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Apologies About Peaky Blinders Episode Six

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Jason Statham has previously worked with Steven Knight. Will he feature in series 2? Image: wiki commons

Jason Statham has previously worked with Steven Knight. Will he feature in series 2? Image: wiki commons

So I’ve been asked by a few people why I never posted on the final episode of Peaky Blinders…well this is a little embarrassing but I didn’t get to see the end! I had to leave halfway through the episode to pick my husband up from the train station and by the time I logged on to the BBC iPlayer to  get my Shelby fix, it had been taken off. Couldn’t find it on YouTube or the like either. So I didn’t get to wrap up my little series of posts and I’m sorry to all of you who have enjoyed reading about ‘urquharts’ and Freddie the Horny Bolshevik. I will (hopefully) be back on it when series 2 arrives next year.

Writer Steven Knight has previously worked with Tom Hardy and Jason Statham and says he would be keen to bring them on board for PB2. Given that Statham has found fame playing The Transporter, The Mechanic and one of The Expendables,  it’s likely he will assume the role of The Butcher, The Baker or The Candlestick Maker.

Tom Hardy is already rocking a Peaky Blinders Urquhart.

Tom Hardy is already rocking a Peaky Blinders Urquhart. Image Wiki Commons

What did you think of Peaky Blinders in the end? Good, Bad, Ugly? Will you be watching season two, and if so what do you hope will happen in our favorite Brummie saga?

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Fight Club, Gun Club and Boom Chicka Wah Wah: Peaky Blinders Episode Five

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What fresh trauma has given Grace the Thousand Yard Stare?

What fresh trauma has given Grace the Thousand Yard Stare?

First rule of Fight Club – don’t talk about Fight Club

Second rule of Fight Club – don’t talk about Fight Club

Third rule of Fight Club – Take the family’s money to open a dodgy casino, then do a runner.*

Here is the link.

Another episode and another Bradford-based location standing for Brum. This week it was the turn of Undercliffe Cemetery which doubled as St Andrews churchyard, and looked like Boot Hill. Did the Beeb’s location scouts even venture to the atmospheric Warstone Lane with its catacombs, or Key Hill? It didn’t remotely resemble the Midlands, but could have worked well in a Bronte adaptation.

Rant over. Back to episode five: Ada is still traumatised that Freddie the Horny Bolshevik is rotting in prison while she and her baby are rotting in a bed-sit, and refusing Aunt Polly-Queen of Darkness’ charity baskets of rotting vegetables. ‘Babies don’t have principles’ sniffs AP – Obviously this is in a time before Stewie Griffin.

StewieGriffin

Tommy tries to sell the guns back to the IRA while staging a double-cross, which inevitably goes wrong. This is because he uses Grace, the world’s worst secret agent/ singer/ whatever as an accomplice. All she has to do is point a gun, but she shoots one IRA goon while Tommy has to smash in the face of the other WITH A SPITOON!!!! What a disgusting way to depart this mortal coil. Nice one Grace. Still, the Gods take note and Grace’s punishment is to be proposed to by C.I.Campbell; the disgusting nature of this development cancels out all her murders. She refuses, but the mental flashbacks will last forever…

*Meanwhile dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks-Arthur Shelby runs into his dear ole Da in an illegal boxing den. Arthur Snr is a low down loser; drunk and dangerous to know as we see when he challenges his own son to fight club. ‘I don’t want to fight you Dad’ wails Arthur as daddy proceeds to knock seven bells out of him. It reminds me of the Competitive Dad sketch in The Fast Show. Arthur Snr would whip even Tyler Durden in a bout:

Family Fight Club: Arthur has some Daddy and Me Time. Image: BBC

Family Fight Club: Arthur has some Daddy and Me Time. Image: BBC

Yup, the fight was obviously a tactic to part Arthur Junior with his last living brain cell; having stolen £500 from the Shelby kitty (although ‘stolen’ is a bit rich where the Shelbys are concerned), to finance the rotten venture, Arthur Snr runs off with the cash (but not before beating up Arthur Jr again in public – and leaving him heartbroken). In a scene of tragic-comic excellence, Arthur Jr tries and fails to hang himself. Paul Anderson who plays Arthur has been brilliant in Peaky Blinders and I really hope we get to see him in more stuff.

