The BBC has a recent track record in producing good new drama, shows like The Shadowline, Prisoners Wives, The Hour and Midwives have shown that the BBC can compete with the best drama producers in the world. So when I read the outline for White Heat, I wasn’t sure if this could be placed with those other shows. It seemed like a time travelling version of “This Life”.
The show follows seven London-based students from the time they met in 1965 right to the modern-day, which is where we first meet Charlotte who is clearing out the house they all lived in as the owner has passed on and left it to the remaining six in his will. We assume the owner is Jack, he inherited the house from his Grandfather in 1965 and rather than taking in random strangers he holds a Big Brother style interview process to find his housemates. He presents the house as an alternative to the Family Model, almost a hippy commune, he explains that he wants to ignore the normal “couples” lifestyle.
In the end he chooses Charlotte, a middle class girl; Lily an art student; Victor an immigrant; Jay who we later discover is Gay; Orla an Irish Catholic and Alan a northerner. At first it appears the seven get on well, but during the announcement of Winston Churchill’s death on the radio we see that Jack is more than just a freethinking liberal he and Alan argue over Churchill’s importance to the country, Alan taking the view that Churchill saved Britain during the 2nd World War.. During this argument we see Jack also racial insult Victor, going against his Malcolm X ideals.
The first episode really does nothing more than set up some of the characters, Charlotte and Jack end up together after a loud all night house-warming party, Charlotte does this in defiance of her Father after discovering he is having an affair, almost throwing herself into Jack, who declares that to him the encounter was nothing more than Sex, he wants no part of a relationship.
I’m not sure why I recommend White Heat or how I would go about explaining why I like it, but I did. Its pace was slow but not boring and the characters appear real and likeable. By the end of episode one, three of the characters, Charlotte, Lily and Victor, have reappeared at the house to help clear it out, as more arrive I hope to discover more of the events of the last 40 years. Though when Lily arrives she apologises to Charlotte for something she did 20 years ago.
White Heat was written by Paula Milne who has been writing on British TV since 1973, most recently she has worked on Second Sight which starred Clive Owen as a detective who is going blind. You can see White Heat on BBC2 at 9pm on Thursdays and you can catch up via the BBC IPlayer here http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01d7m14/White_Heat_The_Past_Is_a_Foreign_Country/