Anderson takes The Fall as Brit Cop

Television still: The Fall starring Gillian Anderson.

SINGAPORE - British actors have been crossing over to play American cops in TV shows for ages, so why not vice versa?

Seriously, if you asked me to name one Yank who could do the crossover, I would say Gillian Anderson because her aloof air, cold demeanour and unruffled minimalism as Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files (1993-2002) suits the switcheroo to a British afternoon tea.

And boy, does she still look good in The Fall.

Recently, she was seen fleetingly as Hannibal Lecter's shrink in Hannibal but her role here is front and centre.

As a London cop sent to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to review a murder case in the five-episode The Fall, Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Anderson) finds that there are considerable political, religious and official hurdles to overcome, which makes Belfast a particularly violent place where cops get shot out of sectarian vengeance.

Told that things are done differently there, she quips: "What? All that my Jesus is better than your Jesus stuff?"

That is the only moment of levity in a show where everybody is very darkly serious as if they were at a high-class wake.

The Good Wife's feisty firecracker, Archie Panjabi, pops up here as a pathologist and even she is buttoned up solemnly.

Compared to flashy American shows, time here slows down until it almost feels as if these folks want to show you every moment in everything, from the tedious investigation to the grim murders to the loud crying of the victims' families.

The devil is not in the details, the details are the devil.

I find this rewarding because it makes the show more uncomfortable and, hence, more interesting in a necessary, unavoidable way.

There is a serial killer on the loose who kills pretty young women in their homes like a modern-day Jack The Ripper.

The sick, pent-up chap, Paul Spector (Once Upon A Time's Jamie Dornan in a gripping, disturbing role), is a caring grief counsellor and devoted father.

At night, however, he sneaks into the houses of his victims and strangles them diligently, complete with fingernail painting, artistic nude-body photographs and sexually twisted etchings in a hidden sketchbook.

The Fall has some of the most unsettling and prolonged close-up scenes of murder I have seen in a while.

Politicians are involved in the case, some cops are dirty, nobody feels secure in their own skins and Detective Gibson herself is a creature of unwise proclivity in the way she randomly picks up a male detective for casual sex.

I do not know if this series, similar in tone to the equally dark The Killing, is being realistic or is grossly overwritten.

It could be that the bad old days of Northern Ireland's outright violence has been replaced by a sleazier, less obvious, less noble underworld.

But it certainly looks real, in no small part due to Anderson and the fine British cast. She does not look out of place surrounded by skilled non-Americans, but she does seem lonely here. That has always been a trademark which makes her a fascinatingly elusive actress to watch.

Trying to figure out what is on her mind as she gives nothing away is part of the game of catch featured here.

In stark contrast, no one in The Newsroom conceals an iota of thought.

The drama takes place in an American TV news network, a typical refuge for opinionated motor mouths led by anchor and chief mouth Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). And, of course, creator Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) makes everything clang louder.

You know Sorkin, right? He is the uber-political writer-gladiator who once called Sarah Palin a "witless bully".

I adore him, I love his brand of entertainment politics and I am thoroughly engrossed in his fine art of making words and sentences zing across the room like put-down arrows without mercy.

It can be both very inspiring and very annoying, like being locked in a cupboard with a bunch of super smart-aleck kids - especially when Sorkin keeps creating characters and big moments that seem so sanctimonious and one-sided from the liberal viewpoint of the Democrats.

It is very funny.

It makes me want to hug people and shoot them at the same time as I watch Sorkin's revisionist re-takes on actual events and people.

Season 2 takes place in late 2011 with story arcs in Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, the Occupy Wall Street movement, US drone strikes and a war crime-class rumour of America unleashing poison gas on civilians in a war zone.

The show is tighter, brainier and more relevant without being reckless this season.

Like a politician, it has positioned itself to be loved by friends and hated by enemies at the same time.


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