Sorry Vera and Les Mis. There’s a spanking brand new exciting Welsh language kid on the block to occupy our Sunday nights. Set in a bland courtroom and an eerie hotel in Bridgend County, 35 Awr (35 Hours, 8x60’, S4C) works its way back following the trials (boom! boom!) and tribulations of a jury thrown together to decide the fate of a troubled young man accused of killing his neighbour. Personally, the case itself plays second fiddle to the delicious mixture of members of the jury - an OCD librarian, randy accountant, scarily silent fireman, gay travel agent, a student with a fuck y’all attitude - who wouldn’t normally look twice at each other, but who are forced to cooperate in Her Maj’s name. Here’s hoping that the wonderfully blunt Val (Gillian Elisa) Taz (Iestyn Arwel) and Moira (the evergreen Christine Pritchard) get their own spin-off show. Fflur Dafydd’s dialogue is utterly believable, flows like the Taff after a storm, and peppered with knowingly cultural references and jokes (Glan-llyn! Dodoma!) that only Cymry Cymraeg would appreciate. A rare series that isn’t constrained by the recent de rigueur in Anglo-Welsh collaboration, where English scripts are translated into Welsh and therefore more awkward and less natural to native speakers. But more about that in the future.
The beauty of 35 Awr is its format. We open with a body and rewind our way with the ticking clock to the dirty bloody deed, weaving our way through a myriad murderers-elect. This is the fourth instalment of the hugely original and popular series, with minor amendment this time, as all the action happens within 35 hours, whereas previous series were set over 35 days. The first (and best in my humble ol' opinion) 35 Diwrnod was set in a swank cul-de-sac in Anywheresville, the second (less successful – I jibbed quarter way through) in a Cardiff high rise office block of an insurance firm, and the third (starring Siân Reese Williams of Craith/Hidden amongst others) surrounds a feuding farming clan in Carmarthenshire.
The humour is as dark as the set’s diffused lighting, the characters intriguing and utterly believable, flaws and all, and it also has a fantastically atmospheric opening music and credits – a rarity in modern dramas. Another hit from the author of Parch, easily my best TV drama of 2018 in any lingo. Beat that, Bodyguard!
Cymru Noir is on a roll and its high time S4C sells this Welsh language only drama and more to other nations, Walter Presents et al.
After all, bendigedig subtitled dramas knows no bounds.