I have seen in ages. And yet I have seen television before; I know that the show's oldest and frumpiest styled character is not going to be written into a romantic subplot with a borderline teenager. So were they fucking with us, are they so painfully heterosexual that it didn't occur to them that other people might read it as romantic, or is it just holy bad editing, batman? Having seen the rest of the show I'm going to say a little of column b, a little of column c.

By the way, none of that is diminishing my desire to write fic where Hailey is actively pursuing Jean, and Jean is being baffled and Scottish and Presbyterian about it.
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