Tommy still doesn’t know Grace told Campbell the where-abouts of Freddie… and the guns. All he knows is that she killed for him and that brought out all his Tom-Cat feelings, especially when he needed a place to lie low from the police. Grace duly sneaks him back to her place.

So obviously, Tommy and Grace proceed to make the two-backed-beast in highly stylised fashion. I’m not sure what it is about modern period dramas and sex; obviously it happened, but programme makers seem to treat it as recreationally as modern-day film sex, i.e. no thought for protection or consequences in a society way more conservative than today’s (yes, sorry to burst anyone’s liberal bubble but hardly anyone was living like a libertine back then), multiple positions, ridiculously clean and pampered bodies in industrial-England, where you’d have a bath a week if you were lucky.  Tinkling piano music stood in for the Boom-Chicka-Wah-Wah, because they didn’t have sexy music in those days. Oh wait, they did – it’s called jazz and it literally was the soundtrack to post WW1 bordellos.

FUN FACT – Watching the sex scene was made slightly more annoying by the presence of my husband, now returned from the States, who hadn’t seen PB before, but made up for his unfamiliarity by doing what he always does; namely, tapping into his inner Beastie Boy and chanting ‘GETTIN-IT-AWN-TILL-THE-BRIKKA-BREAKA-DAAAAAAAWN’ in strangulated Brooklyn tones throughout the whole scene (and doing a highly suggestive, crap dance). I swear to God, he wishes he was from Brooklyn instead of Detroit. The accent is slightly more obnoxious which suits him to a tee.

Anyway, if the viewers at home were finding it a little hard to stomach, then C.I. Campbell certainly was and called off the search because he couldn’t handle the idea of finding Grace in flagrante. It still looks like he’ll try to get his revenge though, as he promised to clean up ‘one last thing’ before leaving town, like some sort of Belfast Columbo. Let’s hope Tommy can lay his hands on the remaining missing gun. The final episode should be good.

The last laugh: C.I. Campbell is out for revenge.

The last laugh: C.I. Campbell is out for revenge.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Peaky Blinders (but were too lazy to Google)

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Since I started a gently humorous series of posts on the Birmingham-set BBC drama Peaky Blinders, I have found all sorts of interesting search engine terms and questions cropping up on my stats. I thought it only fair to try and answer as many as I could. Here goes:

1)      What is the theme tune? Who sings it?

Oh good, an easy one to start with. It’s a song called Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Being a teenager in the 90s helped here. Nick Cave is great and he also adapted a book about the prohibition to make the film Lawless that was out earlier this year. Red Right Hand was also featured in the first Scream film, back in the day.

2)      Why is the show called Peaky Blinders?

If you’ve seen it, you’ll probably know; the gang takes its name from the razor blades sewn into the peaks of members’ flat caps/ baker boy caps that can be quickly whipped off during fights to slash with or left on for head-butting to maximum effect. But it turns out this wasn’t so unusual. Fun Fact: My grandfather (an East Midlands lad) grew up in the 1920s and said that razor blades were secreted in all manner of garments for fighting purposes. During Rugby scrums, players would brutally scrape their boots down the opposition’s shins having pushed extra drawing pins or tacks through the soles. When he was in the Royal Engineers during WW2, some privates used to attach a string of razor blades to the decorative ribbon inside their regimental caps, and flick it across faces during fights. It wasn’t a major weapon but did give the unlucky recipient a decent duelling scar. Granddad once got the cane at school for attaching a pin to a stick and jabbing it up girls’ skirts – I have to add he was only six at the time and went on to be a lovely man but what a little shit he must have been as a child!

Some of the real Peaky Blinders in the book Gangs of Birmingham. Image: digbeth.org

Some of the real Peaky Blinders in the book Gangs of Birmingham. Image: digbeth.org

The best book about this place/time is The Gangs of Birmingham by Phillip Gooderson.

3)      Where is the Black Swan pub?

Difficult one this. Try as I might, I can’t find a historical record of this pub in Sparkbrook. Fact: pubs in the UK come and go like beer through a tap over the years so maybe there was once a Black Swan, maybe there wasn’t. But there is a White Swan that remains in nearby Deritend, and maybe that inspired the writer Steven Knight.  It does look like a very atmospheric place doesn’t it?

The White Swan on Bradford Street. Photo from beerintheevening.com

The White Swan on Bradford Street. Photo from beerintheevening.com

4)      Where is the art gallery?

