Arts

Television: Mum, you’re right: SS-GB isn’t very good

Mum likes nothing more than to turn the television volume up to the highest setting and put the subtitles on at the same time. She says the actors mumble. I say she’s going deaf.

When SS-GB (BBC One, Sundays) premiered on Sunday night, I decided to take a stand. The show started, Mum reached for the subtitles button. I grabbed the remote from her. “Don’t you dare!”

I said. “Just for once – for once – I’d like to watch a TV show without feeling like I’m reading the script at the same time.”

Triumphant, I stuffed the remote down the side of the settee and settled back to enjoy the show.

The only thing was that the actors were talking very, very quietly. Almost … mumbling. I couldn’t admit that I was wrong, so I put a happy face on it. Smiled where I thought I was supposed to smile; frowned when it looked like the actors were in trouble. I even laughed a couple of times – at what I don’t know. I observed Mum out of the corner of my eye. She didn’t move a muscle.

We watched this silent movie to its bitter end – and when it was over, I flicked off the TV and said: “Well, that was good.” And Mum said nothing. She knew. She knew I had absolutely no idea what the hell it was all about.

Apparently SS-GB is an alternative history in which the Nazis occupy 1940s Britain. It’s not very good. The central theme is a strong one: does doing nothing about a bad situation qualify as collaboration? But it’s blindingly obvious where the plot is headed and the lead actor, Sam Riley, is far too young to play a conscience-stricken senior policeman.

Worse, the BBC has tried to create atmosphere by having the actors whisper as if in fear of triggering an avalanche. They imagine this translates into tension. But think about your own life. In moments of drama and doubt, do you talk so softly that people around you need subtitles? Or do you speak at a level that can be heard by humans as well as dogs?

Sorry, Mum, you were right this time.