SPOILER ALERT: It sinks.
We’ve talked here before about TV’s obsession with brands, which are used to safeguard audience figures – turn a well-known story into drama and you’ll have a guarantee that some section of the audience will watch. Now comes the latest addition to the brand stable, with ITV’s four-part drama of everyone’s favourite disaster.
It’s the only branded disaster I can think of; The Black Hole of Calcutta is politically incorrect (although an astonishing story), the Hindenburg involves foreigners (not the right demographic), the Great Fire of London is too expensive. So we get Julian Fellowes, the go-to writer for all things Edwardian.
Interestingly there is still a fresh story to be told, and it has only been touched upon in one unlikely earlier version. ‘Titanic – The Musical’ was a Broadway Tony-winner which took a surprisingly serious look at the politics behind the ship’s construction. Backed by a dark choral score, on stage all classes were represented by boxes containing different cabins that slowly tilted. Let’s hope the TV version concentrates on something more than weepy farewells amid the gushing water.
Long before we had the 1958 British version, ‘A Night To Remember’ with Kenneth More, based on the true account of the disaster, and of course the ghastly, endless James Cameron farrago which went to the trouble of getting the crests on the cutlery perfect but ruined any chance of verisimilitude with its hilariously awful script. Meanwhile, the artefact touring exhibition and various other incarnations have toured the world. We get it, so why not make a film about the Lusitania?
Where to next for brand TV? I think Tarzan has probably been retired now, but Jack the Ripper will doubtless return. We’re probably overdue a Frankenstein – after the National’s huge stage success (review somewhere on this site, probably in the attic) and Dr Jekyll perhaps?
God forbid we get anything from a less trodden-to-death literary source.