It is not the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery I’m afraid (if you get the opportunity though, do go, because it is great). The exterior shots are Leeds Town Hall. The pink hall full of sculptures where C.I. Campbell and Grace exchange information is Newby Hall and Gardens in Ripon, Yorkshire.

5)      Where were the street scenes filmed?

According to Creative England, these were filmed in Liverpool, specifically Powis Street in Toxteth, which was transformed into the Small Heath neighbourhood, Little Italy and Watery Lane. Liverpool’s Stanley Dock doubled as Birmingham’s Garrison Lane. BBC location scouts allegedly found that not enough of pre-war Brum had survived intact to serve as viable filming locations – which I disagree with. I think they wanted the locations to be closer to the Beeb at Salford, and that with a US target audience, viewers wouldn’t notice it wasn’t the real Birmingham on film. There is a heck of a lot of pre-war Brum left, go explore. Might have to have a separate rant about this one.

Powis Street on a normal day: Powis Street is one of the Welsh Streets in Toxteth. The area is undergoing regeneration.

Powis Street on a normal day: Powis Street is one of the Welsh Streets in Toxteth. The area is undergoing regeneration.

But with some period styling and a little CGI it is transformed into 1919 Small Heath

But with some period styling and a little CGI it is transformed into 1919 Small Heath. Image: http://www.rushes.co.uk

6)      Which train station is used?

These scenes are filmed at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, which runs through the Yorkshire countryside and is used in many period shoots, most famously the 1970 version of The Railway Children.

7)      Where did the gypsies live?

Gypsies living on Black Patch. Photo: Wiki Commons

Gypsies living on Black Patch. Photo: Wiki Commons

Hmmmm, the Lees were not real. But there were undoubtedly real gypsy settlements during the time of the Peaky Blinders (which was from the 1880s onwards). Most notably, the park area known as the Black Patch in Smethwick was a gypsy camp ground until the Birmingham Corporation Parks Commission imposed a peaceful eviction on the land in 1909. Until a few years before, Esau Smith was acknowledged as the gypsy king of Black Patch, having a verbal agreement to squatters’ rights for the travellers there. Upon his death in 1901, his wife Henty became the queen. She allegedly put a curse on anyone who tried to build on the area and this curse inspired folk singer Bryn Phillips to write ‘The Ballad of Black Patch’. The squatters’ rights ended with Henty’s death in 1907 and the ritual burning of her caravan.

8)      What language do the Lee family speak?

I’m fairly sure it’s Romani. Although the Lee family are depicted with various accents (mostly Irish), they are also using Romany caravans. Irish travellers typically speak in a dialect called Shelta, which is classed as a Creole and also known as the Cant, Tinker’s Cant, Bog Latin, the Ould Thing and Gammon. But listening to the conversations in PB, words such as ‘familia’ can be isolated which appear in the Romany dialect but not in Shelta.

One day son, none of this will be yours: a toss-up precedes an inevitable fight/deal/marriage.

One day son, none of this will be yours: a toss-up precedes an inevitable fight/deal/marriage.

9)      Is Tommy Shelby a gypsy?

He doesn’t live a travelling lifestyle, but his mother came from gypsy stock, probably part of the Lee family.

10)   Why are the accents so weird?

This one has caused a lot of annoyance to Brummies and other viewers alike. Many point the finger at the producers who are aiming at the US market and don’t think viewers over the pond will be able to understand the regional dialects or accents. To be fair, I heard that subtitles were used in some US broadcasts of Downton Abbey (but don’t quote me on that) and that Laura Linney was drafted in to explain basic concepts of the British master-servant dynamic before each episode.

The most alarming accent change is that of Billy Kimber, a gangster Birmingham born and bred who has been transformed into a Cockney wide boy for some reason. If it was necessary to have an East End gangster character, wouldn’t it have been simpler to name-check a gambler from the period?

However, according to Helen McCrory (who plays Aunt Polly – Queen of Darkness): “Our accents are 20s Birmingham, you see, and I’d just like to say that now. If anyone’s listening to my accent and thinking it’s a crap Birmingham accent, it’s not, it’s spot on. And I challenge any octogenarian Brummie to contradict me in that.” (Birmingham Mail).

She also told the Daily Mail: ‘I sat and watched endless clips of Ozzy Osbourne. My character’s obviously Ozzy in a skirt.’

Aunt Polly will deck you if you mention her accent.

Aunt Polly will deck you if you mention her accent.

