‘Parade’s End’: Benedict Cumberbatch has a bad case of the mumbles

HBO, TV

benedict-cumberbatch-parades-end-mumble-mouth

Caught up with “Parade’s End” and I’ll say this about HBO’s “Downton”-like miniseries:

1. It looks gorgeous.

2. Benedict Cumberbatch’s muddy elocution got in the way of the story. For long patches of the five-part series, it was impossible to figure out what his character was saying. I get that Christopher Tietjens was supposed to have a stiff upper lip — and be restrained to a fault — but director Susanna White did the audience no favors by allowing him to mumble his words so.

I wanted to shake his shoulders like Gen. Campion and say: Enunciate, good man!

This tortured diction was evidently intentional, given that Christopher’s father in the series, portrayed by Alan Howard, spoke in the same incomprehensible fashion. Spoiled and vivacious Sylvia (Rebecca Hall) was a welcome antidote to these two marble mouthed men.

I liked the complexity of the characters — especially Sylvia — and swooned over her outfits and the gorgeous scenery away from the front lines in Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s World War I novels. But I really wish Cumberbatch had spoken more clearly.

So much for the land of the ‘Free’

HBO, networks, recession, TV

freecoverLatest blow to Chris Anderson’s argument that Free stuff always prevails — feevee subs are continuing to hold their own in this wretched economy, despite more cost free alternatives than ever. HBO and Showtime execs proudly touted this fact at the TV press tour last week, just days after Anderson’s grumpy interview with Germany’s Spiegel went viral.

Among the bon mots in that interview: “Free is the force of gravity.”

Don’t get it? Let him explain: “If we decide to resist it then somebody else will compete with something that is free. The marketplace follows the underlying economics. You can be free or you can compete with free.”

He then argues that Wall Street Journal “cleverly” uses free content to convert people to paid content — a variation of his argument in the book that HBO uses free content on YouTube to drive subscriptions. Neither tracks. People subscribe to HBO and the Wall Street Journal because they value the quality of the content. Other outlets haven’t been able to succeed with the same argument, but that doesn’t diminish either the WSJ or HBO’s achievement: Sometimes consumers ARE willing to pay, other times they aren’t. In fact, as The Wrap points out, feevee channels are doing well at a time when broadcast nets are struggling.

Sheesh.

Earlier: Glad she asked: ‘Free’ prodder; ‘Free’: A paradox of expediency