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Cherry Pop

Masterpiece Mystery! Guilt
(Mark Bonnar, Jamie Sives, Ruth Bradley, Sian Brooke, Emun Elliott, et al / 2-DVD / PG-13 / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: Brothers Max and Jake couldn’t be more different. Max (Mark Bonnar, Catastrophe) is wealthy with an apparently perfect life.

Jake (Jamie Sives, Chernobyl) scrapes by, running a record shop.

Driving home late one night, they accidentally kill an old man on a darkened street.

They manage to conceal their crime, but when others suspect the death wasn’t as innocent as it first appeared, the brothers’ lives start falling apart.

As their guilt takes them into a dangerous world where everyone seems to have a hidden agenda, they soon discover they can trust no one — not even each other.

DVD Verdict: In all truth, I am never normally a fan of series in which people do bad things and then work to hide them and thus I did not have excessively high hopes for this TV show, but the above context that shoves together chalk-and-cheese brothers Jake and Max (respectively Jamie Sives, and Mark Bonnar) proves instantly attractive and effective, and initially generates quite a few guilty laughs from the viewer!

Admittedly, the low-key, small-scale gangsterishness topic is a bit too grim to be funny, but still (for the most part) it all works very nicely.

It has to be said that (effectively enough) the mood does change from episode to episode, getting far darker and less funny as things move on.

But this is leavened by a surprisingly warming and effecting love interest for Jake, who has drifted in this area of his life, as in most others, and suddenly finds unexpectedly that his lies and cover-ups have brought him something wonderful and life-changing.

And as it turns out that his love-interest (played by Ruth Bradley) is also into scam and deception, this is an even-better pairing.

All of this happens as the ostensibly luxurious and organized life of Max (ultimately the real star of the show) disintegrates steadily as various chickens come home to roost.

Rather nicely, there comes a point where we can feel a measure of sympathy for a guy far more pathetic than he might at first appear, who nevertheless pulls himself together to try and operate effectively at moments at least, and even amazingly evokes a measure of fellow-feeling (or at least pity) in his long-suffering and much-wearied wife (played by Sian Brooke).

The way she flirts with a lesbian and lesbianism looks quite contrived outside in our world (which it indeed proves to be in their world too), though the excuse comes in association with Mr. Big type activity from the ever-reliable Bill Patterson as Roy Lynch.

Since Emun Elliott takes a good part as Kenny - a person shipped in to be hopeless who fails to be so - there is many a nice piece of acting to be enjoyed, even if Ellie Haddington’s (effective) role as Sheila is likely to give one the creeps, as it was of course designed to do.

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leith locations offer that solid and reasonably attractive Scottish background, but quite a lot of what happens here takes place in entirely anonymous locations that could be pretty much anywhere. And the series is all the better for that.

Ultimately, this is beguiling work, as you may well find yourself asking at the end of episode 4 exactly how you have benefited from or been enriched by this whole, less-than-elevating experience.

I’m not quite sure if that is the success or the failure of the makers. On the other hand, to make something artful and artistic (and probably also lucrative) out of basic ingredients of not much at all has to be counted as a genuine feat, and it’s been a mixture of attention-holding fun and not-so-fun to get from episode 1 through to the end of number 4!

A second series apparently beckons, and doubtless we will be keen enough to respond to its dubious charms and so for now, enjoy this at-times disjointed TV series for what it is worth as it will take you on a journey, trust me! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official PBS DVD Purchase Link