Entertainment Magazine

Review #3054: Bedlam 1.1: “Cohabitants”

Posted on the 09 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Bronzethumb

The UK has a very good reputation when it comes to making television series, and especially genre television, which is why it’s disappointing when a show like “Bedlam” comes along and puts a black mark on that record. The writers and actors attempt to deliver some character-driven horror and suspense, but instead the audience is left with a silly mess of a first episode and little hope for the show’s future.

Review #3054: Bedlam 1.1: “Cohabitants”

As the name suggests, “Bedlam” is concerned with an asylum for the mentally insane – or at least, a former asylum, now converted into luxury apartments by Warren, the son of the asylum’s disreputable warden, and his daughter Kate. She lives in Bedlam Heights with roommates Ryan and Holly, in blissful ignorance of the supernatural spectres that haunt the former asylum, until her cousin Jed arrives in town. Jed can see these ghosts, along with visions of the way they died, though nobody in the family believes what he sees and his own mother tried to have Jed institutionalised. The first episode lays all this out over the course of forty-five minutes, when Jed turning up just in time to stop one of these ghosts from drowning the flatmates.

The first episode of “Bedlam” has one clever moment. Just one. It comes at the very beginning of the episode, when the writing and direction of the opening sequence suggest a very stereotypical horror story scenario and then flips it on its head. After that, the episode goes downhill at a very rapid pace, from the introduction of the main characters to the mystery behind what’s sure to be the first “haunting of the week”. There’s no depth or complexity to any of it, just stereotypes and laziness on the part of everyone involved.

There’s no drama between the characters, only melodrama as they spend most of the first twenty minutes randomly hitting on one another, or talking about who’s got a crush on who, and generally acting like characters from “Gossip Girl” but with British accents. And while the performances aren’t terrible, they’re hardly likely to garner critical praise. As Jed, Theo James spends every scene of the episode acting like he’s in a brooding contest with every single vampire-with-a-heart-of-gold character from the past fifty years.

Will Young had a chance to prove that Billie Piper wasn’t a fluke and pop stars CAN transition into acting, but his performance was very superficial and unconvincing, a real crime since his character gets the most genuinely dramatic material of the episode. Charlotte Salt and Ashley Madekwe give a slightly better showing, their performances registering a few bars above just plain bad. But the writing is so clichéd and melodramatic that one has to wonder, are these actors just meeting the quality of their material? If some decent scriptwriters had a run at this material, would that improve things? Or is “Bedlam” just woefully miscast?

The show strives for a solid tone of horror and suspense, but again fails miserably. Every scary moment is either telegraphed so far out that the audience don’t care when it finally arrives, or it’s such a sudden, random attempt at a jump-scare that the reaction is surprise rather than fear. Either way, “Bedlam” just isn’t scary. The unfolding mystery of what’s haunting the flatmates and why just isn’t interesting, as the very specific camera cues make it obvious what’s going on. The trickles of green water running down the bathroom walls don’t instil fear: they make the audience ask, “Why is it green water? Could they not afford fake blood or something?”

At every turn, “Bedlam” manages to fall flat on its own face. It’s not scary, only silly and obvious. It’s not a drama, it’s a melodrama. In the first episode, this show fails to tick any of the boxes it was trying to tick. But with any luck, the blame for this mess of a premiere falls squarely on the writer’s shoulders, because if that’s the case, there’s a chance that a fresh scribe could salvage the show.

Rating: 3/10

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