I don’t think Helen’s accent is that bad, although it does seem to lapse into a Scouse ‘O’ vowel, but consistently so maybe that’s part of the historical accent change, who knows. Cillian Murphy (whose Brummie accent is undoubtedly more Scouse) is said to have spent time in Birmingham’s pubs listening to the local accent. I think it’s a little strange that most of this series was filmed in Liverpool and that some of the accents have a Scouse lilt to them…However Paul Anderson (who plays Arthur) and Alfie Evans-Meese (who plays little Finn) have got the accent spot-on in my opinion. Maybe we just need more Brum-based film and TV to make people acquainted with the authentic accent.

I think that covers the main stuff, if there is anything else you want to know, I’m happy to do a spot of research. I can definitely write more on this topic. What do you think of Peaky Blinders so far? Good? Bad? Ugly? Let us know…

Quick, Fat Gypsy Wedding: Peaky Blinders Episode Four

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There's an elephant in the room: The Shelby's can't look John in the eye.

There’s an elephant in the room: The Shelby’s can’t look John in the eye.

First off, here’s the link.

There was an awful lot going on in this week’s episode of the Small Heath saga; Freddie the Horny Bolshevik was ploughing ahead with his plans for a Marxist revolution (quick, someone alert the Daily Mail), bringing money from London to Stanley Chapman by barge (of course).

His increasingly up-the-duff wife Ada highlighted just how unsuited they are to each other when she complained: “How come you do all the work and Stanley Chapman gets all the money?”  Ada (bless her) was obviously too fixated on the tragedy of Freddie’s ‘urquhart’ to listen to his canon of socialist rants, or she might have noticed it is veeery unlike capitalism.

Looking shifty: Freddie waits for the revolution...conspicuously.

Looking shifty: Freddie waits for the revolution…conspicuously.

Something had to give, and for Ada that someone was Stanley Chapman who she promptly dobbed in to Aunt Polly (Queen of Darkness), who promptly dobbed to Tom Shelby, who promptly dobbed to C.I. Campbell who promptly ambushed Stanley, who promptly said he knew nothing (which was true – bless him) to the reluctant policeman, who promptly beat Stanley, who promptly had a seizure and died. Freddie was promptly declared public enemy number one in Stanley’s wake (not his actual wake, I doubt he got a wake – bless him).  Adda-girl Ada.

Apart from this, C.I. Campbell revealed the depths of his ruthlessness (and they were pretty disturbing); Tom hired Grace to be the ‘classy’ face of his legitimate bookmaking operation; Ada gave birth and Freddie got arrested, blah blah blah.

Anyway enough of that rubbish, the best plot-line this week involved Tom Shelby combining a peace treaty with his brother’s love life. The war between the Shelbys and Lees reached new heights this week when the gypsies planted a hand-grenade in Tom’s car and almost blew up his cute little brother Finn. Meanwhile widowed brother John (he of the WORST ‘urquhart’ and the quizzical Stan-Laurel expression) sought Tom’s permission to marry the local prostitute Lizzie Stark to be a good mother to his four children – how long did he look, five seconds?  Inconveniently for Tommy, Lizzie had hitherto been his regular prozzie. He tested her loyalty by offering her money for ‘bonus night’ which she took (bless her). This revelation broke John’s heart.

Papa Lazarou: Should he really be a role model for marriage brokering?

Papa Lazarou: Should he really be a role model for marriage brokering?

Tommy remedied this state of affairs by selling John to the gypsies!  After a parlay with the head gypsy momma in perfect Romany dialect (although I thought Irish travellers spoke Shelta, but a little research definitely points to Romani being used here), Tommy ended the war by arranging a marriage old style – under the shotgun. He basically got John to show up under false pretenses and the dumb schmuck looked like deer in the headlights (bless him). This was Papa Lazarou stuff – “aw, youuu’rrre myyyyy Brummie nooooooow!”  This made Patty Stanger’s match-making approach look positively subtle. Luckily, the bride was easy on the eye, but she’s played by Aimee-Ffion Edwards who specialises in deranged characters, if you’ve ever seen Luther or Skins. What has John let himself in for? As in Big, Fat, Gypsy Weddings tradition, there was lots of drunkenness (mostly by Ada, who also supplied the ‘fat’) and dancing (luckily this show predates the cringey moves contemporary travelling girls favour). It seems the Lees and the Shelbys might be a match made in heaven after all, and that spells bad news for C.I.Campbell and Grace.

