Well done ITV! After several months of articles noting the many follies seemingly enveloping Britain's second biggest broadcaster, it's quite refreshing to finally be writing positively about the company again, and for a big-budget drama series no less. Collision was a five-part drama following a police investigation into the interconnected, yet ultimately random events taking place before, during and after a major car crash. Which makes it sound as exciting as a warm service station shandy with a wasp floating in it. But it wasn't - instead, it was an ambitious, thoughtful, entertaining and well directed piece of drama, the type of which I haven't seen on British television for years. I don't really want to go into the plot, as even reading some of the pre-launch publicity can spoil a few of the twists and turns of the story, all of which are gradually exposed throughout the five episodes.
Recently, a much talked-about article by Peter Jukes slightly unfairly compared the BBC1 hospital soap opera Casualty (a programme that surely should have had its life support switched-off years ago) with the HBO series The Wire, a show which everyone probably knows is the best TV drama of the last twenty years, and which needs no more plugging here. Oh. Anyway, what was more interesting was a graph further down the page with the BBC/Kudos's own critical success, Life on Mars, where the number of interweaving storylines were compared. A second season episode of The Wire had 21. Life on Mars had 4. (As an aside, God knows how many storylines a season five episode of The Wire might have featured).
Anyway, not wishing to get distracted, thinking about Collision, I would tentatively suggest that there were probably at least 10-15 storylines going on in the first episode, not to mention later storylines that developed or emerged in later episodes. There was a real sense of intrigue about the plot threads, which were never particularly complicated, but always well-thought out, and while I'm not going to pretend it was The Wire, it did manage to pull off multiple strands connected by a single incident, something which is a real achievement.
Indeed, even though some of the stories, such as the "romance" between the two lead police investigators seemed a bit trite, most of the characters' motives seemed well-thought out; although the audience's sympathy was always fairly obviously directed towards certain characters, impressions of some characters are continually altered by the exposure of further details about them.
The series was made by Greenlit Productions, the company behind the similarly excellent series Foyle's War, also set for a return in 2009, and like that series it was primarily conceived by Anthony Horowitz. Reading the interview with Horowitz on the series' ITV minisite, I was pleased to read that this is something that he'd been thinking about for ten years, which implies that all the time he's been earning his stripes writing Poirot, Midsomer Murders, etc, he's secretly been longing to make a big, ambitious dramas like this. Other than the story, other elements worthy of comment were the excellent "road marking" opening titles, and the effective, if subtle soundtrack.
Most commendable of all, though - it's encouraging to see ITV commissioning a series like this, a fact which made me overlook the slightly annoying Norwich Union (sorry! Aviva) insurance sponsorship adverts; after all- they helped to finance it. The success of a commercial series like this hinges on its advertisers, and therefore ratings. This gained 6.5 million viewers for the fourth episode, apparently quite impressive for a mid-series, mid-week drama, and more than the other terrestrial channels put together. I hope this is a sign of things to come.