Appellate Judge James A. Stewart hez just spent the last week watchin this British soap opera abyeut geordie builders.
"I hope I'm not getting mixed up in anything here."—Richard
"Relax, Richard, you've got the wrong accent."—Joe
Actor Robson Green is a "geordie," from the British region of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The Hexham native worked as a shipbuilder for three years before going into theater.
So it's only natural that when he became a television producer, there'd be a bit of Newcastle in his projects. One of those projects was Grafters, a story of two geordie brothers in cosntruction. In its first season, it drew 10.4 million viewers—or a 43 percent share of the audience—for ITV, according to Green's Web site.
A 2006 article in The Sun, a British mass-market tabloid, hinted that Grafters will get a third series, but so far, the series ends with Grafters: The Complete Second Season. This eight-episode series from 1999 puts the two geordie brothers in Brighton, where it's always sunny, but the water's getting too hot.
Facts of the Case
Brothers Joe (Robson Green, Touching Evil) and Trevor (Stephen Tompkinson, Ballykissangel) are laboring on a construction site.
When contractor Nick Costello (David Westhead, Mrs. Brown) gets Trevor fired for taking an after-hours job that Costello wanted, the two Purvis brothers decide to take on a project on their own. With their uncle's help, they buy a school to convert into luxury apartments. Trouble is, Costello wanted that job, too, and he'll do anything to knock them out of business.
To make matters worse, Joe's having a rocky romance with Vivian, an architect who's separated from her husband, and Trevor's seeing Clare, Costello's sister. Meanwhile, Simon, another member of the Purvis clan, finds his new girlfriend making fast friends with his old girlfriend.
Grafters: The Complete Second Season opens in the shower, with Joe and Vivian cooling off—barely—after a liaison. The literally soapy opening telegraphs more soapy doings to follow, since romancing and cliffhanger calamities play a large part in the drama. You weren't expecting long conversations about drywalls, were you?
The construction trade does play a part in the story, since the brothers Purvis face obstacles like asbestos and bad wiring along with the obstacles created by the sleazy Nick Costello and their own romantic distractions.
The brothers—simple Trevor and ladies' man Joe—are your typical odd couple, at each others' throats one moment and sticking up for one another the next. Stephen Tompkinson's offbeat sunniness as Trevor provides laughs as he fixes the plumbing in the local lockup while in jail on a bogus charge and turns the company van into a love nest for a night with Clare; there's a hint of Stan Laurel in his movements and expressions. As Joe, Robson Green is believable as both an amiable working stiff and a hothead. He's brash and cocky on the surface, but takes to heart the insults hurled at him by the swells.
As bad guy Nick Costello, David Westhead almost steals the show. He has a self-righteous anger toward the working class "geordies" (from Newcastle-on-Tyne), even though he's little more than a thug himself. Westhead plays him with just enough charm to make you see how he ropes others into his revenge. He finds allies in the vacillating Geoff Marriott (Stephen Boxer, Mary Reilly) and Vivian's pompous husband Richard (Jonathan Coy, Rumpole of the Bailey).
Grafters has a lot of routine soapy moments, but also has some scenes that really click, such as the scene in which a brawling Nick and Joe tumble out of Nick's office into the street to find Trevor and Clare kissing or the wine-and-cheese flat showing that goes perfectly wrong.
The production and transfer show off the gaudy beauty of Brighton's beaches, shops, and shipyards. The sound's unexceptional but decent; that geordie speak came through clearly.
There aren't any extras on the two-DVD set, but I used the geordie-speak translator on Robson Green's Web site for the blurb and ending. There's also background on geordies, if you want to read more.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I wouldn't hire these guys to do a project for me. They're always off putting out romantic fires and doing battle with upper-class twits. I can't see how they actually found the time to get any work done.
More to the point, while I enjoyed Grafters: The Complete Second Season, it's nothing you haven't seen before. Heck, the Trevor-Clare storyline dates back all the way to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Grafters: The Complete Second Season is a familiar cat-and-mouse tale of underdogs outwitting the rich guys, sort of like Lovejoy. The soapy relationship crises slow it down a bit in the early going, but the series pays off well in the last three episodes.
It isn't must-see TV, but if you've liked Robson Green or Stephen Tompkinson in other productions, Grafters will provide a nice break from the reruns and reality on television.
Not guilty. I'll be puttin off any buildin projects fo' a while, though.
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