Peaky Blinders’ Awards

Quote of the week: “Men and their cocks never cease to amaze me.” (Aunt Polly)

Boo-hiss moment of the week: C.I. Campbell threatening to put sweet little Finn Shelby in prison with the very bad men.

Delusional statement of the week: “London is crackling with revolution” (Freddie the Horny Bolshevik.)

Wrong end of the stick award: Tom Shelby for saying “Aunt Poll – give ‘em some new shoes” to lovelorn single parent John Shelby.

Biggest cause for celebration: Grace didn’t sing – not once!

My sincere apologies to regular readers for being tardy with this week’s PB post; there should never be an excuse but this week I was working out of a skeezy Docklands hotel after my husband returned from a business trip to New York for two months (ooo la dee dah!). Rest assured, I was watching on Thursday night, while trying to finish up a spot of freelance work, and praying the cockroaches didn’t eat me. I think I’m ready for my first National Geographic assignment now…

  

Pardys & Poker Faces: Peaky Blinders Episode Three

Peaky-Blinders dance

Here’s the link to episode three in case you missed it.

It’s three weeks in for Peaky Blinders now, and tonight’s episode was slightly disappointing. Not just because the promised “good ‘urquharts” (good haircuts) didn’t materialise during Tom’s trip to the gee-gees at Cheltenham, but because the episode mainly centred on Grace, who is by far the weakest link in the show.

Dublin’s answer to Mata Hari was here there and everywhere this week. If she wasn’t eavesdropping through walls, she was shooting an IRA man up the scrotum, if she wasn’t flirting with Tom then she was wandering around the art gallery with C.I. Campbell (who made it very clear he’s pimping her out, albeit in an avuncular way), if she wasn’t dancing with Tommy she was pimped out to Billy Kimber, if she wasn’t – oh you get the picture I’m sure.

“If you wanna be part of my organisation, you have to make sacrifices,” Tom tells Grace. She’s been sacrificing all through the episode mate, you don’t need to tell her now! Still, at least she wasn’t singing.

Smart and smarterer: Grace attempts to seduce Tommy who is already duping Grace who is...

Smart and smarterer: Grace attempts to seduce Tommy who is already duping Grace who is…

Grace did think all her hard work was paying off when she got to dance in her new red dress with Tom at the races. Suddenly they were in the Jazz Age of Downton Abbey and Brideshead Revisited – all marcel waves, flapper gowns and, dare-I-say-it, proper haircuts.  He called her ‘Lady Sarah’ playfully, whirled her around the ballroom, gazed into her eyes and almost entrapped her before she could entrap him – then he used her as cover to escape with loot at the most romantic moment between them thus far. Oy gavalt! Grace is the worst operative in the world as she appears to have fallen in love with her mark and can’t work out that he’d throw her over in a nanosecond, or in this case just bail from a decent party.  ‘Lady Sarah’ looked momentarily despondent as she gazed at the amorous couple in the space he had left behind, both wearing elegant attire and sporting really good haircuts.

I’ve noticed the girls in Peaky Blinders (apart from Aunt Polly – Queen of Darkness, of course) seem to have very white stockings and collars. Not just Ada (who managed to stay pristine on her shotgun wedding day to Freddie the Horny Bolshevik) but whiter-than-white Grace. But how, with all that smoke and coal smote flying everywhere do they stay clean? I wouldn’t even bother trying. It’s like that ginger kid on the washing powder ad – she just accepts people are going to throw stuff at her and gets on with life; that’s character. I don’t know if Grace and Ada are dumb or just overly optimistic.

The Black Swan in Sparkbrook came in for a bit of a roasting tonight. A place for inept, wannabe IRA rebels to hang out apparently. Later in the episode, the man Grace kills is shown coming out of The Black Swan, a rough building either caked in dirt or painted in tar – it’s hard to tell, and the moniker hastily written straight on the wall in chalk. It looked characterful, damp, smelly, a real dive. I wanted to drink there, or just be a fly on the spittoon. I had a look to see if it still exists but could find no mention of it anywhere. However, there is a White Swan in nearby Deritend on the Bradford Road. Maybe a power-hose was all it took for the name to change (maybe not, as the WS is a big old brown stone Victorian boozer).

