I was looking forward to watching the 5-part dramatization of Len Deighton’s 1978 novel, SS-GB, which I’d read and enjoyed many years ago.
Unfortunately, the BBC chose to schedule it in conflict with an ITV series I’m already watching, The Good Karma Hospital. The BBC does this a lot; it doesn’t need to, since it isn’t really competing for paying viewers (or advertising space). So, I consoled myself with the thought that I’d eventually buy the DVD of SS-GB.
Now, I might not bother. There have been so many reports from a variety of sources that the director is an advocate of the Mumbling School of Drama. I won't surrender!
Considering this series is likened to a noir detective drama, I’d have thought the director would have seen the old noir movies featuring Bogart, Mitchum, O’Brien, Lake, Cagney, Robinson, Raft, Lorre, and Duryea to name a few. These had atmosphere, but also good diction (even when mangled American!), and the music never smothered the dialogue.
This is only the latest example of a number of recent productions that I have decided not to watch. I recall some time ago watching an episode of the new Dr Who; at a critical juncture, the good Doctor was making a dramatic announcement, but it was drowned out by the foreground music. I gave up on that series.
SS-GB is directed by Philipp Kadelbach and stars several German actors who spoke their native language on set and on screen, with subtitles. Great authenticity. Interestingly, some viewers commented that they found it easier to understand the Germans than anyone mumbling in English. A number had to resort to subtitles to comprehend what was being mumbled by the English-speakers.
The day after the transmission, a BBC spokesman said they “will look at the sound levels on the programme in time for the next episode.” You’d have thought that somebody might have considered doing that before transmission, considering that there have been other mumbling issues for the BBC involving Jamaica Inn, the crime series Quirke, and Happy Valley.
There’s no issue with other series, such as Game of Thrones, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Murdoch Mysteries, for example, all of which have dark themes and an international cast; even the Dothraki is intelligible in Game of Thrones!
At least I can hear what all the international cast of actors are saying in The Good Karma Hospital. That’s good karma, indeed.