Bedlam Episode 1.01 Review


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Most Haunted with an impossibly good-looking cast. CONTAINS DETAILED SPOILERS

Writers: Neil Jones, David Allison, Chris Parker
Director: John Strickland

THE ONE WHERE Jed, who can see ghosts (and whom most people assume is just a bit doolally), receives a mysterious text urging him to save his cousin Kate, who is currently selling luxury apartments in a converted Victorian asylum.

VERDICT Hollyoaks meets Ghost Whisperer ? A recipe for disaster, surely? Except when you think that Buffy could easily have been described as Clueless meets The Lost Boys when it started, and that sounds equally heinous. Ideas that sound plain bad can sometimes undergo an alchemic reaction. Bedlam , to be fair, hasn’t struck gold yet, but it’s certainly more shiny that you might reasonably expect given the creators’ CVs (almost exclusively soaps, though Allison did write the 2009 Martin Freeman body swap show Boy Meets Girl ).

Arguably the most supernatural thing about it is how one apartment block can be inhabited almost exclusively by such attractive twentysomethings; the show is a hormone-seeking missile aimed at the youth audience, and ticks all the right boxes. The cast all seem more concerned with looking cool than acting, though in their minimalist way they do the job, and Theo James, despite the fashion-shoot cheek bones, is suitably intense and twitchy. Will Young rarely anything other than bemused, and is about as convincing as a computer geek as he would be a scrum half, but still has enough charisma to get away with it.

But all this superficial gloss aside, the opening episode is a thoroughly watchable, if slightly by-the-numbers ghost story with some hints at a far more interesting back story. The final shot of some (apparently) ghost-written graffiti certainly suggest that there are some major twists coming. Sharp direction ekes the most out of a meagre budget to produce an effectively spooky, unsettling atmosphere and a few decent jumpy moments. There’s little new on offer, but Bedlam ’s a divereting enough British remix of familiar US telefantasy tropes.

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION No one building is used to create wondferfully gothic Bedlam Heights (the true star of the show) – it was a composite of various buildings, but mainly Bangor University in Wales and the GMB Building in Manchester.

SUBLIMINAL PRODUCT PLACEMENT Is the show trying to Derren Brown us? The advertising slogan for Bedlam Heights is “Experience Living” and you see it everywhere – posters computer screensavers, even rugs. Subliminal advertising for the Living Channel, perhaps?

Molly (possibly with a bit of wishful thinking, to Jed): “No, it’s fine. You keep banging away.”

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.