The White Swan on Bradford Street. Photo from beerintheevening.com

The White Swan on Bradford Street. Photo from beerintheevening.com

A lot of people have read these Peaky Blinders posts in search of either the filming locations (disappointingly, a lot was filmed at the Black Country Museum rather than in the neighbourhoods themselves) or historical accuracy. Hmmm, this is a programme that routinely uses The White Stripes instead of meaningful dialogue so I’m thinking it’s a good 80 percent fictional. I’m not saying The White Stripes aren’t a pleasure to listen to (and being from the grittier bits of failing car town Detroit, they oddly fit the bill to draw parallels with industrial/ criminal Brum), but I don’t think we’re going to be seeing any ‘making of’ documentaries that are heavy on the Historical Advisor talking heads or vox pops. Otto Bathurst, the director has said: “Once I took off the shackles of historical accuracy, then we could make a really cool show.” I will start researching posts on the real Peaky Blinders gang, but just try to enjoy the show for what it is: an inventively entertaining Thursday night gangster-fest.

Gypsy Curses, Knitting Needles and Afternoon Tea: Peaky Blinders Episode 2

Peaky Blinders

The Spaghetti-Western tones of Nick Cave’s  ‘Red Right Hand’ are kicking in on a Thursday night, and that can mean only one thing – it’s ‘Paykey Bloinders’ episode two,  y’all! Here’s a handy link to last week’s review.

The haircuts are still so terrible that it’s impossible to fancy any of the male characters, the accents are still all over the place (brother Arthur’s is straight up Brummie, Aunt Polly’s is apparently ‘historically accurate’ Brummie and Tom Shelby’s just sounds Scouse), Tom’s sister Ada is still managing not to let the Horny Bolshevik’s (HB) mop-crop get in the way of lust in the back-to-backs, Aunt Polly is still wandering around churches like Patricia Morrison possessed by Mama Fratelli, C.I. Campbell is still making his presence felt in between afternoon teas, and undercover spy Grace is still insisting on singing her maudlin songs, weakly, at every opportunity. This is what happened before X-Factor, people; we just let them carry on with their ‘dreams’. In public.

Add the looks of Patricia Morrison...

Add the looks of Patricia Morrison…

Now, it appears that the gang has run up a spot of enmity with a family of gypsies, who proceed to curse Tom’s beloved white horse, making it lame, and forcing him to shoot it. Where did these gypsies come from all of a sudden? I have no idea. Anyway it did give the director an excuse to shoot the most self-consciously cinematic fight I’ve seen on TV this year. In ultra-pretentious slow-mo, Tom and co proceed to show the world the meaning behind their not so scary name. Hair mops were a’flyin, coat tails a’billowin’ and peaky blinders were a blindin’. That’s right, we saw gypsies getting slashed in slow-motion. I hope someone from Big Fat Gypsy Weddings writes in to Points of View.

To the personality of Mama Fratelli...

To the personality of Mama Fratelli…

Back in Brum, little Ada finds out she’s preggers while HB is on the run.  Tom and Aunt Polly are appalled. Tom orders everyone out of the cinema where Ada has sought refuge (it’s all getting a bit Catherine Cookson by now, will Ada bring up her child in the projection booth?). Later he orders everyone out of the pub too – if I were living in the Brum of Peaky Blinders, I’d just throw house parties, any other night out would just be a big gangster-thwarted anti-climax. Ada and Aunt Polly have a heart to heart during which AP extols the virtues of the backstreet abortion.

And you have something approaching Aunt Polly.

And you have something approaching Aunt Polly.

“I did it to myself” she boasts to the increasingly scared Ada. That really puts all my Dad’s rugby stories about swallowing a bottle of Vaseline before each match to shame.  Yep, to Aunt Polly, feminism is a bleached knitting needle. And soon she is marching the reluctant Ada to the train station to meet a lady-who-does, only to find that Freddie the Bolshevik is waiting at the platform with an underwhelming ring and orders to get-the-hell-out-of-town-with-my-sis from Tom. What chivalry.

The smile that lights up Ada’s face as she dreams of running away to a land where barbers offer haircuts that appeal to women’s loins and never having to imagine another haircut whilst doin’ the do with Freddie is genuinely endearing. Then he promptly smashes her fantasy by declaring they will be going nowhere, and Ada will have to live in Bad Barnet Brum for evermore.

Ada and the Horny Bolshevik reach a compromise that she'll stay in Brum if he keeps his hat on.

