The Casual Vacancy was written by JK Rowling and thus its success - at least in the commercial sense - was guaranteed. The question as to whether this work actually has any intrinsic value, any right to exist and furthermore any right to take a place on our book shelves, let alone our television screens, is simply not of any consequence.
JK Rowling wrote it and that, it would appear, is the only criteria that matters.
Very rarely have I sat through an hour of television and wished I was doing anything but - unblocking the sludge from my outside gutters - a task I have overlooked for months, nay years - suddenly became appealing. Can it really be this bad? I asked myself while dreaming of my dank and dreaded drains.
I wanted to to do anything but watch this rot. Anything.
From what I could gather the 'plot' - if you can call it that - centred around a cotswold village - (one with its very own sex boutique) - and the folk who live there. Yep, that was about the long and tall of it. West country people going about their lives.
There was the merest whiff of conservative snobbery 'neath the immaculate privet hedges and inside the chocolate box houses, but it was a strand that never managed to get out of neutral, let alone into first gear.
We even had, wait for it, a Vickie Pollard clone - a ludicrously foul-mouthed teenage girl who goes round vomiting swear words. Cos that's what screwed up teenage girls do.
Then there is - was - the local solicitor - Barry Fairbrother, for twenty five minutes in and he'd kicked the bucket - heart attack while about to dine out with the wife. Oddly, it was the poor man's half-brother who identified the corpse and not his wife (who he'd been with him when he died). We, the poor audience, seemingly needed to know that there was a half-brother, so wifey didn't do what every wife under the sun would have done - identify her husband's body. Clunky.
You have to feel for Poor Michael Gambon too. MG was all-at-sea, lost in this confusing mess. Oh Michael, what on earth compelled you to take this job on? Hope the money is good.
And so it rambled on, jumping from character to character and scene to scene. No rhyme and certainly no reason.
Teenage tearaway is informed by teacher that uncle (Barry Fairbrother) is dead (the night before) - crikey news doesn't travel too fast in this village. Teacher is apolectic - she's just put her foot in it. But how was she to know that family deaths do not get relayed in this village?
And then it jumped somewhere else, to someone else. The local school. Dishevelled headmaster. This kid, then that kid. Her mum and his dad. Then we jumped back to the shop and then the parish council.
Then it was no more. Part one had ended. And then the realisation sank in...only two more hours to endure, I mean go.
Remarkably, at the end of this first installment, there were a dearth of questions hanging in the air, absolutely no reasons at all to tune in to the next episode.
Crikey, either the book upon which this is based is the worst book ever written, or this production has made a total hash of an otherwise fine work.
Or maybe nobody had balls big enough to tell JK that: on this occasion, although we certainly felt the novel had merit...on this occasion we felt it just didn't cut the mustard....
Will the council get a new representative to fill their current vacancy? Phew, edge of the seat stuff.
It's Midsummer Murders, without the er..murders and very little in the way of summer. It's The Singing Detective sans singing, sans detection. It really is that bad.
1/10 (because it stars Michael Gambon)