Much ink was spilled when Bonekickers first aired on BBC One a few months ago, about how actors Adrian Lester, Hugh Bonneville and Julie Graham were slumming it in such a mindless series. And mindless it certainly is, being more Hole in the Wall than Houllebecq.
The critics were utterly wrong. There’s nothing wrong with having a good actor doing mindless television. Heck, David Tennant is an excellent actor, who has brought alive some truly terrible dialogue in one of the BBC’s other rather mindless dramas. But taking that on board doesn’t automatically mean thinking they are the right actors for the series. Julie Graham continues her heritage of taking strong female characters and making them gratingly obnoxious. Adrian Lester continues his fine tradition of being utterly squandered in everything he does (admittedly, not his fault). Hugh Bonneville, rather crushingly, seems a bit sneery about playing the role of the gruff elder statesman of archaeologists.
And the critics were wrong in yet more ways. While the actors turned out to be a bit rubbish, Bonekickers itself was actually very fun. Within twenty minutes of the first episode, we have the Knights Templar roaming around England with bits of the cross that Jesus was nailed to, while their modern-day counterpart Paul Nicholls plots how to get it back. The show makes the recent Robin Hood reprisal look like it was true to historical fact. It’ll be something of a surprise if the second series doesn’t involve the discovery that Leif Ericsson invented the mobile phone.
As the series goes on, even more big(gish) names crawl out the woodwork. Shauna Macdonald of The Descent, Burn Gorman of Torchwood, even Sir Dexter Fletcher (knighthood for continued services to great bad TV) pop up. These latter two are certainly used to nonsense enough to know how to plough through it, which when you’re tying Boudica and the Great Fire of London into the same plot is certainly useful.
So is it worth watching? Bonekickers isn’t yet quite the real guilty pleasure that Hotel Babylon is. But then again, the first series of Hotel Babylon wasn’t either – it took a good couple of seasons to become relaxed about what a glorious nonsense it was. The problem at the minute is the actors, so I’m rather hopeful that Bonneville moves on to something else and Graham just goes away altogether. If that happens, the second series should prove a vast improvement, so long as the plotting remains so wrong-footingly, wilfully daft.
Bonekickers – complete BBC series 1 is out now.