Luther: Quality, not quality, or “Pat has a clear bias and is letting it show”?

In class, I mentioned that I didn’t really take to Luther because I didn’t feel that Idris Elba’s character was anything more than a cookie cutter “tortured soul” type of character. That’s not a knock against Mr. Elba’s acting; I thought he was fantastic. I think I just realized that I’m so sick of television shows equating a dark brooding antihero protagonist as automatically being “quality.” Someone in another one of my classes mentioned an article stating that what many call this new “golden age” of television that began with The Sopranos actually ended with the premiere of The Walking Dead. After reading the article, the author is not specifically disparaging The Walking Dead, but one of his reasons for the end of this age is shows like The Killing or Hell on Wheels which seem to try to emulate characteristics of shows like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos but simply aren’t very good. (Personally, I don’t think I agree with the author about the current age of television being over quite yet, but that’s another point for another day. The article is an interesting read though:

Unfortunately, from what I saw of this episode, Luther seemed to be one of these copy-cat quality shows. John Luther felt like an amalgamation of multiple cable drama antiheroes, from the tortured genius who cares more about being right than catching the perp to a wife who no longer loves him (perfect fodder for emotional breakdowns, so the audience gets to see how unstable and oh so dark he can be). And because the show really was all about one character, once I decided I didn’t like him, there wasn’t much else for me to latch on to.

Of course, a lot of my dissatisfaction with the show comes down to personal taste as well. I never liked House because I found House to be an insufferable jerk, and didn’t really have much sympathy for him. Shows like Breaking Bad are tough for me to power through, despite their level of quality. And most telling, my absolute favorite show on television is Parks and Rec, which is just so positive and downright nice. I am naturally predisposed to characters who enjoy being good people and doing the right thing, which unfortunately often doesn’t make good television. Maybe Luther is truly a quality show, maybe not. I thought this show and Sherlock were similar in a lot of ways, but I loved Sherlock and thought it was a perfect example of quality. One of the most important rules in cinema is to “show, don’t tell” and Sherlock showed its quality. Luther, on the other hand, seemed to be screaming at me that it was quality without anything to back it up.

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1 Response to Luther: Quality, not quality, or “Pat has a clear bias and is letting it show”?

  1. Christopher Palmquist says:

    First off, I’m glad to see somebody else reads Grantland as religiously as I do. That was a great article and every power rankings written by Mark Lisanti leave me literally laughing out loud and drawing odd stares from my roommates…but I digress.

    When you mentioned this in class and how Luther reminded you of House I freaked out a little bit because that was EXACTLY what I thought of during the screening. From the protagonist with a dark past and so much under the surface, to the savant-esque brilliance, to the enabling supporting actors, Luther is House in a police station rather than a hospital.

    While I didn’t hate Luther, it literally was no different to me than any procedural I could see on American tv at any hour of the day. It was like somebody threw CSI, Law and Order, Criminal Minds, and any other show of the ilk into a blender and out came Idris Elba and Luther. As embarrassed as I may be to say this, I actually enjoyed Blackwell more than Luther…

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