The Night Manager (television series)—a brief review and commentary

managerOften, the best stories begin as, well, stories. Before The Wizard of Oz was a groundbreaking film, it was a book by L. Frank Baum. Before 2001 A Space Odyssey was an influential science fiction film, it was a book by Arthur C. Clarke. Television series have also been book based, including such diverse stories as Little House on the Prairie, based on a series of books by Laura Ingles Wilder, and Game of Thrones, which was based on a series of books by George R. R. Martin. There are literally dozens of others, but I’m going to discuss one that you might have missed: The Night Manager, based on a book by John Le Carré. A friend recommended this six part series, and we usually enjoy the same sorts of stories.

The Night Manager is currently on a streaming service offered by a large online reseller, the one that starts with an A. Originally, however, the series was made for British television and shown in the states on AMC. As I don’t subscribe to cable, I missed it there, but my hubby and I saw this winner of three Golden Globe awards recently. The plot, although updated a bit from the 1993 novel, is intricate enough to puzzle, but not nearly as confusing as modern teleplays tend to be. The direction is subtle but sure. The acting is simply outstanding, with a star cast including Hugh Laurie (who starred eight seasons in House M. D.) and Olivia Coleman (who dons The Crown in seasons 3 and 4 over on Netflix.) The main character is brought to life by Tom Hiddleston, who has several Marvel movies as well as a video game in his resumé. This series was rather expensive to make, by BBC standards anyway, and was filmed in Egypt, Morocco, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Here’s a bit of plot summary: A former soldier for the British army, Jonathan Pine, is portrayed as the night manager of a Cairo hotel as the story begins. He gets involved with a mysterious guest who is the girlfriend of a local gangster. Through her relationship with the gangster she has acquired information linking illegal international arms sales with Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), an English billionaire. Just after leaking information regarding the illegal arms, she is found murdered.

(Minor spoilers ahead)

Fearing for his own life, Pine flees, and is next seen, a few years later, doing the same job at a remote hotel in Switzerland. When super villain Roper visits the Swiss hotel, Pine longs to have some revenge, and soon he is enlisted by British Intelligence to spy on Roper. Before long, he has a new identity and an opportunity to infiltrate the small network of arms dealing. Getting information out, while staying alive and undercover is quite a challenge.

One reviewer called it a “classy thriller.” That nails it, but do check out this amazing bingeable series.

Goodbye, Top Gear

Top Gear

Top Gear, the BBC’s greatest success, is gone.

My whole family has loved Top Gear for a long time. I have an image in my mind of my son-in-law, tears rolling down his cheeks, watching the guys attempt to navigate the Avon river in a homemade hovercraft, laughing so hard that he was almost as funny as the show. But not quite…. Really, it is hard to put it into words. Top Gear has been the most successful “reality” show, although it isn’t quite real. It is the best because it is over the top. Way over.

Much has already been said about the sad end of the show, which came about because the BBC fired the star of the show, Jeremy Clarkson, for assaulting a producer. I neither defend Clarkson nor do I feel that the BBC did the wrong thing. No doubt all will suffer. Some are saying the show will go on, but I’ve watched a few shows with the co-stars, James May and Richard Hammond, as main presenters, and none of those shows were worth watching. Both May and Hammond are pleasant, but no more so than your average television presenter. No, there is some mysterious chemistry that seems to develop when Clarkson is on screen with these side kicks. Yes, the word here is chemistry: Clarkson is the catalyst, and the other gents are reactants. Take away the catalyst, and you have… the American version of Top Gear. The one no one watches.

This is worse, far worse, than Two and a Half Men without Charlie Sheen. (And that was pretty bad.)

Since the BBC has something to prove, they will no doubt put out a show with the same name and flashy videos, in order to fulfill contractional obligations, as well as to demonstrate that the show must go on. But it will suck.

I seldom watch television, but I generally make an exception for Top Gear. Oh, well, time to read another book.