This retelling of Haley’s novel is determined to make the viewer think of the ugly, historical truth
Since we lived near Liverpool and I’d been taken to see the iron rings at the docks where the slaves had been chained up, the two became fused together.
I’ve never thought of docks, or ships, or even the wonderful city of Liverpool, without some distant, shocking memory of a man chained like a beast.
That’s as it should be, and this new retelling of Alex Haley’s novel is no less determined to make every viewer think of the ugly, historical truth.
It began, almost seductively, like a bit of dramatised, TV anthropology.
We watched the young Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby) growing up among his people, a warrior cast of the Mandinka tribe in West Africa.
Tensions were sparking between his clan and their neighbours as Kunta was spirited away to the bush to be initiated into manhood by the tribal elders.
His own spell of manhood was soon cut short as the neighbouring clan sold him to slavers and he came to, shackled in the bowels of a west-bound ship.
The drumbeats, the songs, the languages of West Africa, everything that had made the foregoing scenes so rich, gradually ebbed away as the ship crossed the Atlantic, and Kunta Kinte’s true nightmare began.
In what followed, no attempt was made to spare the senses.
Malachi Kirby plays Kunta Kinte, a warrior cast of the Mandinka tribe in West Africa
It would be fairer to say that every attempt was made to horrify, sicken, enrage and ultimately overload the senses of those watching.
Where you stand on this depends on your own ability to detach yourself from what’s on the screen, or your own anger at history’s numerous examples of human evil.
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I don’t doubt the real slave trade contained sights even more revolting than those in last night’s TV drama.
I do, however, doubt whether the warts-and-all approach is always effective.
If, like me, you feel physically sick watching a man being flogged almost to the point of death, you might well switch off.
If, like the makers of this TV series, you want everyone to know how evil slavery was (and is), you might be shooting yourself in the foot.
The best TV for 2017
Fri, December 9, 2016
Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Homeland, The Voice UK and more. Here's the best TV coming your way in 2017.
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The Best TV to watch out for in 2017 including Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Homeland & The Voice UK
If you really want to cripple yourself meanwhile, property development seems like a good career path.
You could say that shows such as Climbing The Property Ladder (Channel 5) are to blame, in part, for all sorts of mess.
Egged on by the likes of Sarah Beeny, people borrow money to renovate old properties, typically stripping out all the vintage, characterful stuff in favour of bleak, modern, uniform designs.
They also take those properties out of the reach of people on lower incomes and make them only really suitable to be bought by others planning to rent them out.
Then there are all the streets permanently clogged with skips, and builders’ vans, and the financial crashes that happen when too many people borrow money on the strength of houses no-one will buy or rent.
Climbing The Property Ladder makes the whole business of renovating look like a nightmare
Fortunately, this TV show makes the whole business look like a nightmare.
A lady in the West Midlands stood and watched while a crew from Romania apparently did their own freestyle thing on her pet project, with power tools.
Meanwhile, a lady in Yorkshire fell out so profoundly with her builder that they both ended up crying.
Property’s crock of gold, just for once, didn’t look all it was cracked up to be.