Tuesday, 15 March 2016


Image result for Stag tv show images

Coming somewhat unannounced and without much fanfare from the Corporation, Jim Field Smith who brought us The Wrong Mans at the end of 2014, returns with another original drama written by himself and Geroge Kay with Smith directing, entitled Stag.

Stag tells the story of a stag party going horribly wrong in the Scottish Highlands, a bunch of upper class London bankers set out on a weekend to remember, however the first person we encounter is Ian (Jim Howick - Horrible Histories), the groom's future brother in law who arrives late and in the pouring rain in a dinner suit.

Smith has always had a good eye, creating visual humour from the get go of a man standing at a crossroads inappropriately dressed and looking very much like a fish out of water.  The three-part drama is essentially about the gulf between the North and the South.  Here you have southerners transplanted from London and the comfort of domesticity, into the chaos and unknown of nature and wilderness.

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The stag trip from hell

This seems to be an unusual trope of late with well-paid bankers wanting to get back in touch with nature and their neanderthal side, it is a cultural touchstone to want to hike and forge across hills and find yourself while getting lost.  Unfortunately for this stag party, anarchy is mostly on the agenda. They get split up from their gamekeeper, and then one by one a member of the party is killed off in a grizzly manner.  From harpoons to being split in two, to booby traps in the glades; these southern softies have no clue at what to do when to fend for themselves.

By the end of Episode 2 we are left with four men standing; the stag Angus (Stephen Campbell Moore), Ian, Legend (JJ Field, a Tom Hiddleston look-a-like; perhaps a swipe at the show they are up against in the ratings The Night Manager) and Mex (Amit Shah), a gay Indian.  While it could read as stereotypical and one-note caricatures, the actors all bring a special twist to their roles; a little bit of innocence here, a little bit of discomfort there yet they are all out of their element. Although all are keen to survive in the best possible Lord of the Flies way. Special credit to Rufus Jones as Cosmo (Rufus Jones), the television executive in search of a signal for a big commissioning call.

Smith and Kay have written an obliquely political statement here, the upper class group all earn upwards of £25,000 a month in their jobs, whilst Ian is merely a Geography teacher who earns £27,000 a year in comparison

 - I don't trust anyone who earns £27,000 a month.
 - A year!
 - Fuck.

This statement of intent in targeting the one per cent as victims of a maniac in the forest is both gratifying to those who may well view it, and also something we would like to see happen to the highest earners as payback for the troubles their mistakes caused in the creation of the recession - that many feel have gone unpunished.

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Etonians out of their depth

Their mistakes have caused a deflection or loss in funds for the arts, meaning original works have not been able to be produced, so Smith and Kay have taken it upon themselves to serve vengeance towards the toffs and the Etonians (Mr. Cameron) who have put the country in this unfortunate predicament.

Perhaps too much is being read into this, but look at Cosmo's idea for an ITV2 show, Hanging out with the Homeless, where destitute individuals are given a makeover by Caroline Flack, another veiled comment at the appalling quality of British television which is both nothing more than ill-judged charity served up as crass entertainment.

Smith and Kay have taken the opportunity to pass judgment on the establishment and punish them for failing the arts landscape in the United Kingdom, by taking them out to the middle of nowhere and leaving them to fend for themselves. Like most people have had to since the recession.

While Episode 3 was a well treated exercise in rounding up plots and did not shirk from the gruesomeness of death nor the greed of man when it comes to money; their were genuine moments of tenderness involving Ledge and Ian, with shocks and twists along the way which were neither telegraphed or predictable.

Brilliantly acted by the ensemble and directed by Smith with real panache and flair with such a gloomy colour palette filming moments of genuine peril while not forgetting the tongue-in-cheek humour Britain is renowned for.

Don't lose your head. The three-part series is available on BBC iPlayer still for a few more weeks.

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