Thursday, November 22, 2018

Pilot Review: The Little Drummer Girl

The Little Drummer Girl (AMC)
Premiered November 19 at 9pm

It’s always interesting to me to see American actors taking prominent roles in British productions, though there are two caveats to that classification here. This is a coproduction between BBC One, where it premiered a few weeks ago, and AMC, and Michael Shannon is really the only American starring in it, since Alexander Skarsgard, though a familiar face from “Big Little Lies” and “True Blood,” is most definitely not American or British. What caught me most by surprise in this adaptation of John le Carré’s 1983 novel was that Shannon, a terrific actor who appeared in a staggering nine films in 2016 and marks his third television starring role this year, put on an Israeli accent since I can’t remember a part in which he’s masked his voice like that in the past. I’m sure there is one, but here he was so unrecognizable under his loud energy, a departure from his usual mannerisms. Skarsgard is less villainous but equally threatening, and the real star here is Florence Pugh, who I’ve been reading only praise about recently related to her performance in “Lady Macbeth.” The show has a decent if unspectacular pace and the makings of a truly epic exploration of the architecture of these attacks and the transformation of assets, but it lacks a certain spark that to me would make returning to continue through its remaining five episodes worthwhile. It’s jumping around a lot and trying to cover plenty of ground, something that’s ambitious and will probably, as is often the case, be most satisfying – or maddening – to those familiar with the book and eager to see it adapted on screen.

How will it work as a series? This is certainly an intriguing start, and the best reason to watch seems to be following Pugh’s Charlie as she goes from being seduced by Skarsgard’s Gadi to becoming an intricate part of this operation. Four to six episodes seems to be the standard lately for miniseries, so that’s probably the right length here.
How long will it last? As far as I can tell, the source material should be covered by these six episodes. Reviews do seem to be strong, and the ratings for the start of the show on BBC One were good though not as great as some other recent premieres. As usual, I’d argue that this is just a case for limited series to be the new big thing on television rather than extending this one.

Pilot grade: B

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