Friday, March 10, 2017

Pilot Review: National Treasure

National Treasure (Hulu)
Premiered March 1

I’m very happy that I still have the chance to go into some shows (and movies) without knowing a single thing about them. That helped make this series a nice surprise, since I didn’t have any idea where it was headed. It wasn’t clear what the focus would be when we saw the two comedians accepting the award, and the arrest of the protagonist for sexual assault changed the mood considerably. I’m still not sure whether this is meant to be something like “The Hunt,” where the accused is innocent of the charge and it’s about how the public ostracizing someone based on the presumption or suggestion of guilt, or if it’s more like “Doubt” (not the most perfect comparison) where the menace is real and true cause for concern. The added complication here is that Paul seems not to remember whether he’s actually done something or not, and while he considers himself to be a good person, he may not be completely sure of his own innocence. Like other British fare, this series is subtle and effective, and its style is intriguing. Robbie Coltrane, best known in the United States for portraying Hagrid in the “Harry Potter” movies, is a great fit for the lead role, and Julie Walters and Andrea Riseborough provide more than ample support as his long-suffering wife and his eccentric daughter, whose rantings and recounting about her dream were both explicit and disturbing. It wasn’t the nicest thing that Paul went to have an affair while he was in the thick of this, and telling his wife after doesn’t really exonerate him. The fact that he might not be a great guy makes this very compelling, and I’m definitely up for seeing more.

How will it work as a series? This show aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom this fall, with four episodes playing out over the course of four weeks. That makes it a pretty contained narrative, relegated to just what’s most important and relevant, and this show has plenty of important things – based on true events – to say about society and sexual assault that I think should prove enormously worthwhile.
How long will it last? I don’t think this was ever meant to be more than just these four installments. The reviews have been predictably good, and I think that Hulu releasing all the episodes at once means that the streaming service is well aware that this represents the entirety of the series.

Pilot grade: B+