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“The thing that will keep you watching Dough is the cast and performances.”

I like it less the more I think about it

Back in 1953, 20th Century Fox released the Sam Fuller film Pickup On South Street. It’s a Cold War noir. The FBI are trailing a courier, hoping she will lead them to her commie masters. Enter Skip McCoy, a pickpocket, whose fingers go wandering through the courier’s handbag and make off with the microfilm. The plot progresses sensationally and, more importantly, logically, with enough twists and turns to fill a few TV episodes. It never relies on cheep devices like deus ex machina or withholding information from the audience to generate a big reveal.

What has an old film got to do with a 21st Century TV series? Dough uses the same underlying plot structure. Replace the FBI and commies with criminals, Skip with a bankrupt businesswoman, and the microfilm with a bag of money, and you’ve got pretty much the same thing. Where Dough differs is in the level of contrivance.

During a heist, Steffe (Philip Oros), Liana’s (Bianca Kronlöf) boyfriend, ripped of the rest of his gang for 47 million krone (4 million pounds). Now some of his gang are out of prison and after the stash. Liana, sacked from her job, on the run from one of the gang members, with a kid in tow and no home to go to, is also in pursuit of the twice stolen money. Enter Malou (Helena Af Sandeberg) business woman, affluent, entitled, feckless and bankrupt. While failing to meditate in the woods, she stumbles across the buried bag of money and makes off with it. She then uses the triple stolen money to buy in to a bakery. In with the money is an improbably large GPS beacon* which Liana is tracking. Malou eventually discovers and discards the breeze block sized device, complete with blinking lights, which causes a bomb scare that cuts Liana’s pursuit to a halt. Homeless, penniless, friendless, and needing food and new shoes for her kid Liana goes on a shoplifting spree. Pursued by store guards she takes refuge in the bakery that was acquired just minutes before, where she is then just given a job, by Malou.

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Now that episode one is out of the way, prepare for seven more with increasingly improbable machinations surrounding the quadruple, quintuple and whatever is after quintuple stolen money.

With its whirling rolling pins and cupcake firing pistols, Dough’s quirky title sequence would lead you to believe that it’s a show with a lot of humour. With its ludicrous plot it might even be farce. This is not really the case. Some of the scenes with Helena Af Sandeberg can be humorous but that’s not a big part of the show. Other things are not humorous at all. A barmaid being groped, not funny. A barmaid being sacked for not putting up with it, not funny. A mother steeling boots for her daughter, not funny. When a character like Basil Fawlty or Victor Meldrew gets comeuppance for their enmity to humanity it seems justified, no matter how ridiculous the mechanism. When it happens to someone because they’re disadvantaged. it’s class and poverty shaming.

Another reason for the comedy not working is, bizarrely, the quality of the acting. It’s difficult to laugh at a character you feel too much empathy for. Bianca Kronlöf as one of the leads and a number of the supporting cast, particularly Willjam Lempling as Tom, are just too good for you to feel anything but sympathy for. The thing that will keep you watching Dough is the cast and performances.

Apart from the opening credits, there is nothing particularly noteworthy about how Dough looks and feels. The production values are relatively high; the direction is workman-like. Both are above par for television these days but they are nothing to write home about. Its a shame that Dough relies so heavenly on unsatisfying plot devices. It would have been more believable if Liana had been allowed to follow the GPS to Malou and the bakery. That could have led to a much more dynamic relationship between the pair and the potential for effective penthouse and pavement farce.

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* I found one with a 10 year battery life and no flashing lights that’s about the same size as a remote control (10x8x3cm). Also GPS does not work underground: even a few centimetres of soil will block it.

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Reviewed on: 03 Dec 2022


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