Why I gave up on Channel 4’s ‘Spin’ (Les Hommes de l’ombre)

by Stephen Tall on March 8, 2016

c4 spin

Warning: spoilers follow

Well, I gave ‘Spin’ (Les Hommes de l’ombre) — the French political drama broadcast by More4 in its Walter Presents strand — a decent chance. An entire series, in fact. But I’ve now officially given up. Here’s why.

One of my pet-hates always used to be TV dramas which mocked-up newspaper front pages in an appallingly amateurish way. It’s bizarre that directors who will take every care with set designs and costumes seem not to care if they splash the screen with a ‘Daily News’-type tabloid with a badly written, badly spaced headline that looks like a Year 6 kid’s ‘write your own newspaper’ English project.

That still happens. But there’s a new irritation that’s been added — dramas deciding to ignore how social media is used because it would spoil their dramatic tension. And that brings me to ‘Spin’. Two incidents stood out in its first series:

* News breaks of French presidential hopeful Anne Visage’s affair with the recently blown-up former President. Her campaign manager is issued with the urgent warning… “this story will hit the news-stands in just a few hours’ time!”. Because, obviously, we’re all ignorant of what the newspapers are saying til we walk past les kiosques in the morning and Twitter stops at the white cliffs of Dover.

* A key witness — the one person who can testify to the motives of the President’s assassin — is being hunted by the French authorities desperate to ensure their state-sanctioned lie of terrorism isn’t challenged. Tensely, he hunkers down for a couple of days until a journalist with a TV camera can arrive and film his evidence. On tape. Seriously. No suggestion is made that he might tell his story using the smart-phone he’s carrying and post it to the Internet. Or even tweet his testimony.

It’s hard to take seriously a drama which ignores the real world. And then, when the first episode of the second series opened with a laughably contrived cover-up involving the new French president which will, inevitably and tediously, unravel over the next five hours, I thought: enough, this simply wouldn’t be taken seriously if it didn’t have subtitles.