Ada and the Horny Bolshevik reach a compromise that she’ll stay in Brum if he keeps his hat on.

Suddenly, another gangster (this time of the East End persuasion) has turned up and declared war on the Shelbys, but silver-tongued Tom twists this into a collaborative plot against the gypsies. And then he lands the biggest surprise of the series so far on his brother:

“Get yerself a good ‘aircut – we’re goin’ to the races.” YES! AT LAST!! That prospect alone has ensured I’ll tune in next week.

Broadwalk Empire: Birmingham gets its own gangster drama Peaky Blinders

Cillian Murphy sports a Peaky Blinder

Cillian Murphy sports a Peaky Blinder

Wow. Nothing happens here for ages and then suddenly two new big-uns in one week. First we had the library opening, but all the other bloggers in town were writing about that so I thought I’d zoom in on Peaky Blinders, the new five-part prime-time offering from the BBC.

Weird name huh? But apparently the Peaky Blinders were a real gang and despite sounding like something made up by Stewie from Family Guy, it has a bad-ass origin; members used to sew razor blades into the peaks of their caps to give an extra I-love-you whenever they head-butted someone. Nice.

The real thing: Bloods. Crips. Sharks. Jets. Scorpions. Sons of Anarchy. Let's face it Peaky Blinders as a gang name is right up there with the Pink Ladies.

The real thing: Bloods. Crips. Sharks. Jets. Scorpions. Sons of Anarchy. Let’s face it, Peaky Blinders as a gang name is right up there with the Pink Ladies.

The set-up works thus: Tom Shelby (played by Batman/ Inception star and Nolan bros go-to man Cillian Murphy) is a member of crime family and Birmingham uber-gang the titular Peaky Blinders, who ran Small Heath and the surrounding neighbourhoods from the 1880s onwards. They work protection rackets, gambling operations and maybe the odd IRA gun run. But with a new Chief Inspector in town (Sam Neill) planting undercover agents, an expected communist revolution and even Churchill taking an interest in proceedings, how long will our boy’s luck last?

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Boardwalk Empire watching tonight’s opener; the sepia tones, the ruthlessness even within the family, but mostly because the character of Tom Shelby is so much like Boardwalk’s Jimmy Darmody. Seriously, they’re both scions of crime families, both World War 1 heroes, both struggling to balance their ruthless tendencies with an inconvenient streak of humanity. And they both have utterly disastrous haircuts. Except the ‘dos sported by antihero Murphy and horny Bolshevik Iddo Goldberg make Jimmy’s slicked back undercut look positively sophisticated. Nobody smiles in this programme (they’re probably depressed about their haircuts.) Things really were bad in Brum back then.

Boarwalk Empire's Jimmy Darmody contemplates his future with THAT haircut.

Boardwalk Empire’s Jimmy Darmody contemplates his future with THAT haircut.

 But even that’s not an excuse, as the episode showed there was an Italian contingent in Birmingham at the time. Were none of them master barbers who could help these two handsome men out? It was becoming quite distracting after half an hour. Think soggy mop draped on brow.  

Apart from that, it did start to grip by the end. Plots and subplots are beginning to unfold, there’s a little bit o’ sex and post war feminism going on. It’s highly stylised with slow motion character introductions, blast furnaces reflecting into the canals, lots of violence and most noticeably the use of modern music. This is a Birmingham that feels like the Wild West (Midlands) – the opening shot was even Cillian Murphy sauntering on a horse, terrifying all the Brummies into their back-to-backs for Christ’s sake. I think most of it has been filmed up North, but some scenes did take place at The Black Country Museum.

Tom Selby's haircut in all it's chav-tastic glory

Tom Shelby’s haircut in all it’s chav-tastic glory

But the best scene for me had to be Sam Neill’s introduction to Birmingham’s nightlife. Glassing, vomiting, shagging in the street, drunken trolls and prodigious use of the word ‘Fock!’ (ah, Midlands swearing…) it was all there. He must’ve been riding down Broad Street.

Still, it’s intriguing if nothing else and I’m quite proud of Brum that it can inspire such an idiosyncratic/ potentially really interesting drama. God knows, since Crossroads, we’re owed a more decent televisual legacy. And no, Doctors doesn’t count.

First we had Benny, now we have Blinders - bit of a dichotomy, no?

First we had Benny, now we have Blinders – bit of a dichotomy, no?

Have you seen Peaky Blinders? What do you think so far?    

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