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Christopher Stevens: The Miniaturists and Christmas TV

The Miniaturist (BBC 1)

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Miranda Does Christmas (C4)

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At first The Miniaturist (BBC1) promised to reimagine Daphne du Maurier’s mad nightmare of a masterpiece, Rebecca — in which a young bride finds herself trapped in a Gothic mansion, with a distant husband and a cruel tyrant of a housekeeper controlling her every step.

No such luck. By the end of this two-part costume drama, set in Olde Amsterdam, it was revealed as yet another man-hating slab of tedious feminist propaganda. 

Every woman was noble, resourceful and self-sacrificing, while the male characters were a bunch of spineless creeps.

By the end of this two-part costume drama, set in Olde Amsterdam, it was revealed as yet another man-hating slab of tedious feminist propaganda. Pictured is Anya Taylor-Joy as Nella and Alex Hassell as Johannes

By the end of this two-part costume drama, set in Olde Amsterdam, it was revealed as yet another man-hating slab of tedious feminist propaganda. Pictured is Anya Taylor-Joy as Nella and Alex Hassell as Johannes

It ended with a coup de grace that was utterly wet, in every sense. Teenage bride Nella (Anya Taylor-Joy) was bemused by her much older husband’s lack of physical interest in her: he bought her lavish dresses, he twirled his ringlets and pouted, but he wouldn’t bed her. What could it mean?

No sooner had Nella discovered the shocking truth about gay hubbie Johannes (Alex Hassell) than the burghermeisters of Amsterdam did, too. 

Johannes was framed by his oldest friend, betrayed by his male lover, abandoned by his manservant and condemned to death by the greedy merchants of the city. Men — aren’t they all just rotten?

The punishment for homosexuality in 17th-century Holland was to be dropped off the dockside with a millstone round your neck. 

We didn’t see the execution but we heard it. There’s something so innately comical about a double splash that I’m afraid I laughed. Forgive my cynicism.

Romola Garai (left) as Marin, Johannes’s strong-minded sister who had turned her back on marriage to look after her feeble brother’s business, had the best role

Romola Garai (left) as Marin, Johannes’s strong-minded sister who had turned her back on marriage to look after her feeble brother’s business, had the best role

Nella didn’t laugh. She didn’t show any emotion throughout the entire drama. Every event was met with an expressionless gaze of innocence. Perhaps she’d overdosed on the 17th-century version of Botox.

At the centre of the story was a doll’s house, a wedding gift to Nella, peopled with tiny replicas of all the characters. Everyone was baffled that the dollmaker, who sent new pieces every day, seemed to know all their deepest secrets.

The real mystery, though, was never resolved: why was this ‘miniaturist’ sending dolls that no one had ordered, with cryptic notes instead of invoices? Who paid the bill?

ELECTRO-JUNK OF THE WEEK:

The families on Six Robots And Us (BBC2) uickly started to loose patience with their mechanical companions. Who can blame them? By the 27th, we’ve all had enough of wireless rubbish that doesn’t work properly.  

Romola Garai as Marin, Johannes’s strong-minded sister who had turned her back on marriage to look after her feeble brother’s business, had the best role. At first she seemed cruel but then — gasp — was revealed to be noble, resourceful and self-sacrificing.

Of course she was: she’s a woman. So, too, was the ‘miniaturist’, an elusive and ghostly figure in a cloak.

At last she spoke, and proved herself noble, resource… oh, you know the rest.

Miranda Hart’s clumsy, excitable persona with her foghorn laugh is a welcome antidote to the current convention that all women are superior beings. But since quitting Call The Midwife and ending her self-titled sitcom, her TV appearances have been hit-and-miss. 

Miranda Does Christmas (C4), a one-off chatshow with Prue Leith, Susan Calman and David Tennant, she was all over the place — and several days too late

Miranda Does Christmas (C4), a one-off chatshow with Prue Leith, Susan Calman and David Tennant, she was all over the place — and several days too late

She shone as the compere of the Royal Variety Performance. But in Miranda Does Christmas (C4), a one-off chatshow with Prue Leith, Susan Calman and David Tennant, she was all over the place — and several days too late.

We had Christmas quizzes, and banter about favourite carols, and every guest was treated to a silly gift. Prue got a painting by a David Hockney (not the artist, just a bloke with the same name). David got a Doctor Who doll.

A choir delivered a medley of Christmas Number Ones, and Miranda led everyone in a conga. ‘Such fun,’ she shrieked. No, it wasn’t. It was the TV equivalent of a three-day-old turkey sandwich.

Miranda Hart’s clumsy, excitable persona with her foghorn laugh is a welcome antidote to the current convention that all women are superior beings

Miranda Hart’s clumsy, excitable persona with her foghorn laugh is a welcome antidote to the current convention that all women are superior beings

 



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