Pitch-perfect TV is rare but The Fall and Quarry come close

One of the great pleasures of The Fall is the opportunity it provides to bathe in the sound of the Northern Irish accent.

It's a music that has been much maligned over the years, not unlike the German or South African twang.

Growing up, it seemed that the Germans were always shouting some sort of guttural order, screaming "Achtung, die Englander pig dog!" or words to that effect, in war movies or from the pages of Commando comics.

Apartheid-era South Africa made its imprint on me via the likes of Eugene Terre'Blanche or some other 'baddie' South African.


Likewise the Northern Irish came to me via the likes of the Reverend Ian Paisley, barking and fuming his way through the Troubles.

He only ever seemed to be saying "No" and "Not an inch!" It was a thunderous, angry voice.

But like the French I picked from 'Allo 'Allo!, it provided a stupidly limited view of reality.

In The Fall we get to hear the Northern Irish accent as she is actually spoke, and it's a beautiful thing when rolled out quietly and carefully, and if there's one thing that The Fall can boast it's a subtle approach.

This may seem a preposterous notion, given it's a serial killer procedural that has involved the usual number of abused and dead women.

They get tied up, cut to pieces and placed in the boots of cars. In other words the usual, rather tedious, rulebook of the genre is being observed.

I know this puts people off and I am often one of them. How many more women, trussed up and waiting to die do we really need to see?

But for me The Fall, which just finished its third and possibly final series, saves itself by spending the bulk of its time dealing with the fallout of the crime; on the victims, on the police, on the killer and most powerfully of all, on his family.

The ripples of the actions are considered at great length and at a glacial pace not often seen outside alt-cinema.

Sure, the premise is pure cartoon but the treatment, is at least a graphic if not a fully-fledged novel.

I'm not being a spoilsport by telling you that the killer is revealed early on in the piece.

We know that Paul Spector (Jamie Dorman) done it from the get-go of series one, so it's never a whodunnit, rather a cat-and-mouse between Spector and Detective Gibson (Gillian Anderson).

Bigger fish are fried along the way, things like obsession, memory, male-domination, and gender politics.

The ripples of the actions are considered at great length and at a glacial pace not often seen outside alt-cinema.


Mostly it's the Dornan and Anderson show: their inner lives are centre-stage and the whole thing hinges on them and their performances.

For me they straddle the line between tension and pretension.

The thin-lipped, grimfaced-ness of it all is almost a self-parody at times, and never are we given a glimmer of humour, a moment of fun. Nothing is allowed to shift the tone.

Dornan's perfect accent (he was born in County Down) adds to the sheen, though the X-Files star and Chicago-born Anderson's London tones are note-perfect too, possibly because she lived most of her early life in the UK.

Still, I kept wanting to reach through the TV screen to tickle her or to slap Dornan in the face.

It really is an unrelenting ride, more so even than its closest relatives, its Scandinavian cousins.

The first episode of series three is a stunner, like some slow-paced medical drama genre that's yet to be invented.

Whatever it was, it worked, and the series only gets better from there.

Quarry has a similar slow-burning appeal and some lovely Southern accents to suit its 1970s Memphis setting.

Some of those voices, like that of star Logan Marshall-Green are clearly authentic. (He's from North Carolina, so close enough.)

Marshall-Green, who sports an intriguing lump on his forehead, plays the title role, a nickname given to his character Mac Conway, a Vietnam vet with a shady past (think My Lai massacre).

Nek minute he's working as an assassin for a Southern gentleman played by hard-man and Scotsman, Peter Mullan, seen recently in Top Of The Lake. Perhaps it's my lack of knowledge regarding the Southern drawl, but Mullan seems pretty legit playing a Mississippi gent.

But that's the thing about accents: if you don't know them intimately, close enough will often do, so long as all the other ducks are lined up and present.

Quarry has all of this well sorted. It's a classily constructed and extremely satisfying excursion.

Marshall-Green is great while Jodi Balfour, who plays his wife Joni, is simply superb.

Not for a minute did I doubt her gentle Memphis tones, until just this minute, looking at IMBD.com and seeing that she was born in Cape Town.

I wonder if a Memphis local might notice, like we all did when Anthony Hopkins unleashed his woeful Invercargill-ese in The World's Fastest Indian, or whenever an Australian character appears on The Simpsons, sounding like a Cockney.

The Fall, Netflix (S1&2) Soho (S3)
Quarry, Soho